Abortion, coercion, and attempted suicide

From the site AbortionConcern.org

My Own Case Study: Abortion

The Event:

I became pregnant at age 14 years 11 mos. in May of 1970. This was two months before abortions became legal in the state where I lived. During the 8th week, I was administered an injection (substance unknown to me then, or now) by our family physician with the intent of terminating the pregnancy. In addition, I was scheduled to have an abortion at a hospital clinic the following month. However, two days before the scheduled appointment, I miscarried and expelled the fetus into the toilet. As I was bleeding profusely, my mother drove me to the same local hospital where I was to have abortion performed. I remained in the hospital for two days and was then discharged to home.

I received no counseling regarding the process and was also not aware of the potential risks for infertility or of any psychological risks. I was not offered any post procedure follow up psychological or medical support. Conversely, I was led to believe by propaganda of the time, that abortions were harmless and a right of woman that should be embraced as a sign of emotional independence. As a young impressionable teen, I viewed reproductive freedom as a sophisticated and necessary part of being an adult woman.

The Experience:

Discharging a fetus into the toilet was a frightening experience. Because I did not know what to do, or what was happening to me, I took the bloody little mass of tissue from the toilet, put it in container and took it with me to the emergency room. I do not know what was done with the fetus once it was handed over to the staff at the hospital. The D&C was performed under anesthesia. I remember little of the actual procedure, however I was very uncomfortable post operatively. Large oversized dressings had been placed inside and were changed frequently over the first 24 hours.

I was afraid that I might die, despite the reassurances of the medical staff that all would be “okay”. It was at this time the doctors stated that they could not guarantee I would not have problems with conception in the future. However, they jokingly added that of course, they hoped this would not be a concern for me for some time to come. I was filled with embarrassment and shame and quickly agreed that infertility was not an immediate concern. That was the extent of medical “counseling”.

Aftermath:

Our family had moved during this time. I was in a new school and community approximately 90 miles from my old home. I was forbidden to contact the father of this child and my then boyfriend. Despite this parental mandate, I was desperately lonely for friends and missed the father of the child immensely. I wrote secret daily letters to my boyfriend. Friends included contraband letters from my boyfriend in their mail to me.

I became concerned that over time, letters became infrequent. When they finally stopped altogether, I stepped up use of the public telephone in attempts to contact my boyfriend. My efforts were hampered by lack of money (no phone cards or credit cards existed at that time). My boyfriend left his family home in the fall of that year to attend college. His parents did not offer a telephone contact at his college and there were no future letters from him.

After much negotiation with my parents, I managed to arrange a visit back to my old school for a “Homecoming” weekend. I saw my boyfriend at a post game event. He confirmed, that he did not want to continue our relationship. In fact, he acknowledged he had begun to date an upperclassman friend of mine. They left together from a party we were both attending. This was the last time I saw him and I never heard from him again.

By December of that year, I attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of over the counter sleeping pills. This method was rather slow, and sometime after ingestion, I realized I didn’t want to die. I was taken to the hospital emergency room by my parents, given emetics and fell unconscious. I remember the ER doctor telling my mother that he did not know if would live, but that they were doing everything possible. I woke in ICU the following day, in a haze. Social workers at the hospital insisted on family therapy. No one spent time with me alone and the abortion incident was not discussed directly with me.

Our family did not attend counseling sessions. I wanted private therapy, but did not have a resource to do this on my own. We lived in a small affluent community, where everyone knew everyone. My father had a prominent social role in the community. I felt that my very existence was problematic for my parents and my family. I felt badly for my younger brother as he seemed to disappear in the midst of my crisis. At any rate the incident was swept under the carpet and never mentioned again.

I remained quite unhappy the remainder of that school year. By the middle of my junior year, the school counselor, with whom I had shared my feelings of being depressed and unfulfilled, suggested early enrollment at an Ivy League college. I was accepted for early placement admission, however, my family could not afford private college tuition. By my senior year, I was part of the “in crowd”, experimenting with legal and illegal drugs and with the protection of an IUD, practicing “free love”. I believed I had finally put the abortion experience behind me.

Young Adulthood:

I attended college both in the USA in Denmark and continued searching for an ever elusive sense of inner peace . My life often involved illicit drug use, sexually promiscuous behavior, and what I can only term as “anti establishment” thinking. I was a jumble of confused feelings and unable to commit to an intimate relationship. I became skilled at the art of maintaining emotional distance. Sometime in 1979, I finally had the IUD removed even though medical personnel felt there was no reason to do so.

Adulthood:

Although engaged, I was unable to commit to a wedding date. In 1981 my fiancé died while jogging. This event prompted a return to the area where I spent my childhood and I attempted to reconnect with old acquaintances. Despite deep feelings of inferiority, extreme self criticism, sense of loss and fear of abandonment, I quickly ventured into marriage in 1982.

I did not select a mate that could fulfill my hopes for a stable environment however. After three years of marriage, extensive medical testing, I learned that I was infertile. The reason unknown. This caused extreme difficulties in my relationship. My husband blamed the problem on me which only added to my own feelings of regret, guilt, and shame. The realization that my aborted pregnancy was perhaps my only chance to procreate was disturbing news. Due in a large part to the infertility issues, my marriage dissolved in 1987.

In 1992, I was once again thinking of marriage. This individual wanted children. I felt tortured that I was infertile. We looked into the possibility of adoption and explored fertility options. All was stressful, expensive and overwhelming. The prospect of his disappointment in never having children of his own was too much for me. I felt he would one day probably grow to resent our childless marriage state. By 1995 I had called off the wedding plans, but was saddened, as I truly cared for this person. We remained friends, however, were never able to overcome obstacles or agree to a more committed relationship.

Middle Age:

A string of a succession of losses motivated me to attend a seminar on grief recovery. As I had felt that I had long ago dealt with the “abortion”, issue of infertility and had accepted this aspect of my life, I anticipated working on several known aspects of my life that I knew to the cause of much grief. Much to my amazement I found myself addressing the emotional loss of my abortion performed nearly 30 years prior. Through application of the techniques used in the seminar, I came to realize the deep impact my abortion had had on my life. I also came to understand that I needed to complete my relationship with the “baby”, the father of this child, my parents and all those involved in this situation.

Once completed, I experienced immediate release of transforming energy and a return to balance within me. My perspective about my life’s issues and current struggles is completely new. While empowered to address other unresolved grief areas in my life that require further attention, I am for the first time since the abortion at peace about my decision and the outcome. I consider my experience through the grief recovery seminar group work life changing and liken my new perspective to that of those who claim to have been “born again”.

Looking back:

I don’t think I have ever associated the abortion with the difficulties I have had in executing my life. I do recognize that I long felt a void. To fill this empty space I engaged in all types of behaviors seeking relief for anxiety, depression, job burn out, etc. My coping mechanisms have included the use of recreational use of illicit and legal drugs, sexual promiscuity, and for the more recent decades work obsessed.

I believe my abortion decision directly contributed to my suicide attempt later that year. I was filled with a sense of a loss, guilt, shame and worthlessness. Undoubtedly, the ending of a love relationship added to my despondency, however, I do not believe I would have reacted with such desperation had our relationship not included an abortion. My sense of guilt over my action and the ghost of this unrealized baby carried with me through every relationship and over decades of my life. I cannot prove that my infertility is directly caused by the abortion. However, my infertility had been been problematic in every prospective romantic relationship that involved the potential of a long term commitment. I opted for less than healthy relationships at times believing I was not worthy of more. I often did not engage in potential relationships if I suspected there a chance I would be condemned for my abortion choice.

All such attempts to lessen my feelings of inadequacy and sense of emptiness brought temporary relief. However, I still lived with a sense of “guilt” and feelings of being less than, no matter how great my accomplishments. I continued to experience an overwhelming sense of emptiness in my life yet, I was unable to articulate the source of such angst.

Over time I sought professional counseling, spiritual guidance, tried anti depressants, cognitive therapy, psychoanalytic therapy and explored all types of body, mind, spirit healing modalities. I read extensive self help books on most every topic written on self improvement and engaged in extreme sport adventures routinely. To somehow prove my worth, I often overextended myself volunteering great amounts of energy, time and money to benevolent projects and organizations.

I also became a great actress, hiding my true feelings. The world does not take kindly to depressed, pessimistic, angry individuals. I learned to hide my secrets and obscure past details of my life. Although having an abortion is and was legal, it is not easy to admit to, especially in the face of possible condemnation. Becoming good at hiding the truth affected my ability to have truly intimate relationships. As a result I will never know what opportunities and people I pushed away from me, due to fear and feelings of insecurity.

Now that I am more aware of this influence, I can clearly see myself as the person I was prior to the abortion and the one I became after. The hopeful, optimistic, self assured, inquisitive, witty adolescent woman child disappeared with this event. Shortly after, a scared, insecure, frantic woman child searched in vain for a grounding influence. In time, I became much more serious, introspective, fearful, insecure, cynical and at times depressed and pessimistic. I internalized feelings of being a ‘bad person” no matter how successful I became or what accomplishments I could claim.

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About Sarah

Sarah is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
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