Ann's Story

I was seventeen when I was date-raped. No one called it that back then in 1968, but that's what it was. The guy I had been dating wanted to have sex. I didn't. I was so young, so stupid, I thought telling him 'no' would be enough.

The night it happened, he had been drinking. He was supposed to be driving me home from a dance. Instead, he drove me to a deserted backroad and told me he was done waiting: he wanted sex. I told him again that I would not have sex with him. He grabbed me by the throat and beat my head against the closed window of the car. He choked me until I blacked out. The pain I felt when he raped me was what brought me back to consciousness. I began to cry and struggle, and he choked me again so he could finish what he was doing. When he finally let me go, he said that he would kill me if I ever told anyone what he had done. He also said I deserved it, and that it was my fault: "You made me do it, you know you did. I wouldn't have had to get rough if you'd just f---ked like a normal woman."

The truth is, I wasn't a woman at all. I was 17; I was a child.

When I found I was pregnant, my mother blamed me. She, too, believed it was all my fault, that I just hadn't handled the situation properly. She and my father insisted I marry the rapist. It would embarrass and humiliate the whole family if I didn't.

He married me to stay out of jail. After we were married, he continued to blame me for 'ruining his life.' He told me that he had had plans. He had had dreams. Now he was stuck with me, and I was sick all the time and he couldn't even have any 'fun' with me.

He began beating me after one of his friends told him it might lead to a therapeutic abortion. He slapped me, choked me, threw me against walls, tripped me as I was going down stairs. He didn't injure me badly enough to cause a miscarriage, but he did hurt me badly enough to cause brain damage in the baby.

I stopped breathing twice during labor. There were times during the next dozen years when I wished passionately that they had not brought me back. My child was not normal, could never be normal. The rapist had long since left me and gone on to greener pastures.

I was left alone to raise a child who should never have been born. Until I was 30 years old, my life was a progressive dark tunnel of pain, anger, resentment, regret, sleepless nights, endless trips to endless doctors, none of whom could help. Looking back, I don't know how I survived. It was worse than being locked up for a crime I didn't commit: I felt as if I lived in a concentration camp, trapped every day with no way out, no hope, no relief, no rest, no respite, and no prospect for anything better.

Finally, on the point of physical and mental collapse, I forced the welfare department to take custody of the child. I was past caring what anyone thought. I only knew that if I did not escape that horrible burden, I would die. And I had never even had the chance to live.

Almost twenty years later, I do not regret anything I had to do to escape. What I regret is that I ever had to go through it. The child should never have been conceived. He should never have been born. My life should have been worth more than the seed of a rapist.

A simple, legal abortion would have spared me so much anguish, so much torment and suffering. I can never make up those lost years. I can never be young again. And, due to the damage caused by that unwanted pregnancy, I can never have a wanted child.

What was gained by laws that kept me pregnant against my will? Nothing, except that a rapist got away with his crime.

Abortion may not be the answer for every woman, but it must remain legal and available. We must never allow "pro-life" to push women back into the position I was in at the age of 17. Outlawing abortion would be worse than jailing every woman in the country; it would be like selling us all into slavery.

January 1999

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''I know that every time I do an abortion for a woman who chooses it, I am saving her life literally, figuratively." - Maureen Paul, MD, Boston