Lynne's Story

Like most women whose stories I've read, I never expected to be writing one of my own. Although I have always been pro-choice, I never knew how I would act if I ever had to face an unwanted pregnancy. For that reason, I was always extremely careful.

I used birth control the very first time I had sex and then within a week, made my first trip to Planned Parenthood. There I obtained a diaphragm, which I used successfully for the next 20 years. In those years, I did conceive and bear my two planned and dearly wanted children. When my marriage ended, abstinence became my primary method of birth control, until I met a man that I cared about and began a brief, but meaningful affair. While we were careful about testing for AIDS, birth control was not an issue; he had gotten a vasectomy 11 years ago. For the first time in my life, I didn't have to be the responsible one - and yet I could rely on the most effective means of birth control available. But, of course, no method is 100% effective.

I was always so regular - so when I missed my period I was worried. I didn't think about pregnancy - I thought about menopause. I did have a vague discomfort in my recognition of the familiar symptoms: tender breasts, lower back ache, fatigue, etc. At my best friend's urging, I finally took a pregnancy test and it immediately showed a positive result. I was stunned. How could this happen? Had he lied to me? I called by Doctor who agreed that it was unusual, but told me that she had a patient now who was pregnant after a tubal ligation. She hesitantly suggested that a tumor could also cause a hormonal shift that would give a false positive. I flippantly said that I'd prefer a tumor and she assured me that no, I really would not want that.

I was no longer in contact with the man I had been seeing and began wondering how much of what I knew about him was actually true. If he could lie about something like this, what kind of person was he? Could he be a threat to me and my children? And so, with some reluctance I called the one person who could answer my questions: his former wife. The conversation began as awkwardly as expected. Although they had been apart for over three years, they were close in many ways and she was taken aback by my questions about him. As I explained my situation, her attitude changed and we continued to talk for over three hours. In that conversation, she assured me that everything I had believed about him was true. He was a person of great integrity who would never lie about anything so important. Shortly after the birth of their second child, he did indeed have a vasectomy.

The next day I finally talked to him and we agreed that he should be tested to see if it was possible for him to have fathered a child. This was on a Friday, which meant that I had two long days in which to think about other possibilities. As I began doing research about the failure rate of vasectomies, the chances that I could actually be pregnant began to seem very remote: only one in a 1,000 vasectomies "fail". But what else could be the problem? Then I remembered my doctor's comment about tumors and began researching ovarian cancer. I found that many of the symptoms were the same as pregnancy and that one in 70 women develop ovarian cancer, noting that fewer than 50% survive five years beyond the diagnosis. Was I one in 70 or one in 1,000? I quickly wrote a note explaining my findings and asking him to call with his results as soon as possible. He called right away, saying that he hadn't realized how frightening this must be for me and told me that he should have the results by that afternoon. Within hours he called again to tell me the "good news" - I was indeed pregnant. (We later learned that in cases like his, the results can be inconsistent and he could just as easily have had a negative result that day!)

It took a while for me to recover from my relief and realize (again) my original panic. My marriage to the father of my first two children had ended when my daughter was four and my son just 15 months. His involvement in their lives has been minimal and I have learned what it means to raise children alone; without emotional, physical, and sometimes even financial help. My children are now nine and six and I am 40. I have always considered myself to be very strong - but I honestly don't believe I am capable of starting over and doing it again. While I believe that the father of this unborn child would be there for the child, I realize how unrealistic it is for me to expect that he would be there for me, too.

I have considered this from so many angles I no longer know what shape it is. I do recognize that I am carrying a human life - but I can't say that I value that life enough to sacrifice other lives for it. If it were viable - capable of thought or feeling - I might feel differently. But at this early stage, it is little more than a mass of tissue with the POTENTIAL for full human life. That isn't to say that I don't feel regret or that I don't value that potential. I already mourn this child and what it might have become. It would be due on the day of my son's seventh birthday. In some ways I am glad for that coincidence because I want to remember this child - to show respect for the mark - however small - that he or she made on the world. But I cannot fool myself about the reality of my life and how little I could offer and how much this child would deplete the already limited resources now available to my two whole children. I also know that this embryo is not yet capable of comprehending what he/she is or what he/she might have been and that the loss is really my own.

I have an abortion scheduled in 10 days. As each day passes, I feel more certain that this is the best decision for everyone involved (including the unborn child). I have found a great deal of information about abortion on the web - but nothing has been as helpful as the stories told on this site. In reading these stories, I have understood the many different paths to the same juncture and I have drawn my own strength from the strength of others who have been courageous enough to share their experiences.

I hope that in sharing mine, I am now offering at least one person some small modicum of the strength and support needed to face the difficult dilemma of abortion. While I have no pride in having an abortion, I do have pride in being a woman - a woman who like many of you has had to look deep within myself to understand my choices and to make the one I believe to be the best.

19 June 1999

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The decision to end a pregnancy has the potential to raise all sorts of personal ethical and moral questions about what the woman believes. Questions such as, "Who matters more, me or my baby? When does the soul enter the body? Is there life after death? or before? What about re-incarnation?"