Millie's Story

Thanks for giving me this opportunity.

I had two abortions (the only ones I have had) in one year back in the 1980s. I was in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend who coerced me into unprotected sex. I was the divorced mother of a 5-year-old and working rotating shifts, weekends, and holidays. I depended on my boyfriend for part of my childcare. My job was nontraditional and I was constantly being threatened with losing it, even though I missed only two days in 10 years for child-related reasons.

Ironically, I had been an active feminist, founding and co-chairing my campus feminist group when I was a college student. I never thought this would happen to me. I was deeply ashamed, not of getting two abortions, but of needing them in the first place. After the second abortion, I got the courage to seek help, both legal and psychological, and was able to end the relationship. Later, I married a decent man and had another (planned and wanted) child.

Growing up, I was anti-choice. Hearing stories like the one I lived through changed my mind. In the abstract, abortion still bothers me, but we don't live in the abstract. We live in very complex and changing life circumstances, and in a society that doesn't support women's choices, no matter what they are.

If I had not had the abortions, this terrible man would have continued to play a role in my life, I'm sure I would have lost my job, and I would not have the happy marriage and children I have today, nor the successful professional career I have now. I would have condemned my first child to a life of poverty and abuse. There are those self-righteous types who would say I was terribly irresponsible to have this happen in the first place and that I deserved to be "punished" for my lapses of common sense. It took me years of therapy to not look at it this way myself. But as a mother, I did what was responsible for my child. I wasn't going to condemn him for my mistakes. He certainly didn't deserve this "punishment." He'd already gone through enough suffering.

I've learned to forgive myself, but it still hurts to think that there are people out there who would not feel any empathy whatsoever for women who experience something like this.

22 January 2003

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"The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in am hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing - and face with us the reality of powerlessness - that is the friend who really cares."
- Henri Nouwen