October 17, 2018

I’m the Woman in your Life who you Didn’t Know had an Abortion. 

I need to write this scarlet letter.

I need to cast aside my black veil.

I have been trying to write this for 25 years, but I can never access the language to adequately express the complexity of circumstance and societal pressure, not to mention, the vagaries of love and desire as well as abandonment and betrayal, that lead a woman to make certain choices.

Unfortunately, the potential eradication of Roe v. Wade leaves me no other recourse than to confess aspects of my reproductive history in the hopes of galvanizing support for a woman’s right to privacy and choice when it comes to her own body—regardless of the rhetoric of morality for or against.

The stigma attached to abortion is profound and powerful, to the point that women, among themselves, rarely talk about it.

But the truth is that despite the veil of secrecy and for a multitude of reasons, women have abortions—sometimes more than one.

These are women you know.

Women you respect and women you don’t.

Women you sit next to in church.

Women who care for your children.

Women who make your coffee.

Women who run for office.

Women with addictions.

Women who have been abused or neglected.

Married women.

Single women.

Rich women.

Poor women.

Women with PhDs.

Women with GEDs.

Young women.

Not-so-young women.

There is no single demographic trend.

For the record: I am a barely middle class, middle-aged, American, Caucasian woman with an MFA. I have been pregnant seven times. I have had two miscarriages. I have had three abortions. I have two beautiful daughters.

I have never shared these statistics in their entirety with another living soul.

I am not going to expose the details of my past, or the lifelong narrative of my conflicted relationship with my body—other than to generalize that as a young woman I suffered from depression and anxiety, in no small part due to multiple experiences with sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to abuse, assault, and rape. I abused drugs and alcohol and had a compulsive need to please the men that I loved: men who, as per cultural expectation, cared little in the moment about procuring or using birth control—and equally little in the moment, about the repercussions of unprotected sex.

I do not in any way mean to dilute my personal responsibility, only to suggest that sometimes things are not as cut and dried as one might assume, and every woman’s story is different.

I am not proud of these particular pages in my history; the decade when I matured from a girl to a young woman was fraught with internal and external conflicts, but I do not wish I could change the trajectory of my life either.

I cannot overlook the fact that had I followed an alternate path, I would not be graced with the two amazing daughters that I eventually birthed; nor, it is safe to assume, would I have the level of compassion and empathy that I do for other women who find themselves in a similar situation.

What I do mean to do, however, is to share this record publicly. To stand with the women who have made this extremely personal, difficult choice and with the women who might find themselves facing this decision in the future.

Roe v. Wade must not be overturned.

My intention is not to argue morality, although I will submit my opinions that all of these women, regardless of situation, thought long and hard about their ultimate decision and that to have an abortion is never a choice a woman gleefully makes.

Society has marked me with a scarlet letter and shamed me into keeping this information hidden behind a black veil.

I am the woman in your life who you did not know had an abortion.

And because of unmitigated, difficult life circumstances, I had more than one.

I am not a villain.

I am your sister, mother, daughter, friend, lover, wife, teacher, ally, and advocate.

And I am not alone.

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Ginger Teppner

author: Ginger Teppner

Image: NARAL Pro-Choice America / Flickr

Editor: Julie Balsiger