"My Abortion," the New York Times hopes, will "destigmatize" abortion and generate -- um -- I hope they're not shooting for enthusiasm, because these aren't really your upbeat, "Abortion changed my life for the better" tales the collectors of said tales were probably hoping for.
Let's have some examples. (Emphasis mine)
Nicole, 19So, that's Example #1: Browbeaten into unwanted abortion by boyfriend, feeling pretty miserable. She needed a friend, not an abortion.
It was this past spring. The due date’s coming up—I’m dreading it. I wanted to keep it. My boyfriend always had football practice, so he couldn’t go to the doctor appointments with me. If he’d gone, he would’ve felt differently. But he said, “No way.” I wanted to show him that I loved him enough to do it for him. When I was thirteen weeks, we made an appointment at the closest clinic in Kentucky, four hours away, but the night before, we decided not to go. At two in the morning, he called and said, “Get dressed.” I said, “I don’t want to go.” We both cried the whole way there. I don’t think abortion is killing, but I’d always been against it. When I told him the credit-card scanner at the clinic wasn’t working, he asked if I was making it up. We went to get $1,000 from a gas-station ATM. I was hysterical, and he said, “Okay, you don’t have to go back.” I was so happy. Then he said, “We drove all this way. Stop crying, act like a woman.” I was angry, but I was so sleepy and tired of fighting. When I had the ultrasound, I asked for the picture and a nurse said, “Seriously?” A month later, he said he regretted it too. When I cry about it, I cry alone. He thinks it would make me sad to talk about, but I don’t want our baby to think we forgot. I’ve never heard of anybody else having an abortion here.
Mira, 29WTF? She remembers all those details, but there's no real content. No feelings (other than "on edge"), no thought process, no conclusion of anything but her baby's life.
South Dakota, 2004
The day I got accepted to college, I had a positive pregnancy test. I went to a community health center and said I wanted to talk to a nurse about my options. They told me to leave. The closest three clinics were all 300 miles away. I borrowed my mother’s car. My boyfriend, now my husband, came with me. I honestly don’t remember how we came up with the $700. We left at 5 p.m., after work, and drove to Colorado. It was the dead of winter, cold. Weather can be touchy through the Rockies. We stayed in a hotel in Cheyenne, another $60, but we couldn’t sleep. I felt very on edge. I wished someone I knew besides my boyfriend was nearby. When we got to the clinic, an escort met us at the car and asked if we wanted a bulletproof vest. Inside the clinic, the doctor took my hand and apologized that I had to travel so far. Ten minutes later, it was done.
Heather, 32Feeling trapped and pressured and forced to violate her own conscience. The first clinic had a creepy quack doctor who ended up losing his license. The second one was like a tomb. Where's the free choice, the caring and compassionate professionals, the liberation?
Tennessee, 2011 and 2013
I already had two daughters. Neither was planned, and it never, ever, occurred to me to terminate those pregnancies. I was brought up with a very religious background. Now I’ve had two abortions, and if my family knew, my relationship with my family would be gone. My first was two years ago. My husband and I were having financial problems and were considering separating. I just had to shut my conscience down. The doctor was grotesque. He whistled show tunes. I could hear the vacuum sucking out the fetus alongside his whistling. When I hear show tunes now, I shudder. Later, he lost his license. A few months ago, I got pregnant again. My in-laws have been helping us out financially, so we have no choice but to involve them in our decisions. They gave us $500 cash to bring to the clinic. I felt very forced. I felt like I was required to have an abortion to provide for my current family. Money help is a manipulation. I’m crazy in love with my daughters—imagine if I did that to them? It’s almost too much to open the door of guilt and shame because it’ll all overcome me. In the waiting room, there was a dead silence that’s hard to describe. Everyone was holding in her emotions to a heartbreaking degree. Truly pro-life people should go light on the judgment, because shame motivates abortions.
I was secretly excited for the ultrasound. But they couldn’t see it. They said I could let it grow and go back for the procedure, but I couldn’t stand the idea of letting it grow. I went into this refrigerator of a room, with a tiny poster of a tropical island pasted on the ceiling, and this middle-aged white lady nurse told me to breathe and hush. I wanted to sock her in the face. A couple days later, I found out I was still pregnant. The amoeba—my baby—was somehow surviving. The next time, I kind of hoped it wouldn’t work. I kept saying negative things to myself, like, “Stop being such a baby.” Afterwards, I felt this mix of regret, relief, gratitude, and I had a new sense of control and determination about my future, like, I’m going to do this and this and this. I tracked the whole pregnancy online, living in fantasies about how big my belly would be. The only people who would listen to me say I had any emotions were people who wanted me to fall down on my knees and ask for forgiveness. I saw a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center, but she gave me an icky feeling. There’s no room to talk about being unsure.
So many mixed emotions, so much uncertainty. And though she got rid of her baby, she couldn't let go. This is sad.
Janet, 48Recognized that it was a baby, went through the abortion. And the only feeling expressed is disgust for the rapist. Like Mira's, her story is emotionally void.
When I was 18 I was drugged and date raped. I just remember waking up with the guy on top of me with this weird grin. When I found out I was pregnant I just thought: That asshole. I didn’t think about the baby. I had to save up money, so I had to wait for the very last possible week. My best friend drove me. I was very scared. When I was actually at the facility I thought, Oh my God, there’s a baby inside me. The staff was very matter-of-fact, no kindness. A nurse said, “It looks like it was a girl.”
New York and Oklahoma, 2010 and 2011
The first time I was 25, in New York. From the time I was a teenager, the idea of having an abortion if pregnant was a no-brainer. I had this idea you can’t let life get in the way of your plans. My friend drove me. The procedure was in a tiny, bright white room—it was like a nightmare, but it was over really, really quickly. They moved me into this communal healing room. Women were reclining on big, pillowy chairs. I remember feeling comforted, warm—we’d all been through the same experience. Two years ago, I was in Oklahoma. I wasn’t given a choice in method—I got the pill. My boyfriend worked in Idaho—I was alone. They gave me all this paperwork that said, “This is serious. You could die,” and an antibiotic, painkiller, and a latex glove and a pill to shove up my vagina. At home, the antibiotic made me vomit and shit everywhere. I thought, Fuck the latex glove! Fuck them for thinking I can’t touch myself! After the contractions started, my hands turned into claws. I was dehydrated. I had this underlying feeling that I was being made to suffer, to repent for my situation. I called my boss. He took me to the ER. It cost $2,000. When I stood up, the bed was covered in blood. I felt ashamed, but the way he reacted with kindness, I saw that I could choose not to feel ashamed. When I went home, I got up to pee, and this gray golf-ball thing came out. I thought, So I just flush the toilet?
The first abortion was "like a nightmare" but at least "it was over really, really quickly." The second abortion, strangely enough, she doesn't describe as a nightmare. But then, she doesn't have to. It's hellish enough without being elaborated on. And again, like Mira's and Janet's stories, it just stops. In fact, it stops with a question that she never answers.
Maria, 38This is, I think, the creepiest story. A stable marriage, enough money, too hoity-toity to go to a clinic like the unwashed masses, and then off to Spain. WTF?
We had a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old and hadn’t envisioned having more. At first I thought, Well, I love my husband, and we have plenty of money. I had this naïve notion that access to abortion was easy for people like us. I called my doctor, who referred me to someone else because that practice didn’t perform abortions. I’d never thought of myself as someone who goes to a clinic. I called five doctors, each time having to explain how I’d gotten the number, as if I needed some secret code. Pittsburgh has world-class medical centers, but it took a couple of days to get an appointment. Pennsylvania is one of 26 states that require a waiting period between counseling and the procedure. We went back the next day. The staff was great. It felt a lot like a regular checkup but with painful cramping. My insurance covered the whole thing. In the waiting room, my husband said, “Where do you want to go on vacation?” We booked a trip to Spain.
New York and California, 2003 and 2006
I actively support Planned Parenthood for doing important work, but I was stuck in a waiting room for hours, with young girls, some flippant, some sad, and the doctor was dead-faced and didn’t make eye contact. I woke up in a gurney in the hallway, surrounded by chaos. No one checked on me. About three years later, in L.A., I found out I was pregnant again. There was this lightbulb moment when I realized I had health insurance. I made an appointment at a hospital, and the whole thing cost about $30. On the way, my boyfriend started freaking out, saying, “What if you’re killing my son?” I had him pull over so I could drive. I respect that it was an emotional experience for him. I never think about the abortions. When I tell people, they respond with a panic face, and when I say I’m truly okay with it, they make a second panic face. I end up comforting them.
Another ringing endorsement for Planned Parenthood. And like so many of the others, she just comes across as emotionally flat.
Lynn, 28Not using birth control. And another emotionless story that just abruptly ends.
I called the university health services from the Walmart parking lot and said I wanted the abortion pill, and the woman said, “The abortion pill is illegal in the United States.” I was livid. I said, “That is not correct.” How many young women has she told that to? I went directly to the doctor. The lady administering the pee test said, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” and I thought, Congratulations, you’re an idiot! I was in my gym clothes, obviously distraught. The doctor said the abortion pill wasn’t an option in our state. I called clinics all over until I found one a four-hour drive away in Tennessee. I couldn’t have told my family. The two girls I told have kids and husbands; they couldn’t just drop everything and come with me. I drove four hours by myself, thinking about what an idiot I was for stopping birth control. I took the first pill in Tennessee. I took the second one the next day, on the Fourth of July, my favorite holiday. I was expecting something terrible. I watched movies alone. I felt fine and could’ve even gone out, but I’d made up stories about where I was.
These stories are meant to normalize abortion and, I guess, make it seem more okay. Like just another life experience, on a par with having to get major suspension work done on your car. Expensive and inconvenient and well, that's life.
I'm not sure these dismal tales will have their intended effect. In fact, I think the overall effect will be to just leave people oddly disquieted but otherwise squarely where they started.
The whole thing -- all these matter-of-fact tales of dead babies -- is just depressing. Is this really the world people want? Women dully trudging in and out of abortion clinics, not even really sure why they're doing it?
Paint it all gray. Just one uniform shade of gray.