By Stephanie Drahan, Outreach Associate
I remember the first time I saw the bumper sticker: "Aren’t You Glad Your Mother was Pro-Life?" I was probably about 19, driving in upstate New York, taking myself up to college. I remember the visceral reaction I had; wanting to swerve my car into theirs and run them off the empty highway. I may have even let my emotions get the best of me and flicked off the older woman driving her mid-90s station wagon.
How dare she? How dare she think she knows anything about me. Anything about my mother. Anything about the circumstances of my family. How dare she!
When I was about 16, my mother went out one evening every week. I didn’t know where she was going, and she never offered up a reason. Eventually my curiosity got the best of me, and I asked. She dodged my questions, clearly uncomfortable and not wanting to tell me. As an only child, I’ve always prided myself on my open and honest relationship with my mother. My teen years were certainly angst-filled, but even then our steady relationship navigated life’s crushing waves. She finally let me in; telling me that she was participating in a women’s support group. I continued to prod, asking for more details and eventually she opened up. She’d had an abortion years before I was born, and the support group was for women who had unresolved feelings about the abortions they’d had.
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This is her story. This is my story.
It was the summer before her junior year of college. She was 20 and abortion was still illegal and she found herself in a situation that almost every woman dreads. Luckily, my grandparents were able to arrange for her to see a doctor who performed abortions on his lunch-hour in a hotel. Without divulging too many family dysfunctionalities, suffice it to say that her family was not very open and this situation brought out the worst of this trait. They barely spoke of her “problem” before it was “taken care of,” and they never encouraged her to process what she had been through. I think this is why my mom carried with her some unease about this procedure some 30 years later.
When I learned her story I was hurt that she had not been comfortable confiding her membership in this group with me. I don’t ever want my mother to hide something from me and I don’t ever want her to be ashamed of the decisions she makes.
The way I see it, I would not have been born if my mother had not had an abortion. She would have become a young mother, likely a single mother. She may not have finished college. She likely would have had to move back home. She would not have met my father.
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My mother’s abortion allowed me to have life. I can wholeheartedly say that I became a woman’s rights advocate because of my mom’s abortion story. I must continue this fight. I want her (and all women who have had abortions) to know there is no reason to be ashamed of the decision she made. I don’t ever want my daughter, my niece, or my granddaughter (or any girl or woman) to be in the position my mother was in. But if someone I love (or anyone anywhere) finds herself with an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, I want to know that safe and legal options are available, and that she won’t have to seek out an illegal, perhaps unqualified, abortion provider.
I remember the summer after my sophomore year of college often reflecting on where my mom had been at my age, and the contrasts of our lives. She had dealt with one of life’s hardest decisions and I was getting ready to study abroad. My mom has provided me with her very best; she has given thanklessly; she has taught me what it means to be strong, independent, and caring; she raised me to know that women can do anything and be anything. I took these lessons with me when I studied abroad, and I keep them with me to this day. Would my mom have been a good mother at 20? You betcha, but she wouldn’t have been mine.
Abortion is not about unborn lives, it is about the lives that are already being lived. Without it women would be forced into situations that would drastically change and possibly end the lives they had been planning.
So when I see the bumper sticker that says “Aren’t You Glad Your Mother was Pro-Life?” I think: Wouldn’t that be nice? If life was so simple, black and white. But, you have no idea; I’m thankful mine wasn’t.
And in the end, isn’t that what choice is all about?
My mom and me