What If My Mother Had An Abortion
I was born in the fall of 1974. My mother was a teenager when she became pregnant with me. Living in a small blue-collar town in Western Pennsylvania, about a year after Roe v Wade had been decided, she found herself with child and without many options. Abortion, while newly legal at the time, was still nothing easy to come by. In 1972 when my mother was still in high school, abortion was still unequivocally against the law in her home state. According to a 2003 report by Rachel Benson Gold of the Guttmacher Institute, “…from 1972 to 1974, the mortality rate due to illegal abortion for nonwhite women was 12 times that for white women.”
I was born. My mother had me. It is unclear, however, whether or not she wanted to have me, or whether she simply felt she had no better choice. It is unclear if my mother was able to fully consent to my birth. While she was alive, it never occurred to me to ask her.
Often times so called “pro-lifers” will say “If your mother had an abortion then you wouldn’t be here.” What this inane argument misses is the possibility if my mother had an abortion, she might still be here.
What might her life had been without me? Might she have had time to grow up in her own time, figure out who she was, make sense of herself as a Black woman, the youngest of nineteen children from the same mother? (How consensual were those births, I can’t help but wonder.) Might she have had the space to deal with her mental health issues, her depression, the personality disorders that haunted her, made her life into endless chaos? She may have traveled, made art, collected gemstones, fell in and out of love, gone to school, to therapy, read the plays of Lorraine Hansberry, made love on a beach, lived alone, discovered that she loved women, saved up enough money to buy an apartment, decorated it in the cheesy glossy neo-deco pastel style (that made me cringe in my emo skateboarding adolescent years) and been incredibly happy in it. Or perhaps not happy, but at least satisfied that she was living in charge of her life, rather than being dragged along by it.
I had coffee with a friend yesterday who told me about her depression, her feeling that here she was, 40 years old, a dark-skinned South Asian woman raised around white…