Choice Is Not A Dirty Word

One thing is for sure: A woman should be able to choose what is right for her. It’s her body and her decision because she must bear the consequences.

Content warning: rape

Pro-Choice or Pro-Life, which are you? Pro-Choice is defined as “advocating a woman’s right to control her own body” and Pro-Life as “advocating full protection of embryos and fetuses.”

Few issues cause as much controversy as this. In fact, I don’t know anyone who is neutral on this subject. I don’t discuss abortion with my friends because I know many don’t share my beliefs and I want to remain friends.

Pregnancy was a huge concern for women in the 1960s. When I was 18, my first sexual experience was a date rape. It was our first date when he lured me to a brownstone in Greenwich Village under the guise to meet his brother. Once there, he acted surprised that his brother wasn’t home and ushered me straight into a bedroom. Within minutes he was violently ripping off my clothes and forcing himself on me. I screamed “NO!!!! NO!!!!” but he was focused on one thing as he repeatedly slapped my face and raped me. It was over in five minutes, but it seemed like forever. I left that brownstone no longer a virgin.

Going to the emergency room or to the police after being raped didn’t even occur to me as an option. Little sympathy was given to rape victims by health care workers, the police, the court system, and society. The victim was often blamed for the rape—it was assumed that she “asked for it.”

The first thing I did when I got back to my room at The Barbizon Hotel for Women was to take a shower. The second was to check my calendar to see if I was ovulating. I was. Next I prayed like I never prayed before. Abortion wasn’t legal then, so back alley abortions (often performed with coat hangers) or having a baby (which I wasn’t prepared for) were the only options available. Fortunately, two weeks later I got my period.

But many people haven’t been so lucky. When I lived at The Barbizon, one of my friends who also lived there and attended secretarial school with me visited my room right after she had a back alley abortion. I listened in sadness as she confided in me and described her traumatic experience. No one should ever have to go through that. Since then, other friends have confided to me that they either had an abortion or had to give up their baby for adoption. Both were agonizing decisions.

No one “wants” an abortion, but a safe, legal abortion must be available as a medical procedure. For a woman, it is painful emotionally and physically, not to mention an expense that not all can afford. One thing is for sure: A woman should be able to choose what is right for her. It’s her body and her decision because she must bear the consequences.

Men cannot possibly understand the totality of what it is like to become pregnant—the morning sickness, nine months of physical discomfort, stretch marks, the worst pain you can possibly experience during labor, sometimes needing a Cesarean section or episiotomy, up at all hours breastfeeding, then raising the child, perhaps alone and in poor conditions.

I don’t understand people who are against choice and prohibit abortion under all circumstances, even rape or incest. If your sister, daughter, or mother got raped and became pregnant, do you honestly believe she should be forced to give birth, ruin her body and her life, and be reminded daily of the rape for the rest of her life? I bet abortion opponents would change their minds if it affected their loved ones or themselves.

The birth control pill came on the scene in the 1960s. One of the reasons I married my first husband was because I couldn’t get a prescription for birth control unless I was married. Soon after starting the pill, I had major side effects and had to stop taking it. So we used the popular “rhythm method” of birth control and about nine months later my son was born.

During the three years we were married, my husband was physically and emotionally abusive. One day I had all I could take and with 25 cents in my pocket and my father’s help, I took my 18-month-old son and moved out of state. My husband then disappeared (for 15 years) in order not to pay child support. In the meantime, he got married two more times and fathered a total of seven children.

I knew I could not afford to raise another child on my secretary’s salary if I ever got pregnant again, so when I was only 26 I decided to have a tubal ligation. At that time it was hard to find a doctor who was willing to perform one on someone my age, but a doctor who was my mother’s friend, agreed to do it. While recovering in the hospital I developed a severe bacterial infection and had a high fever and severe chills. When I asked a nurse for a blanket her reply was “Well, it was YOUR choice!” After seeing me cry uncontrollably, she brought me a blanket and apologized. Even though I had a long recovery time, I have never regretted the decision to have a tubal ligation.

In the early 1970s I arranged for the Executive Director of the local abortion clinic to speak at my company. There were several people attending who were part of the Right to Life movement. I was surprised when a few weeks later one of the Right to Lifers called me to ask for the contact information of the abortion clinic. She said one of her family members was pregnant and needed an abortion.

On the first anniversary of the decision of Roe vs. Wade, I was part of a group of Pro-Choicers who went to a Right to Life rally to protest. We sat throughout the audience and slowly stood up and walked out when something was said that we found offensive. On my way out of the building a local television station stopped me and asked my reason for protesting. Although I’m not especially known for my speaking ability, the right words just flowed. And it felt surreal when I got home, turned on the television and heard my voice coming across the air waves.

I know what it’s like to be an unwanted child. The year before my mother died she told me that she didn’t want me when she found out she was pregnant. It interfered with her dreams of becoming a singer and actress. She said she accepted it after she told my father she was pregnant and he was thrilled, but she was never kind or nurturing to me and was often intentionally cruel.

Right to Lifers should not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. I would like to see a national registry where they would identify themselves as being Pro-Life and be required to adopt children of all ages and races who are put up for adoption in the United States and/or pledge to financially support those children from birth until they reach the age of 18. If they are required to put their money where their mouth is, I suspect the number of people who are truly Pro-Life would dwindle dramatically. And as American lawyer, activist, civil rights advocate, lecturer, and feminist Florynce Rae Kennedy once said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

Melodee Currier lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her husband and two Siamese cats. She left corporate America in 2008 where she was an intellectual property paralegal. Since then she has devoted her time to writing and has had numerous articles published on a wide variety of topics. Her articles can be read on her website

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