On the phone, the voice was flat, Midwestern as you might expect, although she originally is from the East. She lives in Minneapolis and her business is operating a crafts gallery. There are, to round out the picture, a husband, infant twin girls and an old ring. It was an heirloom and she sent it the other day to the National Abortion Rights Action League by way of thanking it for the twin girls. An abortion made them possible.
The ring is topaz -- her birthstone. It belonged to a great-aunt and when the aunt died, maybe 19 years ago, it was given to the woman -- then just a girl. She kept the ring, although she never wore it, but the other day she slipped it in an envelope with a letter.
"At this time, I have no other way to make this crucial donation to a cause that is of great importance to me both personally and morally," she wrote. "As the mother of 20-month-old twin daughters, I feel it is especially important that their right to choice is guaranteed the way mine was five years ago when I had an abortion. At that time, neither I nor the father of that child could support another life financially or emotionally."
There is, of course, a story here. The first pregnancy came at the end of college and at the end of a relationship. They were breaking up, and all of a sudden she was pregnant. Since she was on the Pill and somehow pregnant anyway, she worried about the health of the fetus, but mostly, she admits, she worried about herself. She was not ready for this baby.
"I was very astonished I was pregnant," she said. "I had the abortion the next day." The father accompanied her.
NARAL thought that the story of the letter and the ring (worth about $500) would make a wonderful Mother's Day column. You could see their point, since the woman was quite convinced that her abortion had given her the time to marry, start a business and have the children she really wanted. But I am not all that comfortable about abortion -- I do not deal with it day in and day out as NARAL does -- and I could not run it up against Mother's Day.
It turns out, though, that the woman on the phone was queasy like me. She toyed with allowing her name to be used, thought she ought to, thought maybe she ought not, too. She is not ashamed of her abortion, but still, she has never told certain relatives and they . . . You can understand.
And also she has children now -- the twins. The abortion that was procured almost nonchalantly five years ago has now become emotionally charged. It is no longer just something that happened. You cannot look into the face of a child and think nothing of an abortion. "It's a sad thing," she said. "There is no way around that. But I had to do it. I am very glad I had the choice."
You may or may not agree. But for me, I was glad that the abortion was not used in lieu of birth control and I was glad that the woman is now melancholy about it and I was glad the thing was not very simple. But it is just as simple to go the other way, to incorporate the thinking of the Family Protection Act and the Reagan administration and say that all abortions should be forbidden.
The fact of the matter is that this woman is not the first to credit legalized abortion with giving her the chance ultimately to have a family. There are others like her -- women who would not risk children at all if they were not sure, given either their age or their family medical history, that abortion was an option. For them, amniocentesis coupled with the availablity of abortion makes pregnancy a reasonable risk.
It is always easy to make rules for other people. I abhor casual abortions. I am sickened by people who use abortion as just another method of birth control. I worry about the moral ambiguity of it, the implications for euthanasia, but I would have done what that lady in Minneapolis did and I don't want the government, in the name of someone else's morality, saying I can't.
This is why the lady in Minneapolis sent off her ring. "My freedom to make the choice I made then has made . . . my present joy in motherhood possible. I will be forever grateful that I was legally able to control my body and my life in order to be a responsible parent when I chose to do so."
NARAL would call this "choice." I call it the real family protection act.