When I was fifteen, I had no idea about Roe vs. Wade (1973). A constitutional right to abortion enshrined by the Supreme Court in 1973. My life was a far cry from Jane Roe aka Pixie, who back in the 1970’s was a young woman devastated by sexual and physical abuse, poverty, and multiple unwanted pregnancies. Pixie knew she wanted an abortion with her third child but was not able to have one because of the law in Texas at the time. She connected with two young women attorneys who brought her case all the way to the Supreme Court and won. That was in 1973. A far-off time that did not exist for me in 1996. For me, that option was impossible to access.
At fifteen, I was trying my best to survive a marriage, if you can call it that, which I had been forced into with a 28-year-old stranger. I was shocked I could even get pregnant. It had happened so quickly. A couple of months after my “nikkah” I remember riding in my mother-in-law’s car after a day of shopping. I asked her to pull over because I felt sick to my stomach. I threw up red watermelon that I had eaten for breakfast on the side of the road. What is this, blood, I thought? “You must be pregnant”, she said. I blinked at her, shocked, confused, scared. She must have seen my confusion and we quickly went back to their home. My abuser took me to a doctor that week, and he confirmed the pregnancy. Acceptance was my only option. Without access to birth control or abortion clinics there were simply no other choices. I was in a foreign country under the control of my abuser. I was a teenager, not mentally developed enough to have real feelings about what was happening to my body or understand it. Every day spilled into the next. I was a kid and a woman at the same time. It was a confusing time for me. I felt numb. I had no one, not my mom or sisters to talk to. I was alone.
When we returned to the states, I started to feel joy for the tiny baby growing in my belly. I asked for books on pregnancy and early brain development. I wanted to know how to be a good mother. We were legally wed when I was six months pregnant. The pregnancy helped the authorities look the other way as they stamped my marriage certificate even though my “husband” was a rapist under California law. However, as a young teen I was considered a bane on society without a marriage. That marriage that would rob ten years of my life from me.
I had been told conflicting things about birth control before my “wedding”. I was told by an unnamed aunt to use birth control right before my nikkah. She didn’t give me any, she just told me to use it. But before that, I was taught that birth control was wrong and if god wanted you to have a child, you would. I was told that children were a blessing, and that god would provide for the child. Ultimately, I did not question whether I had a choice. I just assumed being pregnant was a blessing and it was what I was supposed to do. Everyone was happy. Reproduction was the goal of my forced union. My abusers wanted me to become pregnant because it would further legitimize the rape that I was being subjected to.
Fast forward to my second pregnancy. I was 19 and I had been fighting for my freedom since we had returned to Bay Area in 1997. I had started computer programming classes in San Francisco. I found out I was pregnant again, and I was devastated. I knew it would delay me leaving the marriage I had grown to hate. I reached out to my mother, who I had been forbidden to call. She came out to California immediately. She knew I was in an abusive and controlling relationship but also knew that control is largely mental. She gave me my space and asked pointed questions. My husband detested my mother. She did not want to drive a further wedge between us. Instead, she encouraged me to continue with my education. I continued going to school and continued to stay in touch with my mother. During that time, I had not considered for one moment that I could have an abortion. Still under the control of my ex, he wanted the baby and was pleased to find out it was a boy. I wanted to continue my education without making him angry. However, deep in my soul I knew it would be my last child with him. I knew I was on a path to freedom and no one, not even him, would stop me. I loved my babies, and even so, it never gave him a right to steal my choices. But he did. His choices were always protected. Mine were secondary and nonexistent.
I found out I was pregnant for a third time when my second child was two years old. I could not go through with it. I did not want this child. Every fiber in my body told me I could not have another child with this man because I would be stuck with him forever. There was simply no way I could have it. I was so close to leaving him. I scheduled an abortion. I told my husband I would not have this child. He knew I would not waiver and took me to my appointment. He was surprisingly supportive. I left him soon after. I remember and am grateful to the doctor who performed my abortion because without him I may have been stuck longer, or maybe I would have been stuck forever in a relationship with a man I detested and never wanted to be with. A man who stole my childhood from me and who took so many other things from me. Things that can never be restored.
I share this story because even with choices, the decision to have an abortion is hard. It is never an easy choice, but we at least deserve the option. Under any circumstance, we deserve a choice.