I spent a year after college traveling and working throughout Europe. I used an IUD knowing that birth control pills would be difficult to acquire while on the move.
When I returned, a year later to Chicago, a Gay couple had a job in Chicago waiting for me rehabbing their three-flat. The demolition was hard and I felt sick every day doing this kind of physical work. One of the men working on the rehab project with me mentioned during lunch, that I was probably pregnant to which I replied, “impossible”, but I went to the Doctor and sure enough, he was correct.
I had also found out that I had been accepted to the Chicago Art Institute graduate program on a scholarship and was looking forward to start in fall to get a graduate degree. I also had fallen in love or thought I was in love with a woman. It seemed that everything was coming together, my real adult life full of opportunity and promise was just beginning. Here I was 23 years old, starting my new life, 10 weeks pregnant and completely freaked out about it. I think I was feeling like life was unfair in that moment because I had taken precautions to not get pregnant and regardless, I did get pregnant.
Abortion was the answer, the only answer for me. Abortion was illegal in Illinois which meant I needed money to fly to New York, stay overnight plus the cost of the abortion. I would need to make the trip alone without the support of any friends. The cost of the abortion was more money than I had. I was too ashamed and embarrassed to ask my Mother for help. Roe Vs Wade was going to the Supreme Court in the fall, but it would be another six months before the decision came down in favor of legal abortion all across the Nation.
A woman friend told me of a doctor on the South side who was performing abortions. She said it was a safe alternative to going to New York. I needed to go and be interviewed first to make sure this was something I wanted to do. I answered a series of questions like, “would I consider having the child and giving it up for adoption?” After the interviewing process, the date was set and I arrived at a brand new beautifully designed, clean clinic on the south side of Chicago. My friend came with me for support. I was told to bring cash ($250.00) which my employer advanced to me. I was told to wait and my name would be called and to tell my friend that she had to wait at the clinic because I was going to go to a different location due to the fact that abortions were not legal yet in Illinois. About 10 other women and myself were escorted into two Cadillacs and taken to what looked like someone’s house. We drove into a dark garage, the engine turned off, and we waited a few minutes in silence. At this point I got a little panicky, that maybe something was not right about this situation. The driver noticed that I looked scared and told me that everything was ok and not to worry, which calmed me.
Then we all went inside a house and waited in a living room, which could have been someone’s Grandma’s house. And again, none of us said a word. I looked around the room at the women. Some were young, some middle aged, a mother with her teenage daughter, some African American, some white. Finally, I decided to break the silence and asked why everyone was there? One woman said she already had two children, a third would break the family financially. Other women had similar stories. Two women said that their doctor warned them that they would die if they did not have the abortion. The teenager and Mother did not speak looking disapprovingly and disgusted. It then occurred to me that everyone’s situation was individually different and each of us had their own desperate reasons for not having a baby at this time in our lives.
I no longer felt alone and desperate but part of a sisterhood. While lying on the examining table, legs in stirrups, there was an ice-cold feeling, and then something that sounded like a vacuum. I grabbed the hand of the nurse beside me and squeezed it so hard I felt like I almost broke her poor hand. She assured me, that everything was and would be ok. The Doctor explained that the IUD was too small for the size of my womb which is why it failed. I thanked him and never looked back.