My Abortions and Our Culture of Shame

I’ve got two kids, and I’ve had multiple abortions—five to be exact. No one knows. Not my OB/GYN, not my mother, and definitely not my husband. I learned recently that multiple abortions are much more common than I thought. There are many reasons for misconceptions about multiple abortions, all of which work to dispel the myth that women who have multiple abortions are using the procedure as birth control. We’re not. Like we all do, I see anti-choice rhetoric on social media anytime I log on to any platform. Like most women who’ve had an abortion, I’ve noticed that the voices missing from the conversation are the voices of women who have actually terminated their pregnancies. Why didn’t I add my voice to the mix? Because I was scared I would be judged and ridiculed, or worse, and because I was wearing other people’s shame. You see, I internalized the mainstream cultural BS (there’s really no other name for it) that claims that abortions are OK only under certain circumstances; you know, if it’s due to fetal deformity or the mother’s life is at risk. Maybe it’s OK for other reasons as long as each woman is limited to one abortion. I listened to my fairly open-minded, well-educated, pro-woman, pro-choice husband denigrate women (all hypothetical except me) who had abortions if they were in committed relationships and especially if they had more than one. I never told him while we dated or even after we married that I’d had any abortions let alone five because I was afraid he wouldn’t see me the same way. I terminated a pregnancy when my first child was just 18 months old. Her father and I weren’t together, but we were having sex, and I got pregnant. I could explain all the reasons why, but, frankly, I’m exhausted from justifying my choice; I shouldn’t have to—and neither should you. Anyway, fast forward nine years, and my husband and I were expecting my second child. During a visit with my maternal-fetal-medicine specialist, the doc asked about the abortion I’d put on my paperwork—in front of my husband who didn’t know about it. When she left the office, my husband laid into me, demanding to know the exact details of the situation—the situation that had had absolutely nothing to do with him—and, to say the least, it was uncomfortable. None of my responses were good enough, and I felt very judged and very alone. At that moment, I knew I could never let him, or anyone, know I’d actually had multiple terminations. But, recently, as I mentioned, I’ve discovered I’m hardly alone. I also watched a comedy bit by Michelle Wolf who bravely shared her abortion story in front of a live audience. She followed it up by saying that abortions don’t have to be a big deal unless the woman having one feels like it’s a big deal for her. She mentioned that even people who claim to be pro-choice shame women for abortions, and I realized she was right, on all fronts. She liberated me in many ways. Because of Wolf’s comedy special, I decided to take to the interwebs and find other abortion stories. I found this website, and I decided that I’m also exhausted from hiding in the closet and carrying other people’s shame. And that’s it. I could go into detail about my procedures; some were a big deal, and others weren’t, and I’ll leave it at that. I just wanted to add one more voice to the collective that’s starting to form. Maybe one day I’ll tell my husband.