Of Two Minds: Roe v. Wade

8 mins read

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

Tweeting about Roe v. Wade for DemCast was always going to be difficult for me. So I told the person who recruited me that I would tweet about any subject but this. For two years, I didn’t.

While it had something to do with my conversion to Catholicism in 2009, it wasn’t the only reason. Not even the most important one. 

I am the 1950s product of a teenage pregnancy. My birth mother was only 16 years old when she had me. Had Roe v. Wade been law then, I literally might not be here to write these words today.

Although she married, within a year my mother had abandoned me and run off with another man. The man she married — who it turns out may or may not have been my genetic father — joined the Army rather than go to jail for stealing a set of tires. 

So I was given in custody to my maternal grandfather and his second wife to raise. I grew up calling them Dad and Mom, because that’s what they were to me. Even though I had a different legal last name.

From left to right: the author’s cousin, great-grandfather, and author

I learned the convoluted history of my birth and upbringing around the age of seven from my birth mother in a phone call. She was a stranger, a voice on a party line insisting she was my mother. It created a trauma in me from which I still suffer.

Never did I ever feel wanted by anyone. Never did I ever feel chosen by anyone.

Never did I ever feel worthy of love. 

From that time to this.

There are other reasons behind these that contributed to my feelings: I learned that when I was six months old I nearly died of pneumonia due to parental neglect; I was teased mercilessly by my rural classmates for having a different last name than Dad and Mom (Gee vs. Johnson) and was referred to as “Geesey;” Mom would look at my six-month baby photo and say I looked like a “plucked chicken” in it. 

Never was I told by Dad or Mom I was pretty: just to get good grades, graduate high school and learn to type so I would always have a job.

In the 1960s Barbie-crazed world, having people think you were pretty mattered — a lot.

So even though I went on the pill at 18 at the request of my boyfriend, who was 10 years my senior, I always knew I would never have an abortion for an unexpected pregnancy.

Because of my own life story, I simply couldn’t do that to a fetus I knew would one day be a human being. It went against my moral core. It would be another psychic wound to my soul. 

Now that I am Catholic, it goes against my faith. But that is what I choose to believe on a spiritual level, in free will, not something imposed on me by a government losing its sense of separation of church and state. It’s a personal choice to believe this, not a government-imposed one. 

For me it is also about the life of a soul; science can’t tell me when the soul is conceived. 

Still, if the bans on abortion happening now had happened when I was in my 30s, I would have been doomed to decades of excruciating pain due to endometriosis and ovarian cysts. 

I had a second pregnancy that I didn’t know I had. After urinating one day, I stared at what looked like a clump of fetal tissue in the toilet. I stared and stared at it for the longest time.

But there was no blood. If I had miscarried, shouldn’t there have been blood? Finally, not knowing what else to do, I flushed the toilet.

What I didn’t know then, which I know now, is there is such a thing as a “bloodless” miscarriage, and it is often associated with endometriosis.

As I became sicker and sicker with the latter, I chose a hysterectomy and the removal of an ovary. The other was left in to keep me from surgical menopause and having to take estrogen supplementation. 

But a year later, an ovarian cyst left me doubled over in pain in the middle of a corporate meeting at the San Francisco headquarters of the company where I worked. After several hours of driving back to the Monterey Peninsula and a consultation the next day with my gynecologist, I opted for another surgery to remove that ovary. There was no guarantee I wouldn’t get another cyst that would put me on bed rest for two weeks … how many times over?

I already had one child I loved deeply and needed to provide for … so I chose my love and obligation to him over the possibility of another child. With endometriosis it would be difficult to get pregnant anyway.

Though I sometimes have moments of grief about the other child I hoped for and would never have, I know I made the right moral decision for the life of the son I did have.

Now, the idea that I could have been criminalized for miscarrying a baby I didn’t know I had — had my medical privacy been invaded and an insurance company tell me I had to suffer excruciating physical pain because they wouldn’t perform a medically needed hysterectomy or oophorectomy — is an equal harm.

So now I do tweet about Roe v. Wade. Because my faith also tells me I am a human being with the right to necessary gynecological medical intervention, just as a man has the right to have treated a curved penis due to Peyronie’s disease or his prostate, testicles or penis treated for cancer.

There are the lives for which we are already responsible and the lives that might be. My faith tells me there is nothing wrong with caring for the living first. 

In fact, Jesus commanded it.

Feature photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash.

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