A woman at pro-choice rally holds a pink sign that reads "Choice is a human right."
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

When I was 15, an indifferent female gynecologist told me it would be “hard” for me to get pregnant. There was no explanation, no ordered medical testing, just a brief, blanket prophecy that haunted me and my self-worth for decades to come. 

As time passed, I learned to accept this supposed flaw of my anatomy. It gave me a certain degree of sexual freedom from responsibility. But this freedom was eventually overshadowed as I watched women on TV and movies experience the joy of giving birth. 

I was especially triggered by the Demi Moore scene from “The Seventh Sign.” In the film, she is repeatedly asked, “Will you die for him?” It’s a question with a double meaning. Making the decision to give her life for her unborn child — which parallels the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross — will help stop Armageddon. In the scene, she gladly sacrifices herself for the chance her child will be born, therefore saving the world. 

It touched me because I would have made the same choice. I would have been heartened to know my life was traded for a chance to better humanity. 

But what will this new humanity look like for women after the overturning of Roe v. Wade? 

I don’t have a daughter or a son, yet I am a daughter who was once a sheltered teen, programmed to believe sex was bad and my body my enemy. I knew I couldn’t speak to my mom about these topics due to her own projected shame and embarrassment for her life choices — emotions which were passed onto me. 

I was unprepared for my period at age 11, the loss of my virginity to my first love at 16, or my best friend’s sudden abortion dilemma. At 15, she was a year younger than me and therefore too young to have the procedure without parental consent. She wanted to use my birth date. 

I asked her all the appropriate questions. Who is the father? The abusive, older boyfriend. Was she sure? Yes. Did she understand the risks? Yes — the abortion clinic had explained all of her options. What about her parents — could she tell her mom? No, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and abortion was against her religion. Did she want me to go with her? No, her boyfriend would drive her.

I didn’t hesitate long before I agreed. I wanted her to be OK and, like most teenage girls, I’d have done anything for my best friend. Will these risks be too great for teenage girls now?

So you see, on paper somewhere, I have had an abortion — me, who had never been pregnant and so desperately wanted seven kids!

I knew it was up to my friend to decide and not for me to pass along judgment, criticism or hate. I was grateful that safe legal treatment resources were easily accessible for her in Columbus, Ohio, where we lived. 

I also drove two other friends to their abortion procedures. One was during our college years, before she was ready. Today she is married and has a set of beautiful twin girls. The other woman was in her early 30s. She was already struggling to make ends meet as a single mom of two. 

I will never walk in their shoes. That choice was taken away by genetics, yet I do get to decide what medical treatments I agree to receive. 

I have that power. I get to decide what is done to my body and what impact it will have on my future. So should everyone else.

That is the key — the empowerment of choice. I might have chosen differently than each of my three friends. Who is to say?

No one but the woman who has to live with the aftereffects for the rest of their lives should make the decision “yea” or “nay” to abortion.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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H.L. Tapla

H.L. Tapla is the author of the series “Incarceration Inspirations,” “The Five Steps to Abundance” and “The Real Inmate Handbook.” She is incarcerated in Ohio.