Sometimes a woman suffering from the psychological consequences of abortion will pen her story to her peers or to her aborted child in an effort to release her grief and also to inform others of the pain of abortion.
I was seventeen when I had my first abortion. I was a perfect candidate: too young, hadn't finished high school yet, no money, no skills, father of the baby didn't want to marry me, and adoption was too painful to think about.
Later in Nursing School, when I saw pictures of fetal development, I was shocked. That blob of tissue had feet, hands and a heartbeat.
I had become very interested in women's health care and reproductive rights, fighting for women's right to abortion, but what I was saying conflicted with what I was feeling.
Some of things were:
Read more letters below...
When Nora wrote this letter she was 23 years old, single and unemployed. She had an abortion three years previously.
I'm a bit more confident in myself recently. I'm trying to be a bit more like the me that used to be. It's hard but I'm trying. I'm finding it hard to forget completely, for even one day. Indeed, I don't ever want to forget completely. After all, it was my baby, and it was inside me, no matter how short a time. I guess I'm trying not to let "the abortion" take over my whole life (I can't believe I wrote that word down, I hate it so much.) But it's damn hard.
I still can't figure out how I could allow it to happen, and I hate myself because of it. I was a weak fool. I'm torturing myself because I realized in my heart and soul I didn't want to do it, but yet was too afraid to stand on my own two feet and open my mouth to protest. At the time I was in a daze. I'm only sorry now that I didn't tell my mum before I left, because, having done what I did and to eventually tell my mum and then to tell dad, and realize that they would have stood by me, makes me want to die altogether. They're going through their own kind of torture because of all the times they said "never come home pregnant!" They didn't mean it!
I'm still really angry at my sister. She put so much pressure on me to have an abortion. She's so riddled with guilt now, though, I feel sorry for her. I'm still angry at her, but I don't hate her any more. She thought she was doing the right thing, with the way things were at home then. The only thing I can remember her screaming at me is "if my mother ends up in a mental hospital with a breakdown I'll kill you". I guess at the time it was the emotional turmoil and torture I was going through that made me weaken and give in. I hate myself though, every day since.
Some of the women in our group [the local group of Women Hurt by Abortion] wanted to have their abortions. I realise that no matter what the circumstances were at the time we are all suffering now. But it sickens me that some of them won't even admit that it was a baby, not a blob of cells, and I hate listening to all that. That's why I hate myself all the more, because I realised, from the minute I found out, that it was a baby. And I allowed myself to be bullied into doing such a horrible thing like allowing my baby to be butchered.
That's a very strong word to use, but that's what I did. It goes beyond my comprehension of myself, as all my life I've hoped that someday I'd have a baby. Realising that I could lose control of my own life so easily, in such an important decision as the life or death of my own child, makes me feel a complete and total waste of life myself.
What or who am I to want any kind of happiness anymore? I might seem hard on myself, thinking over things, because I know deep down in my heart I'm not a monster really and I made a mistake. But it's one mistake that is the most horrific mistake to make and I feel I deserve to punish myself all the time.
I get so confused. I get so happy at times, then memories flood back and I start thinking "I'm not a nice person, I'm a monster". It frightens me so much, a permanent battle in my head and life. I try to mix and be happy and then I say "stop, I don't deserve this."
Thinking about myself and how I used to feel about abortion, indeed, how I still feel, I could have been the one that would have pointed the finger. You don't ever know, do you?
I suppose you can only learn and grow strong, if only it was that simple. Sorry for being so depressed again when I had decided to be positive, with a happy outlook, but it helps to be able to release at least some of what I'm feeling.
Pat is 33, married and has three children. She had an early abortion when she was 19 and a second one when she was 21. Two years ago she began to realize that they had had a major impact on her life and could no longer be ignored. She wrote the following letters over a period of several months.
Just back off my holidays. What a relief! Maybe I am just over-tired, but I cannot stand the sight of Michael at the minute. He just sickens my stomach. I was out for an hour with him last night. What an effort! I managed to tell him I was finding the week a bit of a strain. Also I felt very guilty for being down in the dumps. I didn't get the reaction I expected. He was just thinking of himself. He switched conversation very quickly to something of little importance, it really annoyed me.
So, coming home I lost my head with him. He said what I'm dealing with is not a problem to him, and if it is to me, he couldn't do anything about it. So then I let him know in anger that he was fifty percent responsible for what happened, like me getting pregnant. I can't stand men at the moment, certainly not Michael. He is a pig, a selfish pig, and all the rest that goes with it! He sleeps with me, I get pregnant twice, have two abortions and it's not a problem to him! And if it is to me, just tough luck!
It really is a man's world. I'm so mad at him. He better not even sit beside me or touch off me, or even talk to me, for the rest of the evening. I really can't describe how bad I feel towards him. How dare he! At the moment I just think he is disgusting, revolting, obnoxious. Nothing will change the way I feel. How am I going to survive the rest of my life with him?
Fourteen years of life I think I'm finally believing that there was no good reason for doing what I did. I am inclined to go around in circles. Up to now I think when my babies became real I wanted to blame someone else. I just didn't want to feel responsible. And when I felt responsible I didn't want to see the babies as real at all. I think I'm putting the two together now, at least for the moment.
Michael asked earlier how I was, said I seemed awful quiet. He has said that a few times lately, but I know he doesn't want to know really how I feel, so I just say okay. And the new one is, I am "a quiet girl". I really can't stand him. To ask me how I feel is an insult, when he doesn't want to know. How does one feel, trying to live with the fact that she is responsible for having her two children killed? And he is their father and he could have stopped me then, but he didn't even try.
Fourteen years of my life have been ruined because of this. I will never see my babies, and he thinks I'm quiet! He could have helped then and he didn't. Did he feel nothing, to let me go to England to have our baby aborted, not just once but twice? How could he stand by and do nothing? If I'm quiet now he was obviously quiet then, so quiet I can't remember a word of support for me then. Obviously he didn't want to marry me or stand by me. He didn't even have to come and witness what was to happen to me. He didn't even have to pay for it. I must have been a stupid, naive idiot to expect nothing of him.
It's all so safe and easy for him to say now it's in the past, and the babies are in heaven. If he has so much belief I wonder why he doesn't go to Mass. Obviously he didn't think enough of me to stand by me, and I didn't think enough of me to expect it. It's no wonder I hate him. If I told him how I was he would probably ring the doctor or his sister.
Come to think of it, it was he who half-pushed me to go into the mental hospital the time I went. I didn't really believe I needed to. He hassled me so much on top of everything else I couldn't take any more. I hate him for not standing by me then. I don't think I even want to see him as the father of my babies at times, I feel so angry towards him. He is just not good enough to be, or he doesn't deserve to be.
I can't remember what I was like before my abortions. I don't think I really cared that much about what I was doing. It was just a way out. I think I was quite hard about the whole thing, so that made it easier for me. I was quite hard even before getting pregnant. I was probably carrying a chip on my shoulder about my parents and all that, and quite selfish. I think it would be wrong for me to say I felt anything for my two babies then. I didn't care.
I didn't think much of myself, so I didn't think much of my babies. Well, if I didn't think much of myself I would hardly think much of my baby. Then again, I think I felt all my past behaviour, the way I had been living, which I kept very secret, would all come out, and everyone would know. The image I portrayed and the way I was living weren't the same. I pretended to be sensible, responsible and all that. But having sex and getting pregnant seemed to deny all that.
Cruel and uncaring
I don't think God was that much part of my life then. I suppose I ignored him because I knew the way I was living was wrong anyway. I'm sure I knew everything I did was wrong, but it was more a case of "so long as nobody finds out it doesn't matter". I obviously felt bad about it because I told no one. I never even went to confession, about that anyway. I'm sure I even had Michael's sister, Betty, who organised both abortions, thinking I knew I was doing the right thing. I really don't think I cared very much and if I got upset in the clinic maybe something else got to me then. I don't really know.
I don't think you should have been kind to me because I really don't deserve it. Anyone like me who can be so cruel and uncaring and ungrateful to others doesn't deserve kindness. After all, I killed my own babies, and if I suffered it was because I had done wrong and killed my babies. I never felt that I loved them, or missed them, or that I was sorry for doing it. I really don't feel that I have the right to be happy or love anyone. I'm not sure that I could. Maybe I'm not capable of it. So it would be wrong of me to expect others to care about me. That would only make me more selfish.
If I couldn't love the three children I have now or my two babies I had killed, how could I expect them to love me? And how could I expect Michael to care either, seeing that I killed our two children? It's no wonder I feel such a hypocrite, talking about the babies now. I'm sure he feels if I didn't show any concern then why should I now.
After Abortion: Sinéad's Letter
At the time of writing this letter, Sinead was twenty seven years old and single. She became pregnant while under the influence of alcohol, at an office party. She had the abortion two years previously
I thought my situation was unique and therefore more excusable - not having a job, being depressed before, not knowing the father. Surely I didn't deserve this burden. I wanted it to unhappen, to go away and let me get on with my life. I promised not to do it again. It's horrific to suddenly face the reality, the morbid thoughts, the death, the misery, the pain, the selfishness. How could I have done this?
After I performed my first abortion, these are the words I dictated:
When I missed my period for the second time I began to worry and thought I might be pregnant. I did the test which proved positive. I couldn't believe it. I was shocked totally. I immediately made plans to go to London. I didn't want any other outcome. I didn't want people to know. I didn't want to suffer for one night's accident. I didn't want to let my family down.
I found out on the Monday and was in London on the Wednesday. I went to the clinic and got a test done. I was disappointed that it was positive. An Indian woman asked why I wanted to have an abortion. I gave her my reasons and they seemed to satisfy her. I was then sent for a scan. They wouldn't believe me when I told them that I knew the exact date of conception, they thought I was further on. The scan showed why - there were twins.
I couldn't believe it. It made it twice as bad, twice the reason to get rid of it. I wanted it over and done with quickly, before I had time to think. They gave me a leaflet and a time for the operation the next day.
I left the clinic and went to a friend who lived in London. She was shocked that I was pregnant. She told me I was doing the right thing, it was only tissue. She said she would go to the clinic with me. I was relieved that she was helping me. She gave me all the practical reasons - money, no support, unwanted, didn't really know the father.
I didn't sleep that night, thinking about it. I had no feeling for the babies. I just wanted to get rid of them as quickly as possible. I read the booklet from the clinic and it was comforting the way it said everything was easy, no side effects. It was everything I wanted to read. No mention of babies or pain.
My friend came with me. I just pushed all thoughts away and thought about looking for work afterwards. The clinic was a house in a suburban road. I stopped opposite and was trembling. I didn't want to go in. There were expensive cars outside and it looked intimidating. I wanted to run away, but my friend said I had made a decision and to be brave.
A friendly Australian nurse opened the door. I gave my name and she welcomed us in. The reception was full of couples and single women. I could see women leaving who had had an abortion. They looked okay. This gave me confidence as I was afraid for myself. I looked at the other faces, normal women, this was a normal thing to do. I was just one of them. When my friend left I felt like running out after her, but I didn't.
A secretary filled out details of payment and wrote a receipt for the amount. The girl next to me in the ward was Irish. I heard the nurse taking her off to the operation room. Only about ten minutes later she was brought back, unconscious. A nurse hit her to wake her up. I could hear her crying. I asked if she was okay. We started talking. She was a nurse from Dublin.
He didn't even look at me It was then my turn.
A nurse took me out. She was very aggressive and didn't speak. I was shaking with fear of the operation. We walked into the theatre. A nurse smiled as I got up on the table. "Please look after me" were my last words. I woke up with a pain in my bladder, as if I wanted to pass water. It was terrible. I pressed the bell for assistance. A nurse came and told me I had already been brought to the toilet. She then brought me pain-killers which relieved the pain. I was terrified of haemorrhaging. I was afraid to go to the toilet. I was afraid to look in case I was bleeding abnormally.
The next morning I was relieved that I hadn't bled much. I waited for the doctor to come to release me. More like an SS officer in a prison camp. He didn't speak or even look at me. He just looked at the chart and grunted, and then the nurse told me I could go.
Searching for peace
I phoned my friend to collect me, but she sounded reluctant, so I made my own way back to her flat. She had cooked scones and wanted to celebrate. She didn't know I felt terrible. I felt frightened and empty. Soon I felt she wanted me to leave. I went to stay with another friend who was very nice to me. This made me feel worse. The whole day long I could only see twins in prams all around, there seemed to be an unusually high number where we lived.
In a daze, very lonely and isolated I wanted the comfort and security of home. I was still frightened of complications and bleeding. Back home I fell into a routine of watching TV, getting up late, looking forward to going to bed. I didn't look after myself, my appearance, hygiene. I hate myself.
I thought my life-style was worth killing for. Now I see I have destroyed the chance I had of growing in love for my children. They would have enriched my life and changed it completely. I killed my maternal instinct and now I am alone, still searching for peace and stability. My sister tries to talk to me but I get emotional and feel guilty about her concern when she doesn't know about the abortion. I am terrorising my parents by my aloofness and isolation. It's the only way I can protect myself from feelings.
Nicole is a 40 year old English nurse
I am finding it very hard and very painful getting in touch with all my feelings - the pain and the anger that go back 18 years to when I had my abortion. My feelings and thoughts now are totally different to those of 18 years ago. Then I was celebrating my 21st birthday. I had a party, it was on Hallowe'en. One of my friends at the hospital, a porter (I was a student nurse), actually cared about me for who I was and not what I was. I was a used person, as in being abused by my father as a child to satisfy his sexual desires.
To get back to my birthday party. After the party had finished Sam was helping me to clear up when things started to get nasty. He had had quite a bit to drink and so had I, after all it was my birthday, my 21st at that. He asked me back to his room for coffee and a chat. But while we were walking through the hospital grounds towards his house he began to get very aggressive and verbally abusive, just like my dad did when I was a kid.
It was very dark but still I went with him because I trusted him, for some unknown reason. I needed to feel wanted and loved. When we got back to his place he began getting very violent towards me. I did fight against him, but to no avail. He threatened to kill me unless I did what he said. He began to hit me on the face, then he started to rip off my clothes. I knew then that I was about to be raped, and that there was nothing that I could do to stop him.
By the time he had finished with me I had been bitten all over - there were bite marks and bruises everywhere. I had two black eyes, bites all over my breasts and my abdomen, and my back was one mass of scratches where he had dug his nails into me whilst he was raping me.
I remember feeling very relieved when it was over, but also feeling very dirty and degraded of my dignity, not that I had a lot of that left anyway. I just remember running home as fast as I could and jumping into a scalding hot bath because I felt so unclean. I scrubbed myself until I made my skin bleed. I knew even then that I was pregnant.
Then I began to panic. I had been raped, beaten and assaulted and did not dare to tell anyone about it. I could not even tell my GP as he was one of the hospital registrars and he held his surgery in the staff sick bay, and always within the ear-shot of others. So I kept all of the pain, anger and panic, and the guilt to myself and tried to forget all about it. But all that did was to make things worse in the long run, as I know now.
As I said earlier, I just knew that I was pregnant. I knew that it had to be his baby as I did not have a boyfriend at the time and never really had before, and definitely not since, so strong are my feelings against men. Just before Christmas I eventually had a pregnancy test done. I got the results back on Christmas Eve. I was pregnant, my worse fears were confirmed. I can't really remember how I felt that day now, but I know what I am feeling 18 years later. I had no one that I could confide in then and even now I find it very difficult to talk about my baby and my abortion, because it upsets me so much. I keep bursting into tears and get so many mixed feelings about babies and pregnant women and prams.
All that time ago
I regret my actions now, but at the time my logical decisions told me to get rid of my baby. It was either my baby or my career. And at that time my career seemed to be more important to me as I had to prove to my mother that I could hold down a job and cope on my own. So I made the decision to have my baby aborted, mainly I suppose because of the circumstances of its conception - i.e. rape.
Also, I didn't think that I could have coped with a baby at that time - the memories that surrounded its conception and the memories of my father's abuse were too painful.
So I arranged to have my baby terminated, which I had done on 9 February. At the time I had no feelings towards my baby, but now it is affecting me greatly. I feel so guilty, alone and lost without my baby beside me. I don't see her as anything else but a baby of 16 weeks. She has not grown any older as the years have gone by, has never grown up into adulthood, because of what I did all that time ago.
I know very well that life begins when ovum meets sperm inside the womb, and that I ended my baby's life, I killed her. I murdered her all by myself, with a little help from the professionals, as they called themselves.
Deep episode of depression
At the moment my thoughts and feelings are all about my baby, Judy, as I have decided to name her. All I know is that I want my baby so much that I have even thought about abducting someone else's from outside the shops. The feelings are so strong sometimes that I get very scared that I may do something silly.
Since I have been going to the Women Hurt group I have felt for the first time that somebody really cares about me, and about my feelings towards my baby. The warmth within the group is so strong that I am beginning to think at I may eventually get through this deep episode of depression and guilt that I have inside me.
I am sure this sounds very confusing, but I needed to get it all off my chest before I go to bed tonight. I feel so unhappy and desperate that I had to tell someone about it, and that someone was you. I hope you don't mind, but I do feel better now. Thank you for listening to me.
Love from Nicole
Clare, aged 22, is a secretary. She had an abortion when she was 19. Immediately she regretted it and became very distressed. She has overdosed twice since it. She decided not to post the letters below to Billy and Veronica
I know exactly the night I got pregnant. It was a Saturday. One of my close friends had a very serious accident and we didn't know if she was going to make it or not. Anyway, Billy brought me to see her and afterwards we held each other and ended up making love. He said he was sorry after, because we said we wouldn't, but it wasn't his fault, it was both our faults.
I knew for about a month before I did the test that I was pregnant. I did a home pregnancy test and it just confirmed what I knew already. I rang Billy and told him. It was about 10.00 pm. He walked into the flat about 12.00 pm. That was the first time he told me he loved me. I was crying and he said that we could get married if I wanted to. I said no, as it was too soon for us. Later I changed my mind, but he had changed his too.
Arriving in England
He thought I should have the baby and give it up for adoption. I really didn't know what to do. I was so scared. I told my best friend, and she came to the flat the following day. It was she who suggested the abortion. I remember thinking that sounds OK. But then I said that Billy wouldn't allow it. I was really hoping he wouldn't. From the start I was really against it. I am very dramatic. I thought if I told Billy about abortion that he would say no, take me in his arms and solve everything. Then I found it was my problem. He kept saying that anything I wanted to do was OK by him. Now I see why I resent him so much.
The morning we got to England was a Sunday. Billy wanted to go to Mass, so we did. During it I got really upset and he had to bring me out. There didn't seem much point being at Mass having come to England for an abortion. The first clinic was awful. I hated it. I had to get several tests done, the doctors were horrible and cold. There was one counsellor who was nice. She asked us if there was a support group that would be able to help me afterwards. She said that there was one in Dublin. Doesn't that make you mad? They knew that I would probably be like this, they were even telling me about a support group, and I hadn't done it at all at that stage. They knew the effects and still they did it.
Always enough room
The counsellor asked if I was really sure that this was what I wanted to do. I was crying by then. Billy held my hand and I said yes. She told me that I was lucky to have Billy's support. Then we had to give £40 to another girl. We then went to a waiting room. After a while I had to go for an internal examination. The nurse or doctor was coloured and as cold as ice. This examination was probably the most humiliating and degrading of the lot.
The following day I had to go to another clinic. We got the names of B&B places from the first clinic. Billy rang one of them and they said they were full. Then they asked him if he was from the clinic and they said that they always had enough room for the clinic. They picked us up at the tube station and the man was telling us where we could go for dinner, and which pub would be nice, and telling me not to drink too much, and saying not to worry about it as a couple of hundred girls got it done every day and it was nothing.
So we went out that night and I did have a lot to drink. Then we went home and slept. We woke in plenty of time for the butchering the following day. We had a long walk to the clinic. Billy held my hand. I don't remember what we were talking about. We passed a flower shop near the clinic. In the clinic I gave my name and signed some paper. I was in a daze at that stage. There were others there. A nurse came down the stairs and called out names. My name was one of them.
In the wheelchair
Billy called me back and asked me if he would get a kiss. I kissed him and remember the nurse and the other two girls waiting for me. If I had asked him to take me away there and then I think he would have done it. We would be happy now instead of being so unhappy.
In the room the three of us were left to undress and put on white gowns. A nurse told us we would probably not be done until after lunch-time. Then another black nurse came along and asked for me. I thought it was time for me, but she gave me a bunch of red roses. Billy had brought them there for me. I hated that. I thought it was hypocritical. I thought he was to blame and was putting me through the whole thing. I realise now that I was wrong, as I am so often wrong in my thoughts and feelings.
The three of us began to talk. One girl was English and a little empty-headed, but the other one was Irish and Catholic and already had two children. She had as many doubts as I had. We talked all day about what we were about to do. At 12.00 a nurse came in and gave us valium tablets. After them we were a bit light-headed and were even laughing at the Flintstones on TV. The first to go down was the empty-headed girl. A large nurse took her in a wheelchair. I was next to go into the wheelchair, out the corridor and down in the lift.
I was crying then. I went through two swing doors and into a tiny corridor. I was crying a lot now, and the nurse looked at my files. She said I would be alright and there was no need to worry. Little did she know. I knew I was going to be alright, but I also knew that my baby wasn't. I got the injection, and it felt like water running through my body, and all the time I was crying. And that was it. It was all over.
Time for the visitors
I woke up feeling tired and weird. I cried loudly and the other girls wanted to get me some help. I said "I don't believe I really did it." I kept crying and couldn't stop. The other girl in the room, the Irish one, started to cry also. It was sad. We were both very upset and talked about what we had done, saying that it felt like murder, which it still does all the time.
We did cheer up after a while, and maybe at that stage it hadn't really hit me. I know that we were very hungry and were waiting to get something to eat. After a while a nurse came in with some sandwiches. I think that I read for a while and then we were given dinner, a brown stew. We complained about the food to each other, so if something like bad food was on our minds the baby couldn't have been bothering us that much at that stage.
Shortly after it was time for the visitors to come. When Billy was five minutes late I was really mad with him. I was blaming him for all that had happened at that stage. I asked him then if he would marry me now, after what I had done because of him, and he said no. I was horrible to him, and in the end I told him to get out as I didn't want him. He left the clinic and went to a pub and proceeded to get locked drunk. Again we talked about how we felt about the men responsible. I think I started to blame Billy then and have continued to do so all the time, even now. I must admit I feel if only he had been there to stop me. I am living a life of hell now, and I wonder how long more I will be able to keep going like this.
Scrubbing myself in the shower
After a while a nurse came to me with a box of tablets. They were anti-biotics. As I was going to Ireland soon they wouldn't be able to see me again, and they would prevent infection. I still have the empty box with the name of the clinic written on it, as well as most of the leaflets which they gave me. At about 9.00 pm another nurse told the English girl that she could go home. She hadn't been as far pregnant as they thought she was.
They then came and told me that I was 10-11 weeks pregnant, and the other girl that she was 7 weeks. A doctor handed me a letter, telling me to take it to my doctor in Ireland three weeks after my return. (I kept the letter but didn't go to the doctor until I was really cracking up. He burned it as he said it was one of the things that was upsetting me so much.) I was then given a sleeping tablet and I cried for a while after the lights were turned off and the room was quiet. Then I fell asleep. We were wakened at 6.00 am and allowed to have a shower. I remember getting into the shower and scrubbing myself, but I came out feeling dirty.
We went downstairs to breakfast. It was horrible. Everyone was sitting around. It was the first time I had seen more than the girls in the room with me. There were lots of people and everyone looked fairly miserable. Most of the girls had met someone. I was with the girl in the room with me. We went upstairs after only a short time.
Our beds were made. We sat on them and were told by a nurse to get up as the beds were made for new girls. We again watched TV and read magazines until the doctor came. He just asked me if I was alright and told me to look after myself and not to lift anything heavy. He was the doctor who had done the abortion. And that was it.
It wasn't a baby
We were told to wait in the hallway until we were collected. Billy turned up at five past eight. Leaving the place I spent the whole time calling Billy every name under the sun. I was calling myself a murderer and generally giving out about everything. We got to the tube station. I was saying all the time that I had just killed my baby. I sat on a seat and Billy got me a coke.
When he came back I was still complaining. He hadn't said anything. Then he told me that it wasn't a baby, that it was only a heap of cells, not yet a baby. But it was a baby and I know it was now. I don't know whether he knows it or not, but it was my baby who was killed and I know it. She keeps telling me and reminding me every night and day of my life what I did. I am always being punished in so many ways.
Last night in bed I kept thinking of a comment a friend made about her sister, in a joke. She told her that she was like something that escaped from an abortion bucket. I kept seeing my tiny baby inside in a bucket with all other pieces of babies, and I was really upset.
I still can't see what good all this damn writing can do. It doesn't make me feel better. The only thing is that I am giving this typewriter a cruel death. Even though it is electronic I am hitting the keys as if they hit me first. I am so mad.
I will go now and let you think what you like of me. I don't care what you think. Why should you give a sh- anyway? I'm sorry for saying all these awful things. I'll write again when I am more together.
It is time to write to you to tell you how I feel about your part in my abortion three years ago. You were always the best friend I had, I would have done almost anything you wanted me to. I know we were close, which is long gone at this stage isn't it?
In one way I hate you. I really trusted you, and when I found out I was pregnant I knew you would help me. The first thing I did was ring you and tell you my problem. You were along to me the following night, with your damned stupid advice. How could you have advised me to have an abortion? It was you who said it. I remember it well, "You don't have to have the baby you know, Clare". You had to have known someone who had one before, and of course she was fine. She would be, wouldn't she?
What kind of monster did you know, who wasn't affected at all by having murdered her baby? Or was she another friend you didn't bother with when the whole thing was over? Were you ashamed of me, you friend, holy Veronica's friend? Holy Veronica who would go to every Mass and every prayer meeting that ever existed. But did all your religious outings teach you to help your friend to have an abortion? You are nothing but a hypocrite.
Your boyfriend was against it. You would tell me how he gave out over what I was doing, and tell you that I would regret it. And you would say, what would he know, he wouldn't have the baby. He knew exactly what he was talking about and only wanted to help. Why wouldn't you listen? You organised everything. I let things go, being mixed up as I was.
The way my life is now
You made me go to the doctor, and made me fix holidays. You made all the phone calls, you even went away and bought me the ticket for the plane. God, I am surprised you didn't offer to kill the baby yourself. Did you think of what it might do to me, at all? Even now when you see what it did do you stay away from me as much as you can. You bitch. You have a great life, and you did a lot to make mine the way it is now.
I am miserable, unhappy, and most of the time lonely. Why? Because I have to live with the fact that I killed my own baby. You let me and my baby down. You helped me to commit murder! You suggested it, encouraged it and organised it. All I had to do was actually go through with the murder. After all, you saw to it that everything was arranged, and I wouldn't have to have a child.
You probably felt that if I had the baby I wouldn't be able to go out and be such fun any more, and who would you have to hang around with then? But it doesn't matter anyway, I'm not any fun any more. So you stay away from me. After all why should you be stuck with a friend who is always upset, and always wants to talk about her dead child?
The torture since then
Until I started this letter I never really realised how big a part you played in the killing of my beautiful innocent Lucy. Why weren't you there for me with better advice and other options? Do you realise what kind of torture I have been going through since then? I know you don't. Because you got sick of listening to me giving out about it and you stopped seeing me.
I will never forgive myself for allowing myself to have that abortion. I will never forgive myself for killing my baby and I will never forgive myself for trusting you. God, you were so definite about what you thought I should do about the pregnancy; and all the time, after you little bouts of advice, you would say "Of course, it is up to you". How could it be up to me when I was so mixed up? But that cleared you from the responsibility of knowing that it was you who put the idea in my head.
I know it is easy for me to blame you for the whole thing. Well, I don't, but I know that I killed my baby. And if only I had the proper support and help, maybe I would have seen things more clearly. I wanted everyone else in the world to make my decisions for me, but you only helped me to make the decision that has screwed up my life.
You can argue that you were trying to help me. But I don't need any more help screwing up my life. I thought I had done that all by myself when I became pregnant, but my life wasn't destroyed until I killed my baby. And you certainly helped with that!
Will you ever understand all the pain I have gone through in the last two and a half years, and all the pain that I still suffer? I know you think it was my own fault, and some of it was. But you were equally to blame. God, I needed you so badly.
When I told you I was pregnant I thought you would help me. But you could only say it was totally up to me, what I wanted to do. That wasn't support! Love and support, that was all I wanted. I didn't know what to do. For God's sake I was desperate. And all you could do was just stand back and tell me it was up to me.
Sometimes I hate your guts, when I think of all I gave up for you. You had no respect in the world for me. All you wanted to do was get me into bed. God, when I think of how stupid I was, all because I thought you were the perfect fellow for me. You are the main reason that my life is a hell, and half of me hates you so much that I want to kill you.
Yes, I have thought about it. I feel so much resentment for you and your nice comfortable life and your precious drinking buddies. Whenever we have a fight you walk away. Well, I know that is the one thing that you are good at. You walk away, no you run, until I hurt so much that I come running after you. Then you take me back. It does you ego the world of good, doesn't it? You still don't understand why I get depressed. You still don't realize what that baby meant to me. What it means to me knowing that I killed her because I was afraid. When I was pregnant I would sit in that flat night after night. You thought you were being the dutiful boyfriend by ringing me twice a week, to see how I was doing. But you didn't have to put up with the pain!
It was our baby
You were all I had to grab on to, and by God, but you weren't much. I needed someone to tell me that they loved me and my baby. Why didn't you do that? My baby just wanted to be loved, but neither of the two of us were, so I killed her, maybe because I am weak. I know I am, but I couldn't love her on my own. I needed some help.
When I found out I was pregnant it wasn't a very nice feeling. But I thought everything would be OK when I told you. I know I probably expected too much from you, but I got nothing! You came to me and asked me what I was going to do about it. I will never forgive you for that! Never ever. It was our baby. I know you couldn't wave a magic wand and make the problem disappear, but it was your baby too.
Why didn't you help me? When I asked you for help I got a lecture about being stupid and you having responsibilities. What the hell was I and my baby? But of course we came second to your football, drink and stupid immature friends. I needed support so badly.
I remember ringing you on several occasions when I knew I was pregnant and you were out. Yes, you were out, drowning your sorrows, trying to figure out a way of getting rid of your baby and me, and wondering what the hell you ever saw in me.
I don't know what I expected when I told you I would have an abortion. But I didn't expect you to agree with it. I thought I would make you think twice and give me more support. I didn't think for one moment that you would want to kill our baby. But I should have known.
What were your suggestions? Go away. Have it and give it up for adoption. You were useless. And God, I needed you. When you went to England with me everyone thought you were great, giving me all that support.
Like we were going on holiday
As far as I am concerned you were just making sure the damn problem was murdered. You never saw it as a child. I used to call the baby a her, and you would call it nothing. Avoiding talking about it all the time. You brought a damn camera with you and took photos. I hated you for that. It was far from being a damn holiday for me! And it was a one-way ticket for my poor innocent baby.
I hate you! When I told you about being sick and about my body changing you didn't want to know. You told me the night before we went to England that I didn't have to go through with it. But the following day you were getting on the boat with me and acting like we were going on holiday.
For the last two years you have run away every time I started talking about my baby or got into bad form over it. When I'd ring you wouldn't ring back. You were always safely away from the pain I was going through. I think I will never ever forgive you for running away. If you had made a mistake, admitted it and tried to put it right everything would be alright. But it isn't like that, is it? When I am awake all night crying you are nowhere to be seen.
I need to talk about my baby. She is part of my life and I want to talk about what she would be like if she was alive now. Remember when I had to get the present for Jack's little baby? I really couldn't stop looking at the little suit and booties I got him. I kept thinking about how lovely it would have been to buy things for my own little girl. She would probably be walking at this stage.
And when I tell you about it you see it as my way of getting back at you. Maybe it is! God knows that at this minute I would love to tear you apart slowly so that it would hurt you, but even that wouldn't be bad enough. What I would really like is to put you through the same mental pain that you put me through.
The sort of respect you have for me
Don't you see that it isn't fair? You have your life. My life is centred around you, and what use is that to me when you run away every time that I need you? How can you say that you love me? How could you have let me go through all that and still be mad with me when I am upset? Will you ever understand that I love my baby and I hate myself and you for what we did to her?
Do you remember telling me that if it wasn't you who made me pregnant it would have been some other fellow? That is the sort of respect you have for me. I am a human being, and I deserve a lot better than that. I was stupid, I know to give in to you so easily. But you must admit you spent all your spare time trying to persuade me to hop into bed. You are still as immature as ever. I think the last couple of years have taught me not to trust you, not to trust anyone, I suppose.
If I get better it won't be because of you, and maybe some day I will leave you and let you go through a tiny bit of the pain that you have let me go through. But that would probably suit you. You could run home to mammy and daddy and be pampered as their only little boy. If only they knew what sort of a low down bastard their son is!
(The relationship between Clare and Billy gradually became violent - recently they ended it.)
Catherine, a nurse, had an abortion when she was 28 years old. She was 'pro-choice' until she conceived and was nine weeks pregnant at the time of the abortion. She wrote the following letters
I just wish I could find the words to tell you how much I regret the dreadful mistake I made on June 18th 19-. Even the words "dreadful mistake" seem to trivialise the whole sordid and inhuman way I treated my baby. And those people in England had the gall to smile at me. What a load of blind, ignorant assholes. I hate them with a passion. I know I didn't have to be dragged into the clinic but the way they gloss the whole thing over is incredible.
I'd love to tell them how I've felt since my abortion. Maybe they would realise that they are not doing any of us girls or women a favour in helping to kill our babies. They are destroying us, stripping us of our dignity and, worst of all, ignoring our terrible plight by superficially caring - helping us to carry out the most gross act any human being could commit against another.
Whatever chance I had, at the time, of telling someone I was pregnant, I didn't have the courage to tell them I was going to have an abortion. Besides, I knew they most probably would try to talk me out of it, and I thought I would rather have a few weeks of upset as opposed to a few months. The two weeks between the result of the pregnancy test and the date for the abortion were pure hell; it was proving to be more difficult to keep reality at bay, and it kept poking holes in my justifications and fabrications.
As cute as the rest of women
I was becoming increasingly aware of the fact that my pregnancy was in actual fact my baby, whose life I was going to end. Then this terrible fear gripped me - what would I do if these people in England refused to abort my baby. I went off on that tangent for a while, forcing any nice feelings towards the baby out of my head completely, wishing all the time that the whole thing was over and done with.
I remember being dreadfully upset one night before doing the pregnancy test, and thinking this can't happen now. I was also acutely aware of my previous pregnancy, and suddenly I was overwhelmed with the pain of the adoption. After the adoption of my first baby, when all the papers had been signed and the oaths taken, all the joy of seeing my baby vanished.
I thought then if I was ever stupid enough to become pregnant again I would be as cute as the rest of these women and have an abortion. No one would know, and I would be saving myself from all that hassle. So it seems as though my abortion was inevitable, regardless of circumstances, reasons and excuses. I just invented those to cushion myself from the real reason I was going to kill my baby. I was just thinking of myself.
The role I played in her death was just as active as the role I had played in her conception 9 weeks earlier. On each occasion I was just thinking of myself. Am I really human? I must say that I don't feel remotely human, and I doubt very much if I will ever feel like a real live human being again. I stopped feeling like a human being when I decided to have my abortion. I had to, otherwise I couldn't go through with it.
Armed with justifications
In any case, I started thinking about all the negative things concerning the adoption and I suppose because it suited me, I refused to think of the more positive aspects. There and then I decided to have an abortion, and for the next three weeks leading up to it I was a wreck.
The days dragged by so slowly and all I could do was cry. I just couldn't believe I had made the same mistake a second time. And again thinking of myself, I decided I would spare myself all the pain and suffering, the embarrassment, the humiliation and the battered ego if I had an abortion.
I don't think the baby really featured, and if it did I thought it was so small that it wouldn't suffer and I wouldn't miss it. Yet deep down I couldn't stop thinking about the abortion and what I was really going to do, that is, I was going to kill my own baby. I knew I was going to commit murder, and I had strong suspicions that I would never be the same person again. Quickly I decided to worry about that if and when it happened and, heavily armed with my justifications, I just concerned myself with the present and what I was going to do.
A situation of my own making
Looking back now I think it was the most lonely time in my life. I felt as though time was standing still for me, but once I had had the abortion everything would slot back into normality. It's so hard to explain. Once I decided to have the abortion I felt completely cut off from everyone, even my boyfriend.
I stopped praying and I started to feel cold inside. I kept on telling myself that I couldn't carry on with this pregnancy and I didn't care what happened to me after the abortion. I just wanted the whole thing over because I was half afraid that I would lose my nerve and give in to my innermost feelings. And the thought of doing so made me all the more anxious to have the abortion and see my decision through.
I was trapped in a situation all of my own making, desperately looking for an escape route - anything rather than face up to my responsibility. And although I knew of the alternative from my past, my pride wouldn't allow me to admit to the fact and face up to the consequences.
It is nine months by the day and date since I gave my consent to have you aborted. What a terrible, horrific thing to do to you, my beautiful baby girl. I wish now that I could hold you and care for you. Instead all I can do is look back with regret and sadness, thinking about what I did to you, how terribly let down you must have felt.
I would love to see your face, just once. I feel you are so near to me that I could reach out and touch you, other times I feel you would rather have nothing more to do with me. I can't say that I would blame you for hating me and turning your back on me. But I am almost sure that in your childlike innocence you have forgiven me and that hopefully you have started to love me.
I could really scream with frustration. If only I had known then what I know now about the gruesome way I ended you very short life! I can only hope that you have forgiven me. There are times when I feel I will never be able to forgive myself.
You were depending on me for your growth and development, until your birthdate, and I acted so selfishly. How I wish I could turn the clock back to June 18th and have said no to abortion. I feel so lonely and so sad, and when I can speak to your father about our sordid action on that day, the day you died, I know he is suffering too. As you were part of us I feel I also killed part of him, and sometimes it is the memory of you that makes it so hard for me to face him.
Sometimes when I look at him I wonder would you have looked like him. That is so disappointing, because then I realise I will never know what you looked like. I will never hear your first cry, see your smile, dry your tears or see you take your first steps. I am so sorry Eithne, for doing what I did to you. I know you probably thought that I didn't love you, and I know the feeling of rejection was a terrible thought for you to have died with. Please try not to judge me too harshly. I really do love you and I always will.
Nothing will ever fill the emptiness in my heart for you. I only hope that by facing up to what I did to you it will help me to live with myself, knowing the sort of person I really am. I wish that I could describe to you how I felt at the time, how quickly I refused to acknowledge your existence, and what an uphill struggle it was for me to go through with the abortion.
Those people in England made it all sound so easy, but the most important person, you, Eithne - you were never mentioned. How awful it was for you. I hope you can forgive myself and your father and I hope you will still love us as much as we love you. Though our actions at the time were the direct opposite.
Susan Carpenter McMillan, a long time feminist and activist, received international acclaim in 1986 when she spearheaded a campaign which gave "Baby Jesse" a much needed heart transplant. Susan has been an active media spokesperson since 1980, appearing on more than 4,000 radio and television shows ranging from Donahue to Politically Incorrect and she has guest hosted CNN and other media programmes. Susan was also a commentator from 1991 to 1994 on KABC TV Channel 7 News. She was appointed by the Board of Supervisors as a Commissioner on the Los Angeles County Commission for Women, where she currently heads the Los Angeles Rape Task Force.
"I remember that horrible day 21 years ago. The drive to the abortion clinic, the waiting, the other women, those last seconds of consciousness before the anesthesia set in, lying alone on the gurney as I placed my hands on my stomach and inwardly screamed "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry" As I drifted into unconsciousness, I remembered feebly pulling the hospital gown down and sliding it between my lets, semi-consciously hoping that then they couldn't get to my baby.
My deep pain about the unnecessary death of a child...my child. It was like reading an obituary. I'd close my eyes and see this tiny helpless little baby peacefully floating in amniotic fluid, did it struggle, did it die quickly...oh, how I hurt. My eldest daughter's response..."Mom, you knew I always wanted an older brother or sister, so why did you kill them?...I had no answer.
I know millions and millions of women across this country feel as I do about abortion, we all somehow know deep down inside that we alone made a horrible decision and no coined phrase about choice and rights or the denial of biological and foetal facts can ever erase the truth. For we as mothers instinctively know during those still moments of aloneness, that we ended the life of a separate human being growing inside of each and every one of us."
After Abortion: Jo's Testimony
Nearly 40 years ago, Jo Woodgate was one of the first women in Britain to have a legal abortion. She thought she would soon forget it, but today she is still haunted by her termination. Here, divorcee Jo, 62, a receptionist from Exmouth, Devon, tells Natasha-Courtenay-Smith her cautionary story.
Recently, my niece gave birth to her first baby. It should have been a joyful moment for the entire family, but as I stood looking at her cradling her newborn, I felt tears pricking at my eyes. All of a sudden, I found myself being transported back in time almost 40 years, to the day that I was admitted to a small cottage hospital in Leicester for a termination.
So vivid were my memories, that I could almost smell the disinfectant and see the disapproving looks on the faces of the nurses as they ushered me in through the front door and led me to my bed. Seeing the emotion in my eyes, my elder daughter, who had come with me to visit my niece, asked me what the matter was. I didn't want to ruin such a happy occasion, so I simply said I felt overwhelmed to be a great-aunt.
How could I admit that all I could think about was the baby I'd killed and what might have been? We're always told time is a great healer, but for me - at least when it comes to the termination I had - it has proved to be the opposite.
I had an abortion believing it was the right thing to do, and I presumed I would move on from the procedure without so much as a backward glance. But I was wrong in thinking abortion was the easy way out of what, at the time, felt like an intolerable situation.
With hindsight and maturity, I now know that I could have coped, and with each year that has passed I've only felt a growing sense of guilt and regret over my actions. It makes my blood run cold when I hear of the many young women today who see abortion as little more than a form of contraception.
No doubt many of them go into it, just as I did, thinking little beyond their desire to get rid of the baby that, for whatever reason, they don't feel they are ready for. I wonder how many stop to think that perhaps they, too, in 40 years' time will still be feeling the ramifications of their actions. I'm the first to understand how complex circumstances can make abortion feel like the only option.
At the time I was pregnant with an unwanted baby, everything about my life already felt like a disaster. Having split from my first husband in the spring of 1970, I'd become a single mother to Maria, now 39, and was in the middle of a divorce.
With nowhere to live, I'd been forced to move back in with my parents, and I was living in my childhood bedroom with Maria, who was then a year old. Divorce was still something of a taboo back then and my parents, who were very traditional, didn't bother to hide how ashamed they were of me.
My first husband and I had been childhood sweethearts and had split because we wanted different things out of life. But as far as my parents were concerned, I was a total failure for allowing our marriage to fall apart.
Despite having a job working as a receptionist at a local hotel, my life felt pretty bleak. All I could think of was saving enough money to be able to afford to rent my own place. Then, at work one day, I met Michael. He had jet-black hair, green eyes and a cheeky smile, and most importantly, he made me laugh again. We had a summer fling, and I thought he was wonderful.
When, at the end of the summer, Michael said he was moving back to Leicester, I jumped at the chance to go with him.
I thought we were in love, although in reality I was motivated more by a fear of being left alone with only my parents for company than anything else. Still, I was young and foolish, and I thought it all seemed desperately romantic. That September, I packed mine and Maria's possessions into a small suitcase and followed Michael to Leicester. We moved into a bedsit together, and I got a job as a cleaner.
For a short while, I felt as though my life was back on track again. Michael talked about us getting married once my divorce was finalised, and I looked forward to a happy future together.
But what started as a wonderful adventure quickly began to pale. Within a few months, the glory of our summer romance had faded, and I was faced with the reality of living in a cramped, cold bedsit with a man with whom, it turned out, I had little in common. I remember sitting in the flat with Maria, watching a tiny black-and-white portable TV, feeling desperately homesick.
By Christmas, I had decided to go back to Exmouth, even if that meant incurring the wrath of my parents once more. Then I discovered I was pregnant. My immediate reaction was one of despair and apprehension, and I cried solidly for at least a fortnight.
Michael did his best to be supportive and was prepared to stand by me, but I knew I didn't love him. He told his friends and family that we were expecting, but each time someone congratulated me, I cried.
I tried to adapt to the thought of having another child, but I couldn't. A month later, I went to my GP and sobbed as I confessed that I felt I couldn't cope with being so far away from home and having another child.
When he saw how distressed I was, the doctor said to me: "Your only option is to try to have a termination." Today, you'd go to a doctor and they would try their best to help you and reassure you. But in those days, they were very stuffy.
I felt embarrassed and scared enough as it was, and although the male doctor said he'd refer me to a clinic, he made his disapproval clear. I felt utterly unsupported and as though I was a terrible person.
Although I knew about abortion, I hadn't got as far as seriously considering having one. The procedure - which had been legalised three years earlier, in 1967 - was still highly controversial and it just wasn't something that decent girls did. But as the doctor talked through my options, I began to think that perhaps abortion was the answer.
I was too depressed and confused to think clearly about how I might feel in the future, and focused entirely and selfishly on solving my immediate problem: getting rid of the baby so that I could go back home.
I knew in my heart that Michael wasn't ready for us to have a child together either. He said he wanted me to keep the baby and make the best of it, but I'm sure that wasn't what he was thinking. In the end, Michael realised how upset I was at the thought of us having the baby and said he'd support me either way.
I ended up booking into an abortion clinic to have the procedure just shy of 12 weeks into my pregnancy. We told friends and family we were going away for a weekend - we were far too ashamed to admit the truth.
When we got home, we told everyone that I'd miscarried. It seems bizarre now, but at the time, we feared people would no longer talk to us if they knew the truth. In the weeks following the abortion, I felt numb and, to a certain degree, relieved too.
I left Michael and moved back home, where I got a job and a flat of my own. I didn't even think about telling my parents what had happened. I grew up in an era where issues such as sex were skirted over instead of talked about or explained.
My parents were very traditional. Had they known about the termination, my father would have disowned me and my mother would have been horrified. She is still alive today - she's 98 - and I still wouldn't tell her.
From time to time, the abortion came into my mind, and now that I felt safe and settled again I became aware that I was having doubts that I'd done the right thing. I pushed such thoughts away, and concentrated on being a good mother to Maria. But after marrying my second husband, Peter, an engineer, whom I met at the hotel where I was working, in 1976, I began to think about the termination more and more.
I realised I'd been far too hasty in thinking there wasn't room for another child in my life. Now that I had a home and a happy relationship, I realised that there was. I never told Peter about the termination. I felt very guilty about it. He was quite old-fashioned and I thought he would have been horrified.
With hindsight, maybe I should have told him, because he was a lovely man and I'm sure he would have accepted my past. But at the time the only thing I could think was that if he knew the truth he would leave me.
So I got on with my life and made the best of it. However, when I fell pregnant with my younger daughter, Kate, two years into the marriage, my despair worsened. During my pregnancy, I was horrified to learn that at 12 weeks - the stage at which I'd had my termination - all the baby's vital organs are formed.
I hadn't given much thought to the baby inside me at the time of the abortion because I'd been so focused on the mess I was in, but now I knew this I felt incredibly guilty. If I'd known the facts about foetal development then, I wouldn't have gone ahead.
I also learned the gruesome details of how abortions are carried out, which only made me feel even worse. And when I held Kate in my arms for the first time, all I could think about was that I should have done this with the baby I'd killed.
By the time Kate was two years old, I longed for another baby, but it gradually became apparent that I was not able to conceive again. All I wanted was a little boy to complete my family, and each time I tried and failed to become pregnant, I became increasingly convinced that I was being punished for the termination.
I also started wondering if the baby I'd aborted was the son that I now longed for. I felt more strongly than ever that I could never tell Peter about my abortion. I felt guilty, and thought he would blame me for not conceiving again.
Even after Peter and I divorced in 1989, and life became more complicated again, I still wished I'd gone ahead with that pregnancy. Things may not have been straightforward, but I don't believe you ever regret a child you have had. I would have muddled through somehow.
And, over the years, the regret I feel about my abortion has never waned. Even now, I still catch myself wondering about the son I might have had, and I think about what could have been every Christmas, as well as on the anniversary of the termination.
And whenever there is a newborn in the family, I can't help but feel particularly grief-stricken. I've always been very open with both my daughters about my experiences, and I've made it clear to them that I wouldn't want them to go through such a thing.
Of course, had they ever found themselves in a position where they wanted to have an abortion I would have supported them, but I would have made sure they knew that the procedure is far from a quick fix, and has implications for decades to come.
I know that some people might think I need to move on, and I wish I could. I certainly never thought at the time that I'd still be lamenting the procedure nearly four decades on.
Like so many young girls, I just saw it as an easy way out of a messy situation. With maturity, I've realised that life is complicated, and that getting rid of a baby to solve an immediate problem is not always the obvious solution it appears to be.
I feel that today the law on abortion is far too lax. In an ideal world, I would like to see it brought forward to a 12-week limit. After that, the foetus, although tiny, is fully formed, and in my opinion you are technically killing a child.
I think a young woman should have an abortion only if she is 100 per cent sure it is what she wants, and if her physical or mental health is truly at stake. To my mind, too many women are using it as a form of contraception, thinking that afterwards life can return to normal.
They have no understanding that life will never be the same again. I know without doubt that I made a foolish decision and the guilt and regret I feel is something I will live with for the rest of my life.
From the Daily Mail, 6th March 2008