The Children Not Frequently Mentioned

I held her hand. We weren’t quite twenty years old. I wasn’t sure what decision I would have made, I’m still not. All I knew was that she was the one whose opinion mattered in this moment. Today it was her choice, and the most I could do was try to be there for her.

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Evolution of My Views on Abortion

There was a time when I viewed abortion as permissible only in very specific situations. That was the view I held during my years of medical school.

Then came residency training. Our program had a clinic where we offered abortions. I was not mandated to perform the procedure, but I was expected to become competent in educating my patients, if needed, regarding abortions and provide them with resources for whatever their decision may be. I was not prepared for how conflicted I would feel about doing this.

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Just in Time

I still remember the thrill when the Roe v. Wade decision was issued. In grad school, a friend had tried to abort with a coat hanger when her boyfriend dumped her and offered no support. I was always careful about contraception but knew a number of women who became pregnant even using it. I never expected to need an abortion but was grateful once I had that option.

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My Mother Broke the Law

My mother was a nurse anesthetist in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. She staffed the ORs of almost every hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina: public and private, Black and White, two psychiatric hospitals, even the ORs in the men’s and women’s prisons.

Years later, when people asked her about Roe v. Wade, she’d say the Supreme Court decision was a good one. If anyone challenged her or asked why she felt that way, she always offered the same response: “If you saw what I’ve seen, you’d be pro-choice, too.”

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A Blessed Life but a Heavy Burden

I am sad because I never knew my father, my half sisters, or my half brothers. I never knew half my culture, language, or country. So people see only half of who I am.

And, honestly, I never knew my other half either, as my mom was mentally ill and couldn’t tell me who she was or what I came from on her side.

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“I Would Lose Everything”

My boyfriend and I were both pre-med students, about five years after the Roe v. Wade decision. We were studying for the MCAT. I was using a diaphragm for contraception.

I was, admittedly, a knucklehead, but boys can be knuckleheads in this arena without much in the way of consequences, while girls cannot afford to take chances. Right around the time that I realized that my boyfriend didn’t really love me, my period was late.

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“I Never Thought I Would”

I was a high school sophomore when the Roe v. Wade decision was announced. Throughout high school, college and medical school, I was a feminist and supported a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, but I only knew one story. That story involved a young woman who knew that she was not mature enough to parent a child or a woman who needed to finish her education in order to have a future livable wage.

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Three Fallacies and One Card

Before I decided to apply to medical school, my father said, “Pam, you should become a doctor. You’ll have a lifelong skill, help people, and be your own boss. Hang out your shingle, and then you’re in business.” I nodded, trying to envision the words on my potential shingle.

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Tough But Fair Decisions

Prior to going to medical school, I worked part-time as a nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood with a kind, caring, and responsible group of women. We provided counseling and classes on various contraceptive methods, basic gynecologic care, pregnancy and STD testing, and private counseling for abortions.

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A Paradigm Shift

Even in the best of circumstances—having access to good healthcare, financial stability, and a committed spouse to share in parenting responsibilities—bringing a child into the world can seem overwhelming. And only the woman bears the physical discomfort and pain of nine months of pregnancy and a painful delivery and recovery. Oh, and did I mention the shifting hormones, postpartum depression, and breastfeeding? Childbirth is not for the faint of heart.

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A Painful Decision, Without Regrets

Twenty years ago, I became pregnant after having a condom break during sex with my then-boyfriend. This, despite also taking the morning-after pill. I learned about the unwanted pregnancy two weeks after graduating from college and three months before I was scheduled to leave the country for work as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

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The Power of Choice

Decades ago, an acquaintance gave birth to a son I will call Sam. Despite his handsome appearance, Sam suffered from multiple challenges: he was blind, deaf, mute, and incapable of walking or of self-care, and he lacked any brain activity or emotional connections. Sam spent his life—which lasted into adolescence—in a wheelchair, oblivious to the hours, dedication, and money his supportive parents spent on him. While I know that his three siblings felt sadness for Sam, they also demonstrated signs of resentment, because the attention he needed deprived them of much-desired one-on-one interactions with their parents.

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