Years ago, I asked my Humanities students to prepare for their next controversial debate. Its topic was abortion. In preparation, we had watched a documentary that featured the woman who had been at the center of the Roe v. Wade case.
Who Was Norma McCorvey, the Woman Behind Roe v. Wade?
Although the decision ruled in favor of her right to have an abortion, the ruling didn’t come in time; Ms. McCorvey had her third child.
Prior to that decision, abortion procedures could be dangerous, especially if a pregnant woman had to rely on someone who was untrained or uncertified. Harmful as such procedures were, they sometimes failed to end the pregnancy.
Information about all aspects of abortion has been readily available. One provider, Little Life, had a staff that included nurses who were dedicated to helping women with their pregnancy, even if those women had decided to abort.
What they understood was that aborting a child was not just a medical procedure. As their staff well knew, the psychological impact of losing a child via abortion was, all too often, emotionally disastrous. That’s why much of the help they provided involved offering significant counsel.
Little Life Pregnancy Care Center in Danville, VA. 2960 N Main St, Danville, VA 24540. (434) 836-5433;
What my students didn’t know was that I had been asked to help a woman get an abortion at a clinic in North Carolina. Because I thought her decision was sensible, I agreed. What I didn’t know was that the doctor would only perform the procedure while I was also in the room.
Although the abortion was both safely and quickly completed, I was devastated by the time the doctor finished. I couldn’t stop asking myself what had I done. Eventually, that personal dilemma prompted me to write a collection of poems titled Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Cancelled.
Despite that experience, I continued to have my students debate abortion. As I’d always done, I remained neutral; I neither opposed nor supported abortion. As their professor, I knew my job was to teach, not preach.
Although I eventually stopped teaching, I never stopped thinking about Roe v. Wade. Nor could I forget the trauma that abortion might cause. That’s why I wondered about the government’s involvement in the abortion debate. And I still do.
As a father and grandfather, I find that I’ve made peace with my attitude regarding abortion. Also, I’ve found that the courts’ involvement still holds my interest, especially now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.
One article explains the legal justification:
The dissent is very candid that it cannot show that a constitutional right to abortion has any foundation, let alone a “‘deeply rooted’” one, “‘in this Nation’s history and tradition.’” Glucksberg, 521 U. S., at 721; see post, at 12–14 (joint opinion of BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ.).
Because that Court’s ‘reason’ seemed cold and unrelated to the emotional aspects of abortion, I have been reflecting on my own emotionally-tempered thoughts.
Candor prevails. I know I would never want to be part of an abortion procedure again. But that doesn’t mean that I should have any control over one of the most intimately personal decisions someone else must have to make about terminating a pregnancy.
That profoundly significant decision should be theirs and theirs alone to make. My hope will always be that they will seek help from counselors.
Because it’s a matter of conscience, I know there are doctors who, for their own reasons, refuse to perform abortions. They are allowed to make that choice.
It is that personal, that grave a decision.
That’s why I also think that someone else’s choice to have an abortion is none of my business. Even if they were to ask me, I would advise them to attain counsel from a physician or a nurse like those I met at Little Life.
The decision to abort must be theirs to make just as the impact of the decision is theirs to bear.