It was October 1972, in Austin, Texas. My girlfriend “Ann” and I sat in the student health center. A nurse had just confirmed that Ann was pregnant. Ann and I had known each other for three months.
We could have been poster children for risk factors for bad parenting: Ann was 20, with a cigarette in one hand and often with a whiskey and Coke in the other. Little kids made her uncomfortable. She’d had so much unprotected sex without getting pregnant that she’d decided she was infertile.
I was 17 — I’d lied to her about my age. I knew she’d think I was too young for her. She’d been sexually molested as a child; I’d been verbally and physically abused.
But that wasn’t why, when the nurse started to talk about “options,” Ann interrupted her. “I want an abortion.” She was just fiercely determined that it was her body and her decision.
As for me, like Ann, I’d always thought I was an unwanted child. I didn’t want to bring another one into the world. The nurse said she would refer us to somebody who could talk about “other options.” She never used the word “abortion.”
Even in the era of free love, unplanned pregnancy was embarrassing. Nobody talked about abortion, except in stories where somebody went across the border to get a cheap operation and died of a hemorrhage.
Ann was lucky. I had a few hundred dollars saved, enough to pay for a year and a half of college tuition. Instead, it paid for two plane tickets to Los Angeles and a D&C when we got there. We kept the secret from everybody in our house except the friend who drove us to the airport.
Neither of us knew much about flying.
We missed a connecting flight and arrived at the clinic just before its closing time, hours late for Ann’s appointment. It didn’t matter; they were running late anyway.
The waiting room was a revelation — there must have been 20 women there, ranging in age from 15 to 50. I was the only man.
California didn’t allow “abortion on demand.” A doctor had to interview Ann, and she had to sign a paper saying she was “mentally unfit” to be a mother. I still wonder if that piece of paper is in a medical file somewhere.
The operating doctor checked to make sure we had money and chewed me out for bringing traveler’s checks instead of cash. The other workers were pleasant, but the clinic was bare-bones ugly.
We could have stayed the night; instead, we caught a red-eye back to Austin and arrived right at sunrise. Three months later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not make abortion illegal. Since we didn’t follow current events, we didn’t find out until much later.
As far as I know, Ann never regretted that decision, nor did I.
I went on to father a kid — when I thought I was ready.