The Forgotten Ones

As a reproductive rights activist, I never thought that feminism would fail me.

I was wrong.

I was seven weeks pregnant when I was faced with the toughest decision of my life: Abide by my partner’s rules — have an abortion, continue with my relationship and the comforts of being a stay-at-home partner — or proceed with the pregnancy, ending my relationship, and raise my child alone.

Being staunchly pro-choice, I always thought that the decision between motherhood and terminating a pregnancy was simple. I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood to terminate the pregnancy, but on the day of the procedure, I canceled it. I made the last-minute decision to proceed with the pregnancy. The decision wasn’t as simple as I thought.

Subsequently, I was forced out of my home by my partner at eight weeks pregnant. I left Washington and sat on a Greyhound bus for three days, sans food and water, heading back to Tennessee to live with my family. I had no money, no support, and there was nowhere else to go.  Throughout my pregnancy, I endured emotional abuse from a toxic family, half of whom shamed me for proceeding with the pregnancy, and half of whom condemned me to hell for being pregnant and unmarried.

I was lonely, pregnant, and severely depressed. I dropped out of school, gave up all of my activist efforts, gave up writing, and gave up all of my dreams. Everything had begun to eat me alive: the embarrassment I felt because of my my pregnancy, my financial hardships, the broken heart due to the lack of support, everything. I felt ridiculously selfish for wanting to give birth. I was severely depressed and at the end of my rope; suicide crossed my mind on a daily basis. There were even a few attempts, but thankfully, I was never successful. I thought that there would never be a light at the end of the tunnel, and that I wouldn’t live long enough to give birth to the son that I fought so hard to keep. I eventually gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy and got back on track with my education and career.

When I share my story, I am oftentimes asked by fellow reproductive rights activists, “You’re pro-choice! Why didn’t you just have an abortion?” or “You wouldn’t have had to endure all of this pain if you would have just had an abortion!”

Why didn’t I?  Because it wasn’t “just an abortion,” because I wanted to be a mother. Being pro-choice not only means having the right to a safe, healthy abortion, but also the right to have safe, healthy children. Many reproductive rights activists seem to have forgotten that.Regardless of a woman’s decision, she should always have a choice and her voice should always be heard. In the mix of pro-choice women’s voices, the voices of pro-choice women who desire to have children are oftentimes forgotten.

I was one of the forgotten ones.

takeallahAbout the Author: Takeallah Russell is an anti-racist, sex-positive womanist activist, writer, and entrepreneur.  When she isn’t engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the patriarchy, she is in her pajamas, eating pizza, and watching “American Horror Story” and “Scandal.”

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Categories: Health

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1 reply

  1. Sorry , but I don’t see how this is evidence that it is Pro-Choicers who aren’t recognizing that it’s a woman’s choice to terminate or continue a pregnancy, raise or relinquish a child (and please keep in mind that the evidence is all I am discussing, at least in this *specific point*, that I am not saying that you HAVEN’T encountered Pro-Choicers exactly like that, all right? I have just seen similar stories recounted too frequently, yes, even about the ‘story’ teller’s fellow reproductive rights activists, where, more often than not, it turns out that they are actually an anti-choicer – perhaps closeted, but anti-choice, nonetheless – to fully believe such examples, without substantiated proof, are absolutely true. But, in turn, wouldn’t that, I think, *suggest* that there *might* not be multitudes of Pro-Choicers like this, as they would have us believe?). The people you encountered, remind me of anti-choicers, not Pro-Choicers. Many (read: most) anti-choicers will condemn women for having children ‘out of wedlock’, too, after all. Many anti-choicers believe that if you are Pro-Choice you will have an abortion every time, rather than continue a pregnancy. Many anti-choicers will have abortions believing that their choice is more moral than a Pro-Choicer’s. And, yes, that is all a result of the patriarchy.

    Also (in continuing on, with my *next* point) keep in mind that, by and large, women who have abortions are more often condemned by society, at large, and the patriarchy, specifically. It makes sense, then, that Pro-Choicers would spend more time defending a woman’s decision to have an abortion, than continuing a pregnancy, no? Would it not therefore make sense that they could perceive a person’s choice to continue their pregnancy, especially given that particular person’s previous decision to elect to have an abortion, as undermining others’ choice to terminate? But, again bear in mind, that while I sympathize with them, I believe that, in the long run, this will actually do *more* to undermine the efforts of Pro-Choice to decrease the stigma around abortion, even more than anything else they might do.

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