Still Driving

I remember the long hot drive to Tijuana from Los Angeles and, once there, the driving round and round the streets searching. There were no phones, no phone books, no signs on buildings.  What would the signs say, anyway? “Anglo Abortions Performed Here.”

I stopped somebody on the street and asked. “Donde,” I said to an old man. “Donde esta la … clinica?” I had to put my hand on my belly to show him what kind of clinica I meant. He looked as shocked as I was by my question and my need. He turned away without speaking.

I remember that the operation was very painful, but I don’t remember feeling the pain. I can’t. I remember instead the driving, the heat, the old man’s face.

Abortions were illegal in the 60s, and expensive: $400, or more than $2,000 in today’s world. I was lucky to have a friend who would lend me most of the money and would drive me across the border. I was lucky to live within driving distance of the border. Most important, I was lucky to have found a decent clinic, which did a good job despite refusing to give me anesthetic—that would have cost another $100.

Abortions are legal now, a fact that gives me consolation. I know that today a woman doesn’t have to stumble around in a foreign country trying to find somebody to help her do something illegal and immoral. Today, that woman is instead admitted to a nice clean American hospital where they will perform a legal, immoral, operation.

There, I’ve said it. Abortion is immoral. Abortion is wrong.

I’ve seen the pictures the pro-life people distribute. They are pictures of babies not yet born, all blood and guts and dead in a pan. Yes, abortion is wrong.

But I could not have provided for another child. I was working as a cocktail waitress and already had three children to feed. Pregnant, I would have been without work. I had applied for welfare but had been turned down due to some bureaucratic detail I can no longer remember. So, had I kept the baby I suppose the family would not have starved, but we might have become homeless and certainly would have known some real hunger.  And that would have been wrong.

Besides, I didn’t want another child. Yes, that was wrong, too, but I was so worn out and stressed. Six days a week, there was dinner to fix and leave for kids to eat while I took a bus to work. I would get home at 3:00 in the morning, clean up whatever mess had been made that night by kids left alone too much, catch a nap, and then haul kids out of bed for school. Angry kids, who had not gotten to bed on time and would be too tired in school to do well. I’d go back to bed, then, but by 11:00 would be up again and heading off for a lunch shift.

Then on my day off, there was laundry. It had to be carried six blocks to the laundromat with help from whatever kid could be coerced into going with me. And grocery shopping for the week, again with a kid who would rather have been with his friends than carrying grocery bags. So much of the time I had so little time for my children. So yeah, it’s wrong, but if I’d had another child I might not have been able to love him at all.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, so they say. Perhaps so. But if having an abortion was not the right choice, it was for me the correct choice at the time. Of that I am sure.

I wish there had been a right choice. Sometimes there just isn’t any such thing.