Stu Bykofsky Doesn’t Think I Should Have Had an Abortion
In an odious “story” in today’s Daily News, Stu Bykofsky, a man whom I have never met, makes the huge (and hugely male) presumption that he knows why I had an abortion 40 years ago, how I felt about it then, and how I feel about it now. “There are women more casual about their abortions than their hair color,” he writes, and recalls feminist rallies he attended back in the day at which women wore t-shirts that read, “I had an abortion!” “I had 2 abortions!” “I had 3 abortions!”
It’s possible, since Stu is so old, that his memory is faulty. I don’t remember any such jolly carnivals of fetus-killing. The women I know celebrate the fact that abortion is an option that is legally available to them and their daughters. They would never, ever celebrate having one. What a despicable assumption for Stu to make.
But Stu just loves to make assumptions. He takes particular umbrage at a sentence I wrote in my recent post about Pope Francis’s olive branch toward women who have had abortions. “Almost every one of my women friends had had an abortion,” I wrote. “That’s not a confession,” Stu opines, “it’s almost a feminist celebration.” Let me go very slowly here, Stu, and try to explain why it’s not.
The majority of the women I knew who had abortions in college had them because they didn’t know how to procure birth control. They weren’t sure about the mechanics of reproduction, because no one had ever explained it to them. They’d heard myths and half-truths like, “You won’t get pregnant if he pulls out” or “You won’t get pregnant if you’re having your period,” and they believed them, because that was all they had to go on.
Why were we so ignorant? Because good girls didn’t have sex. Schools didn’t teach sex education. Parents didn’t tell their children how babies are made before sending them off to college. Many still don’t.
Despite that fact, we knew our parents would be horrified if they learned that we were sexually active. We didn’t dare ask our mothers to help us get on the Pill. The Pill was for sluts, and we were good girls. We were innocents wandering in a wilderness that was unmapped and unknown. Our innocence, of course, didn’t preclude us from having feelings of sexual longing. Nor did it stop the boys that we imagined ourselves to be in love with from trying their best to get us to go all the way. Why wouldn’t they? There were no repercussions for them. We were long past the days when a compromised girl (or her parents) would demand that the young man marry her. If both parties were equally guilty of having sex, only one of us bore the consequences, and faced the terrifying prospect of trying to retrieve the future — and paying for it.
If you’ve never been 18 years old and unwed and pregnant, shut up. Just shut up. You can’t possibly understand what I and my friends went through and what it cost us — and I’m not just talking money. None of my women friends ever had a second, much less a third, abortion. Once we understood the stakes, once we knew that the myths were lies, once we realized we were playing with fire, we got on birth control, and we stayed there for good. We took responsibility for our reproductive lives (unlike the boys, who didn’t want to wear condoms that “ruined the sensation,” much less wait for marriage). We learned our lesson. It was cruel, and it hurt. A lot.
I still don’t need Pope Francis to forgive my abortion. But I really don’t need Stu Bykofsky to berate and mock me because of it. Shame on him, and shame on the Daily News for printing his vile wannabe-takedown of the scared, lonely, confused 18-year-old I was 40 years ago. If I sometimes write about having had an abortion, it’s in the hope that some other girl in those dreadful circumstances might read what I have to say and realize: The choice she makes won’t forever define her, and it won’t be the end of the world.
Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.