Monday’s 5-3 Supreme Court ruling striking down Texas requirements on doctors and clinics to meet certain medical standards and qualification to provide abortions stirred great emotion in me as I observed on C-SPAN so many young and old celebrate what they saw as a victory.
A woman’s right to choose, they call it; the government should not tell a woman what she should and should not do with her body. It is hers.
Is it really?
I have been around the block on this, which in some small way gives me the right to express my opinion on it with a bit of grace.
You see, I was almost the victim of an abortion.
It was 63 years ago when the law was restrictive, as were the Texas standards struck down by the highest court in the land this week. As the family story — my story — goes, it was legally possible to obtain an abortion in the state of Florida in the 1950s if the mother’s health was endangered, but a woman needed the signatures of three medical doctors.
My mother, a native of Georgia residing with my father in north Florida, found herself pregnant after already having given birth to three girls and, just nine months prior, a much-longed-for boy. She sought those three physicians’ signatures to abort.
To abort me.
Two doctors gave their opinions that yes, indeed, the health of this woman in her early 40s would be at risk if she gave birth to this baby. They signed off on the paperwork. But a third doctor could not be found.
A woman’s right to choose. That right for my mother was foiled by a law that required three signatures before being able to terminate the life of an unborn child.
I don’t know the particulars, how many said no, but when I say my prayers at night, I often cover that one man or those unnamed men. (I say men because women doctors were few and far between back then.)
So much has changed in this country, but some things never change.
A life is still a life, and in this case mine hung in the balance of just one signature, so it is very personal.
Two gave a thumb up, a third could not be found to acquiesce — the baby lives.
But what about the mother’s health, you ask?
No ill effects were ever observed or mentioned as resulting from the birth of this fourth daughter, and fifth child.
My mother was a workhorse until lung cancer took her in her 70s. Always in motion, she and a friend began a community newspaper in our kitchen when I was just beginning high school. In the ’60s that was a big deal. That newspaper, the Ponte Vedra Recorder, lives on today.
The story of my near abortion was told repeatedly in my household growing up. Siblings can be cruel. I will never comprehend the need or the desire to share such a story with children, but nonetheless, it was not something I was shielded from. Quite the opposite.
I was never told why she wanted the abortion. With two teenaged daughters already in the home, a teen son by marriage, a toddler and a not quite 1-year-old boy, it might just have been a matter of convenience.
I read in her letters, just nine months after my uneventful birth, she and my father left us in the care of others to enjoy a Caribbean cruise and the Christmas holiday in Cuba.
I’d like for the story to turn here and share that at gazing upon this latest daughter my mother’s heart melted and she so regretted wanting to abort this towheaded infant, or when I took my first step, or won my first swim meet or with countless other small victories in my life, but it didn’t. She handed a bottle and a diaper to my second oldest sister, Diana, and went on with her life.
Perhaps she was just worn out, I’ll never know. Her whys were not ever something she discussed with me, rather it was a story that swirled around my head, one of my earliest memories, in fact.
I grew up always trying to earn my place. I had great empathy for the Cinderella character before the big fairy godmother entrance and the pumpkin carriage — a part of a family, but not.
Perhaps it was a sharp arrow from my father’s quiver, used to wound her at will in their constant war of words, either not realizing or being so caught up in self that neither considered the damage being done by their words to the child whose life hung on one doctor’s signature or even those siblings who bore witness to and added to the heartbreak each time the story was retold.
So Monday’s celebrations that racked the politics of this country and reverberated around the world kicked me back down memory lane and into prayer.
Prayers for a people who are so blinded that they don’t know what they do.
Prayers for all those unborn children, lives not lived, one of which came close to being me, except for the grace of God in that missing third signature.
Prayers for my momma and forgiveness for the woman so blinded by self she couldn’t see me.
Rebellious in my younger years, I became deceived, getting caught up echoing the misguided cries for a more modern society, an enlightened, progressive one where the woman had a right to choose — it is my body, it is all about me, me, me — never considering the overriding rights of the precious unborn children to live and grow and be all they were destined to be.
Science, bless its heart, has since proven what we should have realized all along: it was, it is and always will be a very precious life.
Take the life of another and they call it murder. Take the life of a mother with an unborn child and the charge is double homicide.
But go to a doctor and do it of your own accord, and it is a woman’s right to choose.
As for me, my soul is restored. There is so much freedom and joy in forgiveness.
I’ve repented, am forgiven for the things I thought and did; the lack of understanding the truth of who I am. Who each of us is.
And I am so grateful for that doctor who withheld that yes.
You should be too, because you, dear reader, without realizing it, were just one signature in 1953 away from never holding this newspaper or reading this story.
No me, no newspaper.
Whatever I will accomplish here on Earth hung in the balance of just one signature.
Three thumbs up, no Lumina News, no Wrightsville Beach Magazine or anything else the Lord has left for me to do.