Our Daily Lives

My Mother's Abortion Improved All of Our Lives

Sunday, May 2, 2010

There are many decisions a woman must make for her family as well as herself, including ending a pregnancy. Margaret Morganroth Gullette looks back on a secret choice her mother made decades ago and how it helped the life paths of her entire family.

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Life Involves Time Passing

It is hard to define "life" but one thing we know is that it involves time passing. Life time. If a woman who mothers lives after delivery, she is dedicating some hefty chunk of her life time to being responsible for her child. Usually, two decades. The right to decide whether to proceed with a pregnancy takes into account, and must take into account, that irrevocable pledge of responsibility.

It trivializes this life-course decision-making to suggest my mother's choice was made on the basis of "convenience." She decided to make my father's life easier, to devote her maternal attention to her existing children and to study to further her own and our family's joint life chances.

Everything proved her decision a correct one. She earned a teaching degree, then went to Bank Street College of Education and earned a master's degree, got tenure, became a wonderful and happy first-grade teacher and earned a good and secure salary that rose every year.

She and my father together moved us up some inches into the lower middle class so that I could get a good education.

In her 80s, when my mother told me about this episode in her life, it was clear that she had never had any regrets.

Margaret Morganroth Gullette went to Radcliffe and Harvard graduate school and has written three books, among them "Aged by Culture," named a "Noteworthy Book" of the year by the Christian Science Monitor. Her next book is called "Agewise." She is a resident scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis.




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Two years ago I helped a friend get an abortion. She already had five children and her 14 year old daughter was also pregnant. My friend had been told by her social worker that if she had another child that her welfare payments would be cut. She was already barely scraping by, getting paid under the table to clean houses. She knew that she would also be raising her soon to be born grandchild. She did the most loving thing for her family. She got an abortion. Thank God it was safe and legal.