Everyone agrees there's a gap between the information a woman needs before getting an abortion and the information she gets, but all sides don't agree what that information should be, when it should be presented, where the gap is or how to fill it. My mother was a devoted Catholic who lived the juxtaposition of her belief in the right to life and the right to live life as one sees fit. Her decisions best illustrate how one side of the information gap is, well, just a position.
In 1970, my mother was 32 years old. She survived an extended radical mastectomy to rid her of breast cancer. Common through the 1970s, this draconian approach to breast cancer was followed up with radiation treatments. (She died of liver cancer in 1999.) In 1971, two years before abortion would become legal in the United States, her periods stopped. Treatment was initiated under the assumption the cancer had spread. A teenaged hospital volunteer suggested to my mother she might be pregnant. The teenager was right.
My mother's physicians encouraged her to terminate the pregnancy even though it didn't put her life at risk. Because of the radiation treatments, they were sure she'd miscarry or give birth to a child with severe problems. Before pro-choice became a common term in the American vernacular, my mother chose to carry the child to term. Her child was born healthy the following year and is now a well-respected teacher.
Six years later, in 1978, I was 16. Unlike her peers, my mother began telling me how my body worked at age eight. Like her peers, she forbade premarital sex and opposed abortion. She reluctantly advised condoms if I "acted against God." When a condom failed, her adherence to Catholic doctrine and opposition to abortion screeched to a halt.
Seven days after telling her I was pregnant, she directed me to my seat in the abortion clinic. Her speed was suspicious. How did a financially strapped Catholic mother know the cost of an abortion, where to get one and have the money to pay for it; all in a timely manner? Legal abortion was only five years old, but the information network among women of all political and religious stripes was well-established and older than any law.
My mother's hypocrisy aside, my issue is that the decision to terminate my pregnancy was made for me, not by me. (Anyone who thinks I should've defied her wasn't raised in a strict Catholic home or has forgotten what it was like.) I don't regret the procedure and wasn't scarred by it. I was scared of having a child so young and had already been told by the young man who got me pregnant that I was on my own. Whether or not my mother exploited my fear by confirming it is relative, but not irrelevant. She used my fear to play fast and loose with my reproductive rights. This game is still being played today, which brings me to the "Woman's Right to Know" act.