Flying Across an Ocean for an Abortion

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

That’s what a fiercely pro-choice reader did:

I was 18 or 19 and living in Spain around 1979/80, dating an American and (stupidly) not using protection. I found out I was pregnant after I had broken up with him. Abortions were illegal in Spain, but I worked and had money saved and luckily I was able to afford to fly back to the U.S. and had my abortion in a hospital.

The whole thing cost a fortune with airfare, hotel, meals, etc., but I was lucky to be able to control my destiny that way.

We had no home phone, no internet, no way to plan ahead except get a plane ticket, get to the States and figure it out when I landed. I was very fortunate, but no woman should have to jump through any hoops to control her own body. Especially flying to a whole other country.

I never for one second doubted that was what I wanted to do. My parents wanted me to go to a home for unwed mothers in the U.S., have a baby and give it up for adoption, but I refused to do that. In my mind, it would be torture seeing strangers the rest of my life and wondering if it was my kid.

The procedure went smoothly. When it was finished I started to cry and the counselor who was holding my hand said, “Are those tears of sadness or of relief?” Without hesitation, I said, “Relief.”

I immediately got on the Pill and stayed on it for about 15 years. I tried at every GYN appointment to get my tubes tied but no doctor would do it because you had to have had at least a couple of kids first to “prove” something. I don’t know what I was supposed to be proving.

Finally, when I was in my 30s, my new gyn agreed to tie my tubes. I love that man!

I am sick of people acting like women don’t know what they want or are incapable of deciding for themselves. I knew I did not want kids as a teenager, both from babysitting and having a dysfunctional mother who complained about having children as long as I can remember. Interestingly, none of my siblings have had kids either and that is a good thing, I believe.

I love other people’s babies and some kids, but I would not have made a good parent. I refused to have a kid if it was not 100 percent wanted. There are way too many kids who come into the world because the woman “happened” to get pregnant. To me THAT is morally wrong. They can’t afford them, the parents are often on drugs or otherwise emotionally ill-equipped to raise children. Or all of the above. It is wrong for them to bring kids into that situation.

I don’t consider myself selfish and I don’t care if anyone things I am. But why would being “selfish” about something on the magnitude of having a kid be wrong? To me, that is the ultimate in thoughtfulness—knowing what you are or are not capable of and choosing to not have a kid if you don’t feel you can be the best parent possible for that child?

Since I don’t have kids, when I die, I plan to leave what money I may have to Planned Parenthood to help pay for abortions for women who can’t other wise afford them. No matter what the fanatics want to believe, they cannot stop a desperate woman. The only question is how many women will die from illegal abortions, not IF they will. But they don’t care about women’s lives.

The only regret I have about the whole thing is that my parents had to find out. Luckily, I had a good guy friend who was very supportive of me during the entire situation.

I never told the “father.” It was none of his business, couldn’t have changed my mind, and I wanted him to stay out of my life.

(NOTE: Please do not use my personal email or real name. You can use the name “Gloria.” I am trying to find a job in a conservative area and I know I am already pushing it by “liking” all the Planned Parenthood posts on Facebook!)