I was winding my way through the Oregon Coast last week when the song “Brick” by Ben Folds Five came bursting through my old downloaded music. I had always heard that the song was about Ben taking his girlfriend at the time for an abortion, but I guess I sort of blocked that little side note. It’s a dark, beautiful and sad song but I realized that as many times as I’ve listened to it – I’ve never really heard the lyrics – until this particular journey. Within moments of the first few lines – I was sobbing – a full body guttural release that was set free through the open air of my jeep as I whipped along the bendy roads of the Oregon Dunes. I’m not sure I’ve ever cried like this. I wondered what people thought as they passed me – this woman – sobbing while driving. But most likely – like most people – they didn’t notice me. There I was on the 101 North, balling my body out for the baby I never had. Exploding with tears for whatever it was I left in a perfectly legal clinic in New York City along with my heart.
I was 26 or 27 (1986/87) when I had an abortion. I don’t even remember my exact age because I’ve blocked that time in my life. It was filled with bad decisions., but I do remember this. It was cold, it was unfeeling, and I was alone and shamed. And to make matters worse – it was Yom Kippur. Yes, the highest of jewish holidays and the day you atone for your sins. Way to be on the nose Heidi. The day I found out I was impregnated by a full blown abusive asshole was one of the most frightening days of my twenties – and trust me – I had some frightening times as I was well on my way to becoming a spectacular alcoholic. His reaction? You need to get rid of it. He offered no assistance, no support financially or emotionally and the best part – he refused to go with me to the clinic. I went alone. There I was – a young woman who thought she could handle anything – gritting her teeth through what will go down as a significant trauma in her life. A trauma that only today am I beginning to fully remember. I arrived alone. Signed some waiting list alone. Sat on a plastic chair alone. Looked at all the other shamed women waiting to get abortions. Everyone but me had someone with them. They put me in a gown, took me into a room, and laid me down on some cold table as they put what is basically a vacuum inside of me and sucked out whatever you want to believe it was that was in me – alone. It was incredibly painful. It felt like they were scraping the roof of my mouth. No drugs. No explanations. Just lay back and let us do whatever we can to end what is clearly a terrible mistake on your part Miss Clements. I was very few weeks along and so I choose to believe that there was no soul inside that blob and that’s how I go on with my life. But it is in fact a trauma I have buried so deeply that it is only now rearing it’s ugly head. That night – I had to go to a Yom Kippur dinner at my parents house. I doubled down on the guilt and shame so hard – I don’t know how I even swallowed any food.
It is not an easy decision to have an abortion but it is my right to choose. It is my body, my mistake, my whatever you want to call it, it’s mine, all mine, and no one else’s. I have lived my life with this significant moment in the back of my head – many times throughout the years thinking – my child would be a teenager today. My child would be 25 today. I have laughed about it or joked about it in the past – but thanks to what is going on in our country right now – it is no longer funny. I never had children. Perhaps I was punished for what I did. These are the real thoughts of someone who goes through an abortion. If you enter this decision lightly – you’re a liar.
I remember the first time I watched a Girls episode on HBO that was about abortion. It may have even been the first episode. The girls were all at the clinic with champagne and balloons waiting for their friend who was coming to have a pregnancy terminated. It was an abortion party I guess. It enraged me. It made me think that no one on that writing staff or any of the actors had had an abortion because celebrating it is the last thing you feel.
What’s the point of this story? Well thanks to the asshole in the White House -abortion could be illegal in 20 states by 2020. This is unacceptable. America is not the Handmaid’s Tale but it’s starting to creep a little too closely to a fictional tv show. Please think about who you elect in November. Please think about the fact that it should always be a woman’s right to choose. Let’s not make Margaret Atwood’s gut wrenching book – a documentary.