When I was younger, I had a good friend. I'll call her 'Jane' for the sake of her privacy.
Jane was born at the end of 1972. Her mother had not wanted her, or her older sibling, but had no access to reliable birth control, and she had a husband with needs and expectations who wouldn't have allowed any child of his to be put up for adoption. It became clear to me, the longer I knew her, that Jane's mother was one of those people who should never have had children, and she knew it.
Rather than try to become the good mother she was singularly ill-equipped to be, Jane's mom let the resentment through. My friend was regularly beaten; she confided to me once that her mom had started using the belt on her upper thighs, because she'd had her ass beaten so frequently it no longer really hurt that much, and her mom had figured that out.
The thing that sticks with me, more than any other, is Jane finding out when my birthday was, and saying enviously, "You were wanted." I was born *after* the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision. Our friendship fell across that historic cusp.
Since she could remember, my good friend's mother had told her, on a regular basis, that she wished abortion had been legal in her state. She told her "If it had been six months later or if I could have afforded to drive to another state, I would have aborted you." She told her "you never should have been born and I wish you hadn't." She told her children "Your father left after you were born and it was your fault. He wouldn't have left me if not for you." Jane looked at everyone she knew through an age-related filter, with everyone younger than her living in this miracle land of being a wanted child, because the law hadn't forced their mothers to have them like it had hers.
Everything Jane had done to improve her life, from studying hard to taking up hobbies to applying to colleges and getting a part-time job, her mother met with, "Why bother? You'll just ruin your own life like you ruined mine." When she started dating, she was told, "When you've gone and gotten yourself knocked up, I'll take you to get an abortion because even you don't deserve a child like you."
I can't explain what it was like to be in proximity to this kind of toxic relationship. Jane made me promise not to tell anyone because every time someone tried to help it got worse. I was much younger then, so I kept her secret.
As the years wore on and we moved to different cities, Jane and I had our fallings-out. She was always a difficult person to be friends with, so quick to reject friendship if she had any fear that it might hurt her, so guarded against trust. But when she was in an emotionally healthy space the friendship was good and solid. Jane at her best was bright, kind, and witty.
Looking back I wish I'd tried harder to hold the connection, but that was tough to do in the days before email, and cellphones with free long distance, and jobs that pay enough for road trips. She started making some dangerous choices with drugs and sex, and the last straw for a close relationship was me trying to talk to her about that. I was not particularly subtle or empathetic about it, and she was not open to having her slow suicide through deliberate irresponsibility called out. She told me she should never have been born anyway, so why did it matter? We spoke occasionally after that, but the real closeness and trust were gone. Eventually, the relationship just dissolved, and she faded out of my life.
Whenever abortion comes up, I think of Jane. I hope she's all right and that she eventually managed to get the help she needed to deal with her abuse. I hope that she's never become the mother she feared she'd be if she had kids. I hope that her life, today, is one of joy and freedom. Every so often I put her name in a search engine to no real effect, and I'm not even sure what I'd say to her if I found her.
Most stories of the days before Roe focus on the women, the ones who lost their lives or suffered desperate health crises as a result of a botched illegal abortion. We tell a lot of stories about women whose lives were derailed or forever altered by a pregnancy and motherhood they didn't choose.
We talk about how now, because abortion is not as readily available as it should be, we have not reached the goal of making every pregnancy wanted and healthy. We talk so much about the effects of abortion restriction upon the women who are forced to bear by them.
I can never deny, though, that the deepest part of my own opinions on the necessity of safe, legal, accessible abortion doesn't come from my own identity as a woman, or from my belief in my bodily autonomy. It was formed by being helpless to stop the pain of a child who would not have existed if abortion access had been a reality for her mother.