• Jessica Dapson, Chaplain

Once upon a time...I had an Abortion

And, no, I did not need the blessing of the Knights of Columbus

When I was 21 years old, I was dating this really cute lacrosse player from a local college. He was all about lacrosse. And all about me. To be perfectly honest, I had never--at that time in my life--taken a birth control pill. Ever. I was raised loosely-catholic, had never seen a GYN for a pap smear, or been encouraged to go on the pill. However, had I known that the pill could possibly reduce my menstrual cramps and lower back pain, which I always severely had when getting my period month after month since the age of 13, I would have jumped on the pill train. Long story short, I got pregnant. I didn't even know, as we had not planned on it, and the only indication was that I was suddenly VERY sick. And up until today, not many people know about it.

Life was good at that time, from what I now remember. It was late winter/early spring and I had just interviewed for a new job with a good company, which I was hopeful about. The prospect was extremely fantastic because I had financial responsibilities: my own apartment, car, and pet to tend to. And then suddenly, I realized I could possibly have a baby to add to my expenses chart. So, I took my first-ever pregnancy test and, upon confirming that I was indeed pregnant, I told my really cute, lacrosse-playing boyfriend. He was surprised and we spent the next few weeks going back and forth on what to do. We had been dating for about two months. He, at the time, had college and a job, and I had just dropped out of college, was balancing three jobs at once, and had just gotten word that I landed this new career that I had interviewed for. Full benefits, vacation-time, and other perks that likely would have appealed to any 21-year-old college drop-out like myself. As I felt pressed for time to decide what to do, I confided in one close friend who, at the time, was a single mom of two. When I told her the news, she explained to me that I could simply decline the new job offer and easily raise the baby on my own, possibly qualifying for Medicaid for all of my doctor visits. And that if I didn't take this new job, I could possibly qualify for food stamps and other benefits, such as having my apartment's rent paid for and maybe even have help with my heating bill come winter. Unsure of what to do, I decided to meet with a local agency to talk to a "professional" about my dilemma--do I have this baby with a guy I may or may not stay with for the long-haul (and quite possibly rely on public assistance for as long as need be), or should I consider an abortion? The agency, unbeknownst to me, was funded by a catholic organization and, as the woman I met with explained to me, I really only had two options: keep the baby or have the baby and give the baby up for adoption. I left with a pamphlet that mildly preached some gospel and went home to cry. And throw up. Oh yeah, lots and lots of throwing up. Too much (just in case your wondering, yes, there can be TOO MUCH vomit).

After much contemplation and discussion, I decided in favor of having the abortion and my boyfriend told me that he respected my choice and would financially contribute to the bill. I didn't know it at that time, as I was about to call and schedule my abortion at the local Planned Parenthood, but my boyfriend was secretly upset with my decision. And I was actually pregnant with twins. My boyfriend had a twin, and his dad had a twin. I have no idea how twins happen, scientifically-speaking, but I would guess it is genetic somehow, someway. I think now is a good time to mention that after having a pregnancy with twins at age 21 that resulted in me throwing up all of the time (and feeling so sick that I couldn't get out of bed), many years later, I had three children and, for all three pregnancies, didn't throw up once.

Fast-forward to my mid-April walk into the abortion clinic, which was surrounded by protestors yelling bible psalms in my face and holding up giant signs with bloody photos of dismembered, almost full-term fetuses. I went in, put my name on an old, chipped, wooden clipboard, and had an abortion. It hurt. it was short. And I went home to lay in bed for two days, in the arms of my cute, lacrosse-playing boyfriend. Two days later, I walked in to my new job. Two weeks later, he and I broke up. Five and-a-half years later, he died (and two months later, his twin died, too). I have no idea how he, or his twin, died...I just remember seeing both obituaries years later and tears came to my eyes. I remember him once telling me that he and his twin had both had undergone surgery as babies and were later found to have inherited heart conditions. I eventually learned that before he died, he had a son. And when I discovered his child (now a young adult) on Facebook, my breath was literally taken away when I saw how much he looked like his father--my ex-boyfriend who I had gotten pregnant and had an abortion with. Hopefully he is carrying on his father's great smile.

I am not alone. But, for anyone who feels alone, I suggest that they watch this video and urge you to reassure them by telling them, "You are not alone."

I do not regret my abortion. But, for those who regret theirs, please accept my hopes that you both heal and one day carry on.

After my abortion, I slowly left the clinic with a prescription for birth control pills and, for the first time in my adult life, went on the pill, even though I was taught that, as a Catholic, the pill was "evil," as it was not a "natural" method of birth control. I didn't have another abortion, but I believe that those who have more than one abortion do not deserve condemnation because of it, as each of us have the right to choose. And the next time that I got pregnant, it was five years later and planned. I had a new boyfriend who I had been with for three years and had just graduated with my Bachelors, about to begin a graduate program. I gave birth to my first baby on the first day of Spring Break in the first year of my grad program. And I returned to classes on the first day after Spring Break. And eight years later, I married another man and had two more children, now ages four and five years old. I consider myself a great mom and, still, do not regret my abortion. I sometimes ponder what my life would have been like, if I opted out of the abortion and gave birth to those twins. And, when they were around the age of five years old, their dad had died. I think about how tragic and devastating that would have been. I cannot imagine going through that, like his present-day child actually did. I never met him and do not know how his death has impacted his life, but I bet it was tragic and admit that I occasionally wonder about him.

So, let me get to THE POINT of this post. Why did I write about my abortion, such a personal, and up until now private, event in my life? Because last month, as I was on Facebook, I came across this post wherein a chapter of the Knights of Columbus had spent thousands of dollars on a granite monument for "victims of abortion."

Apparently this is not a one-time occasion, as many chapters of the Knights around the U.S. and Canada have done just this. I was disgusted. I felt attacked. Never had I ever considered my embryo a victim of abortion. Never had I ever felt the target of shame as I did when I saw this. Not even when I walked through a small crowd of angry, Christian protestors who yelled in my face and called the procedure that I was about to go through an act of abomination. And, then, after seeing this post, I realized that my husband's life insurance policy was through Knights of Columbus, an organization that his dearly departed dad belonged to and praised. I looked at my husband, after sharing this dreadful Facebook post with him, and said, "Shit, Babe. We gotta cancel that policy." And without hesitation, he read the post, affirmed my feelings, and agreed. Come spring, we will not be renewing when the invoice comes.

I conclude with the following three-part message for the Knights of Columbus:

Your motto reads 'In Service to One, in service to all," but I think that may be long overdue for some necessary revision, given your obvious choice to judge and target certain people for their decisions to have abortions. A decision and procedure that is now is protected under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of our Constitution

Your four core principles are (1) Charity (2) Unity (3) Fraternity (4) Patriotism, but I think that Compassion is a key principle that should be considered upon revision. Also, I must ask you, grand old KOC, which of the four principles does abortion conflict with? Because I was raised with similar principles (well, three out of four) and I don't see how my abortion has made me any less patriotic or charitable

You are the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization and, given the notoriety of the Catholic Church over the past few decades, you may want to take a look at the stories and statistics that SNAP has online and possibly reconsider that "holy" connection

For those of you who seek support or more information, see the NAF Resources page