A U.S. Marine tricked me into getting pregnant. I was in my 20s, divorced with two toddlers and running my own business. I lived in a military town at the time and had met “Joe” through a friend whose husband was in the Navy.
We dated casually; I had no desire for a serious relationship, having married at 18 only to realize, two years and two babies later, that I’d signed on to a kind of life that bore little resemblance to the life that began taking shape in my head as I got to know myself better. I’d carved out a little niche in the workworld and was slowly growing my own modest business, arranging my schedule so that I could spend as much time as possible with my two young children. Still, I was in my 20s, and sometimes girls really DO just wanna have fun, so occasionally I’d go on a “girls night out” or agree to be set up for a casual date, strictly to break up the routine, not with any eye toward a serious relationship. So it was that Joe and I began dating.
We’d seen each other maybe three times when Joe first told me he could easily imagine us married. “Really?” I said. “I’m not sure I ever want to get married again.” He seemed surprised by my reply; something in his demeanor suggested that he thought I didn’t mean it, that I might be playing hard to get. I wasn’t. From time to time he’d bring it up again. Every time I’d express flat disinterest in marriage.
There came a day when we were going to have sex and Joe said he had no condom. I’d insisted he use one every time we had sex, even though I used a birth control Sponge. He said again what he’d said the first time we had sex and I insisted on the condom: no need to worry because he’d had a vasectomy. I repeated what I’d told him that first time: it wasn’t only pregnancy we should both protect ourselves against. Maybe it was his promise to dig out his military medical records and show me – “Tomorrow! First thing!” – proof of the vasectomy and that his sexual health was “clean as a whistle,” but for whatever reason, this time I was persuaded, and we had sex without using a condom.
The next time we got together, same thing happened – except this time, the next day I followed through and asked to see his medical records. Joe seemed surprised and began trying to change the subject. “The woman I’m going to marry doesn’t trust me!” he joked, completely ignoring the fact that by then I’d told him many times I did not want to get married, possibly ever. This in itself was a red flag to me and probably was partly why I wouldn’t be brushed off this time. I pressed the point: Show me your medical records. Finally he said he’d have to retrieve them from somewhere – his sister’s house maybe, or a storage unit. He was about to leave for a month-long military exercise but swore he’d bring me the records next time we saw each other.
In the interim between that conversation and his return, I discovered I was pregnant. Joe had been my only sex partner since I’d been divorced so there was no question as to paternity. I was furious. At myself for having been gullible and, I scolded myself at the time, weak. At him for having lied to me. I hadn’t confirmed this yet but had a sick feeling it was just a matter of time.
From the moment I saw the drugstore home-pregnancy test change color, there was zero question in my mind about how I would proceed. I did not want to be pregnant and definitely did not want a child. I felt no ambiguity or uncertainty about this, no musing about “what if we did get married” because being married was the last thing I wanted. I also didn’t feel panicked or conflicted. What I felt was determined.
Through a free local paper I found a clinic that performed abortions and made an appointment after phoning and answering a few screening questions. When Joe called me upon his return, I asked him to come by – and to bring his medical records with him. Sure, he said. No problem.
When he arrived, he didn’t have the records and launch into a convoluted excuse. As he talked I walked into the bathroom, retrieved the pregnancy test-stick, and brought it to him. He stopped talking. Then asked, “What’s this?” I told him I was pregnant.
This is the part where any guy who’s had a vasectomy ought to respond with demands for a paternity test, right? After all, couldn’t possibly be his. There was no such demand, of course. Instead, he just sort of sighed and said something like, “Okay, okay, I lied. I never had a vasectomy. I figured if you got pregnant we’d just get married.” Again with the “married” thing.
Needless to say, we did not marry. I told him that I’d already made an appointment for an abortion and that if he wanted to drive me or at least pick me up that would be great but that I was going either way. He didn’t protest, didn’t ask me to think about it. He drove me. The procedure itself went smoothly, no complications (unless we count the protestors lining the driveway). Joe and I never saw each other again.
That was more than 20 years ago. As it was, I went on to later marry a wonderful (honest) man, with whom I had two incredible children who are my very life. From that day at the clinic right up to today, I’ve never once regretted having an abortion. But I have shuddered many times to think: What if it hadn’t been an option?
Thank you, Roe v. Wade. Please don’t ever change.
L. Anderson is a writer whose erstwhile incarnations include medical language specialist, paralegal, and editor of a pioneering online arts/culture/politics magazine. She is a lifelong feminist and the proud mother of four remarkable children.