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The Choice

Case Study: Sally Garneau

I learned that I was pregnant at the age of eighteen, shortly after moving in with my boyfriend. Feeling scared and insecure, I didn't know how a baby would fit into my future. Upon seeking counsel from friends and family, it seemed logical to consider abortion as an option. After all, I was young, pretty and intelligent. I had my whole life ahead of me.

It was a shock to learn that I was near the 6th month of my pregnancy. This fact certainly complicated matters. It would mean that I would have to have a different, more costly, kind of abortion. With the support of those I valued most, I made a decision. An appointment was set for one week later.

My boyfriend and I arrived at the hospital early one morning in April. After the initial screening I was shown to an examining room where the lethal dose of saline was injected into my womb. Within minutes, I was led to a hospital room where they informed me that I could expect some cramping, a little worse than a normal period, and that it should be all over in about 24 to 48 hours. There was nothing left to do but wait for my body's "natural" ability to expel the unwanted fetus. In other words, give birth to my dead baby. I was instructed to remain in the bed and to call the nurse after I had the baby.

There were six girls in the hospital room all together. At first we had a great time! Talk was abundant as many family members and friends came and went. It was not until the first "birth" that the atmosphere changed. Slowly laughter was replaced with fear and pain, curiosity gave way to sorrow, and a solemn quiet crept over the room. It was in the moments that followed that my life changed forever.

I'm still surprised at how little physical pain there was. It was similar to having a bowel movement -- until I became curious and looked under the covers to see what was there -- until that instant when I saw a baby, red and bloody and small, but a baby still. I quickly covered myself back up and called the nurse.

While I waited, I became terrified that "it" wasn't dead. Lying in the same bed with me was flesh and blood! The emotions that overwhelmed me in that moment were so strong that my body reacted with violent, uncontrollable shaking. Tears streamed down my face and panic gripped my heart.

It seemed that an eternity passed before the nurse finally came. I watched her calmly close the curtain and put on a pair of plastic gloves. As she lifted up the sheet I turned my head. I couldn't watch as she placed my "waste" in a white paper bucket. As she turned to go, what was left of my childhood went with her, but somehow I managed to close my mind to the events and go on.

Two years later my boyfriend and I were married. Within three months I was pregnant again but my husband never knew about it. We were separated at the time and I didn't want him to use the baby as an excuse for us to get back together. The relationship had become physically abusive and I refused to go back.

This time I had a suction abortion. Fortunately, there were not obvious side effects such as excess bleeding or infection. I was in and out of the clinic within a matter of hours. Yet another successful procedure to free me of the awful burden of raising a child. Or so I thought.

I was forced to face the truth of my choices while casually flipping through the channels on television one day. My interest was caught by the picture of a baby in the womb. Little did I know that I was watching the movie "The Silent Scream." Before my very eyes I saw a baby being torn to pieces by a tremendous force of suction. I saw it jerk away from the metal instrument as if he or she felt pain and fear.

In horror, I realized that this was a living being! Tears ran down my face as I flashed back to my second abortion. This is what I did to my baby!! Suddenly, the truth hit me and I knew there was no turning back. I had to face what I had done and for the next five years, that's exactly what I did. Through the pain of discovery comes growth and here is what I learned.

Why, if I felt to horrible about having an abortion the first time, would I do it again? I saw my baby dead before my very eyes, and yet I was able to convince myself that it was okay to get rid of a second child! In total denial, I was able to believe that I had made the right choice for the sole reason that the truth was intolerable. The results of my choice were devastating.

Without realizing it, the afternoon that they put my baby in a bucket was the beginning of self-hatred. I lost the value of life. This was evidenced by my divorce and what came after. I became more deeply involved in a destructive lifestyle: sex with many men, drugs and alcohol. Even in the few serious relationships I had, I allowed physical, verbal and sexual abuse because, subconsciously, I believed that I deserved it. Over ten years of destructive habits and relationships were triggered by one very bad choice.

The complications of abortion were not limited to emotional and mental anguish. No matter how safe I thought abortion was, I still live with the consequence that I may not be able to have any more children. My doctor has informed me that I have a tremendous amount of scar tissue in my uterus; a direct result of scraping the womb after the babies were removed. In addition to that, two surgeries and many sleepless nights have been spent over a condition called endometriosis. I suspect it is directly related.

I've experienced abortion and I'm convinced it is murder. Yes, of innocent babes who never get a chance at life. YET IT IS SO MUCH MORE! Abortion not only affects the life of the unborn child, but also the life of the mother! I can say from my own experience that a part of ME died each time I gave into my own self-centeredness and exerted my "right to choose."

In my ignorance, I made choices that are irreversible. As a result, I lost a very valuable part of me--self-respect. But I also lost much more. Because of my choice, I learned to neglect an important part of my responsibility as a person: TO VALUE HUMAN LIFE. Two lives were dependent upon me to protect them. Without me, they would have never known life. Because of me, we all learned about death.

To anyone who is thinking of having an abortion, I would say that as I go on living my life, the one I tried so hard to protect from the inconveniences of raising children, I have learned to live with regret. But you don't have to! Today, you have the opportunity to choose life and experience the great privilege that only a woman can know. Yes, others may think that you are too young and immature to handle this responsibility, but you are the one who may have to live with the guilt and shame if you choose to end a life instead.

Consider how your choice will affect you now and in the future. Know what the dangers are to your body and your mental health. Find out what your options are if you decide to keep your baby or give it up for adoption. Whatever you do, be sure to consider all the consequences. After all, it is your choice, but the life you destroy may be your own.

This testimony is excerpted with permission from the brochure "The Choice," by Sally Garneau. For more information, contact the author at (530) 223-6474. Published in The PostAbortion Review 6(3) Summer 1998.

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