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From Fence-Sitter to Activist
Part 6: The Eye Opener

As it turned out, the Army wasn't such a great idea. The housing situation for lower enlisted was terrible -- a roach-infested studio apartment in a bad part of town went for over $100 more than our housing allowance. And we had only 30 days in the guest house. I had to find a place for us to live, pronto. I signed a lease for the first place that looked affordable but still safe and clean. It was a hefty commute from my husband's duty station. It was also far from the commissary and any grocery stores. When we moved in we learned that the landlord considered a refrigerator "furniture," and not an appliance. We had assumed that it just hadn't been installed yet.

My neighbor, Sherri, was a newlywed, too. She took a shine to Lisa and we became fast friends. She and her husband were both only 18. By October we were both pregnant.

I had been feeding Lisa by skipping meals myself. I was one of those poor women who "needed" an abortion. I just couldn't work up the nerve, and I hated myself. I felt like a terrible mother.

In the mean time, Sherri was pleased to be pregnant. She told me that she had married so that her mother couldn't force her into another abortion.

She had been fifteen years old and living with her mother when she'd gotten pregnant for the first time. She had been helping her mother run a day care center, and she figured if she was caring for all these strangers' children, she could take care of her own baby, too. Sherri's mother told her, "I have made an appointment for you at Planned Parenthood. I have $160 to pay for it. You're getting in the car with me, and I can either take you to Planned Parenthood, or I'll take you to the bus station and you can buy a one-way ticket to any place that $160 will take you." Sherri got in the car and went to Planned Parenthood.

There, she told me, she was herded into a room with about twenty other abortion patients. A counselor handed out a paper for them to read and immediately asked if anybody had any questions. Sherri asked one question: "What about the baby?" There is no baby, she was assured. Just a cluster of cells, like a blood clot. Sherri had her abortion. Planned Parenthood then took that unmotivated girl -- who was too squeamish about touching herself to even use tampons -- and fitted her with a diaphragm. Of course, the diaphragm sat unused in Sherri's night stand drawer, and within a few months Sherri was pregnant again. She begged her mother not to take her back to Planned Parenthood. So her mother made an appointment with a private OB/GYN. Sherri had her second unwanted abortion. She bided her time until she was 18, married her boyfriend, and moved out and got pregnant with a baby she could keep.

She was very excited about this pregnancy, and we walked to the library together to check out prenatal care books. It was then Sherri learned that the eight-week fetuses she'd aborted bore far more resemblance to babies than to blood clots. In the mean time, there was my own pregnancy to deal with. My husband and I started selling our few possessions to buy food. That was when Eddie, another young man in my husband's unit, learned of our plight.

Eddie was a Mexican Catholic from Fresno. In his world, people took care of each other. Eddie took charge. He loaded us in the car and made us look for another apartment -- and we promptly found one. It had a refrigerator -- AND furniture. It was across the street from a grocery store, walking distance from a farmers' market, and near enough folks from my husband's unit that he could carpool. With the lower expenses, within a few months, not only were we eating well, we were able to have guests over for dinner. I hadn't needed an abortion -- I'd needed a better apartment.

But still the propaganda from college had done its damage. I still beleived that because this was an unwanted pregnancy, my child would be an unwanted and unloved child. Many nights I cried, full of pity for this child that would be born never to know love.

In the mean time, there was a to-do on the news over a billboard some pro life group had errected. It showed the famous photo (Hayes Publishing) of the adult hand holding the aborted fetus so just his tiny feet show. The billboard said, "Aborted: 10 weeks into life." The local news station interviewed the head of the largest abortion clinic in the area. She said, "We've been getting hundreds of angry calls from women wanting to know why they weren't given this information before their abortions. We want that billboard down!"

So Sherri's experience was not an isolated incident. It was part of a pattern of dishonesty and betrayal. I called the local Birthright office and volunteered. There were going to be no more Sherri's, no more angry women demanding to know why they'd been kept in the dark.

NEXT: Part 6 - A Learning Odyssey

The Entire Fence Sitter Series:
Laying the Groundwork
Biology of Sex
Curiouser and Curiouser
Under Pressure
Every Little Bit Helps
The Eye Opener
A Learning Odyssey

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