Thirty-four years ago at the age of 20, I gave birth to my eldest daughter. This was not a planned pregnancy for me. Her father and I were not married, and we decided to not marry. Roe vs. Wade became law a month before my daughter was born.
As was common for that time, I hid during my pregnancy. When my daughter was born, I made the best decision for me at that time. I gave my daughter up for adoption.
I requested an open adoption; however, that was not an option in 1973.
We hear all the time how traumatic it is for a woman to have an abortion. What I want people to know is that I agonized about my decision to give away my first-born child, thinking I would never see her again. Her birthdays were always very sad, reflective days for me. I kept her birth records open and we were reunited soon after she turned 19. She needed to know who she was, and to find her history. I needed to know her and to have her in my life. She is an intelligent, lovely young woman.
My father died in a tragic car accident when I was 8 years old, and my mother died of cancer when I was 17. I wanted my child to have a home with a mother, a father and siblings. My daughter was raised by a wonderful woman that I have met and I am friends with. Unfortunately, she and her husband divorced shortly after they adopted my daughter. She never remarried. My daughter grew up with no siblings. Although my daughter had a nice life, this adoption did not turn out to be a painless solution for me.
Our children should not be taught abstinence-only at school. I encouraged my children to get an education and to start their careers before getting married. Responsible young adults could be in their 30s before they marry. I am for comprehensive sex education taught in health classes, at home, and yes, even at church. Young people need information on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and how to protect themselves from life threatening sexually transmitted diseases. This should be a primary health issue. Comprehensive sex education and family planning are effective tools at reducing the need for abortions.
Dr. Michelle Van Vranken, a family physician with the Teen Age Medical Service in Minneapolis, said that despite the recent promotion of abstinence-only sex education programs, about half of teenagers in Minnesota are sexually active by the time they graduate from high school. Let us not enter into a dark age of denial and put our children more at-risk.
Federally funded family planning programs make sense at a time of explosive world population growth. Viagra should not be easier to get than contraception. Some insurance companies covered the cost of Viagra, but not birth control pills. Congress's 2005 Deficit Reduction Act will affect 140,000 poverty level women in Minnesota, making the price of birth control unaffordable for some women. If our country wants to reduce abortions, access to affordable birth control should be high on the list of priorities; and not be on the chopping block of cuts.
In the early 1930s the American Birth Control League was founded by Margaret Sanger. Poverty stricken women with too many children who were dying from self-induced abortions was common. We do not want to go back to those horrific times for women. Of course wealthy women knew how to access birth control and safe abortions.
Despite legal and religious opposition, the birth control movement grew. In 1936 a federal court ruled that birth control was not illegal, and a year later the American Medical Association recognized it as a sound medical practice. The Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood.
I had to make a difficult choice, and I have had to live with my decision. Everyone should be able to decide the course their life will take. I would never want to make such a decision for any other woman. Women gain control of their lives when they have control over their bodies. Reproductive freedom is a choice that women must have. We need to make sure everyone (including men) has the education and the tools to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Prevention and planning should be something that we can all agree on.
MARCIA FERRIS is a Brainerd resident and a member of the Friends for Choice group.
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