I'm A Mom Who Had An Abortion At 17 And It Still Haunts Me

I did what I had to do, but I still think about it.

woman looking distraught on couch Getty Images

You would be 12 years old. You would be finished with elementary school, and excited to begin junior high. You would be crushing on various boys/girls, dreading taking a shower in gym class. You would have a favorite band. A favorite pop star. A favorite television program. You would be here.

You would be a person. With a name. Whether or not you were raised by me, you would be here, on Earth. You would know who Britney Spears is. You would vote for the next American Idol on your iPhone. You would have an opinion on Miley Cyrus. You would have a favorite color. A favorite movie. A favorite food. You would have a favorite T-shirt and a favorite pair of jeans.


RELATED: A Man Lied To His Wife About Taking Measures To Prevent Having More Kids, Now She's Pregnant & He Doesn't Know What To Do

I killed you. Didn't I? DID I? Is there a "you"?

That's what they say. "One thing that comes to mind when I think of abortion: murder. What gives us the right to take another life? Maybe it's the lack of responsibility or just simply the lack of knowledge."

Am I a murderer?

I knew what I was doing. I was not innocent...or was I? At 17, I knew what abortion meant, I think. But I wasn't fully capable of understanding the psychological consequences.

Experts say that at the end of 8 weeks "your baby will be about a third of an inch long. Bones are beginning to form and fingers, toes, ankles, and wrists are developing. By now, you'll probably 'feel' pregnant and may be experiencing some of the early side effects, like morning sickness. Your weight may also have increased slightly and your breasts may be sore and tender. Until the end of week 8, your baby is known as an embryo."


I aborted you at week 8. They sucked you from my body using their specialized vacuums that didn't feel very specialized and then they tossed you in the trash like garbage. Now, I spend the rest of my life marking ghost anniversaries, reconciling choice vs. abortion. And wondering.

But I am older now. Wiser. And if I could go back, I would do the same thing. If they took away my right to govern my own body I would fight them tooth and nail. Because I believe in a woman's right to choose. I do. But I also know that each woman that makes the mother of all decisions is forever haunted by her choice. There is no black, no white... just ten shades of gray.

I found out I was pregnant on July 26, 1994. I had an abortion on August 9, 1994.

They made me wait 2 weeks because they wouldn't permit me to "terminate the pregnancy" until I was at least 8 weeks along. I wouldn't permit myself to think of the life growing inside of me as a human. Ever. Some people say you weren't human.


That you were just a mass of tissue and cells. Me? I don't know what to think. Either way, I talked to you during the long drives to nowhere. I drove and I listened to U2 and Soul Asylum. I used to drive into the Wasatch mountains and talk to you. I would throw up, listen to music, throw up some more, and attempt to explain myself. And apologize for what I was about to do.

RELATED: Man Says He Was Asked His Personal ‘Stance On Abortion’ In Job Application, Sparking Debate

"I am a mess. I can't be a mother. I can't even take care of myself." I would sob to the mass of cells multiplying inside of me. Secretly, I felt like I should put you up for adoption. After all, my best friend Natalie was adopted and she has the greatest parents ever. I successfully justified my decision to abort with very adult-sounding talk of the future and education and what's best for everyone but deep inside, I felt selfish and afraid.

So tired that I couldn't even sleep
So many secrets I couldn't keep
I promised myself I wouldn't weep
One more promise I couldnt keep


It seems no one can help me now,
I'm in too deep; there's no way out
This time I have really led myself astray...

Is there a "you?"

"PRO-CHOICE!" is the bold rallying cry for that side of the debate. No one should be able to impose their morals on my body.

I do believe those sentiments but will always struggle with this; that's not why I did what I did. At 17, I wasn't a feminist; I didn't give politics any thought. I just wanted it all to go away, to not be gossiped about. I didn't want to be pregnant and prove the Mormon neighbors right. I wanted to show them that Monica Butler was going places. 

RELATED: I Had An Herbal Abortion Because Going To A Clinic Made It Too Real


I dreamt of colleges, bricks stitched with ivy, and handsome young professors sporting argyle sweaters and tweed jackets with elbow patches, engaged in discussions about current events. I dreamt of getting away from welfare and judgment and sex-is-badbadbadbadBAD.

And so I did it. I got rid of you. And I will spend the rest of my life trying to reconcile my decision with my heart.

For me, the right to choose is important but the blanket term "pro-choice" falls short of defining my stance. It's a fist-pump of a mantra for empowerment that is becoming inextricably linked with feminism. And I'm proud of the women who fought to allow me to make the choice I made, yet "pro-choice" does little to comfort me when I think about you. 

If you exist.


Ten shades of gray.

Abortion. Termination. It means the end of something. A conclusion.

But my decision to terminate was the beginning. The beginning of thousands of what-ifs. The beginning of being haunted.


Where are you? Are you in Heaven? Does Heaven exist? Were you allowed to be born to someone else? A good mother?

A righteous mother who earned the honor to welcome you into her life? Are you on the planet somewhere, living the life that I denied you? Or are you tethered to Heaven, waiting to confront me when I die? Will I ever meet you? Are you even a person?

Where are you?

RELATED: I Was Raised In A Country Without Legal Abortion — Trust Me, You Don't Want To Experience It

Monica Bielanko writes about relationships, her personal experiences, and co-parenting with her ex. Her writing has appeared on The Huffington Post, Yahoo!, and Mom. me.