A PRO-CHOICE NOVEL THAT SPEAKS TO TODAY

June 28, 2017

About two years ago, I stopped writing this blog. I felt discouraged that my pro-choice novel, Love Means Second Chances, hadn’t taken off as I had hoped, so I stopped promoting it. But since the election of the arrogant, racist, misogynist, neofascist, anti-worker, anti-LGBTQ bigot, warmonger, capitalist pig, really bad guy, Predator in Chief, a sea change has taken place. Now there is a huge groundswell of resistance against his reactionary policies — including those targeting women’s health care and reproduction that will catastrophically affect poor women on Medicaid and/or covered by Title IX, who are disproportionately women of color.

I have been marching over the last 50 years for all sorts of progressive changes, but the current upsurge in activism is wider, deeper, more encompassing, more profound than the world has seen before. Think of two recent global actions — the Women’s March on January 21 and the Women’s Strike on March 8, International Women’s Day! Now there is an audience for my novel!

Love Means Second Chances is needed more than ever to focus attention on what legal, safe, accessible abortion means in women’s lives. Not only is it a family story about a young woman’s struggle with her devoutly Catholic mother about why she chooses to have an abortion in 1991, but it is also the mother’s story about why she got married at 18 in 1973 when she discovered she was pregnant. How do they resolve the crisis? What role does the grandmother, the father’s mother, play? The book title says it all.

One of the many strategies of those who oppose abortion is to frighten women who consider having one that they will suffer forever with guilt and shame. That is so not true. I had an abortion in 1985, and all I felt was relief and gratitude that I did not have to assume responsibility for a child I would have had to raise on my own. But over time, years after the abortion and long past the breakup with my partner, I began to feel loss — an ache in my heart. I didn’t identify it as grief then because I had not yet experienced the way one feels when loosing a parent or a close friend. No guilt, no shame, just loss — that I had lost something dear to my heart.

Fortunately, in the early 1990s as I was becoming aware of the feeling, I was the book editor of a now-defunct women’s magazine. One day a book about rituals came across my desk. As I read it, it inspired me: I could create a ritual to speak directly to the child I might have had. So one bright winter afternoon, after setting out a plant, candles and incense on my living room floor and surrounding myself with white light, I spoke to the child’s soul. I do not remember the exact words, but I wrote a scene like it in Love Means Second Chances (page 235):

[Christy] started to cry as words came to her: I light this candle for the baby I chose not to have. Wiping away her tears, she said to the tiny soul as much as to herself: I pray for you — that you are safe and secure. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be your mother now. You didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t your fault. I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t the right time for me to be your mother. I hope you’re not suffering. I don’t want you to suffer or feel rejected. That’s not it at all. I love you with my whole heart, and I only want what’s best for you — always. You must believe me. I would never harm you. That’s why I couldn’t bring you into this world now. I loved you too much to put you in a bad situation. Maybe you could come back in a few years when Ramon and I are married and settled, and we’re able to really care for you and do right by you. We couldn’t be the kind of parents now whom you deserve. Forgive us for that. I’m sorry you had to go through the abortion. I hope you didn’t suffer. I hope the love that I feel for you now — and that I will feel for you for all eternity — will help heal any hurt you may have suffered. Please, please forgive me and accept my love.

Doing the ritual erased my loss, as it did for Christy. Loss turned into soul-to-soul love, which my soul will carry forever. I knew then that I had to share that experience in the novel, which I first envisioned in 1979. I owe it to all women who have abortions to illuminate the spiritual dimension that is usually hidden. Though not all women experience loss, it is my gift to those sensitive souls who do. After the ritual, it took me another two decades to write a third draft, which I finally self-published in 2011. Now I want to share that with every woman who has had an abortion or elects to have one in these very difficult times — especially already stressed-out mothers who go to great emotional and financial lengths to secure their family’s future, to those who dare to self-abort, and those who choose to help their friends’ often desperate decisions.

My hope and intention are that this book, rooted in family and religion, will help counter the negativity, hatred and lies that shroud this highly politicized issue. That the book will help lead, in some way, to a new social order where all women, including transwomen and all who are gender nonconforming, will be able to exercise their reproductive rights and experience true reproductive freedom, justice and equality. Everyone deserves no less as part of our birthright.

 

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