Just Glad to Be Here

STAN SINBERG

February 18, 1993|By STAN SINBERG

MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA — Mill Valley, California.--On the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which gave women a constitutional right to abortion, President Clinton reversed several Bush positions, making it easier for women to get them.

Great. Super. It's about time.

Except that recently something happened that put me through some changes on the subject.

I was sitting at a wedding, next to my mother, a woman who can go years without talking about her past, when I expressed surprise that a cousin of mine, who'd been married just a year, already had a baby boy. An innocent comment. Made without forethought. Something to say to pass the time. But not to my mother. For some reason, this was a clarion call to tell me the unknown story of my birth.

''I wouldn't talk,'' my mother said. ''You were a little early too, you know.''

As in ''illegitimate'' early.

All right, this part I knew. But only because when I was 23, I made plans to throw my parents a surprise 25th wedding anniversary party, and I was halfway through the guest list when dTC called my aunt, and she told me it was really the 24th anniversary. Which meant that my parents ''had'' to get married.

Now some 17 years after I hastily canceled the party, my mother decided to tell me herself.

She could've stopped there, of course, and that would've served me nicely for another 17 years, thank you. But no-o-oo.

She sipped a spoonful of cream of carrot soup, and added, ''I tried to have an abortion.''

The entire banquet could hear the clunk of my soup spoon.

''WHAT?''

L ''Your father said he would ask around if anyone did them.''

My mother was saying this as casually as if she had just bought a new pair of shoes.

I was agog. ''So -- ah -- what -- what happened?'' I sputtered.

My mother shook her head. '' I didn't have one.''

''Mom, I KNOW you didn't have one. But why?''

''Your father said he couldn't find anyone. But I don't think he really tried.''

My mother went on to say that she wanted the abortion because she didn't want to wear a wedding gown being pregnant.

Oh, well as long as there was a good reason.

''So you can thank your father you're here today. Now don't ask me any more questions.''

I was stunned. Me -- an unwanted love child! It was a little hard to go back to making small talk about the bride's wedding gown.

Not only that but I owed my existence to repressive social legislation.

The ironies kicked in. Here I am, a pro-choice supporter, alive because my mother was deprived of hers.

And the parallels were striking. A few years ago, when I was about my father's age in this story, my girl friend also chose to have an abortion, and I favored having the child. And if we had, we also would've ''had'' to get married.

The difference between then and now is that my girl friend didn't have to depend on me wandering through pool halls to find someone who could perform an abortion.

Anyway, the metaphysical implications are mind-boggling: Am I even entitled to have an opinion on this subject any more? I mean, if my pro-choice position had been law in my mother's day, I wouldn't be around today to advocate it.

Don't misunderstand: I'm glad President Clinton reversed President Bush's policy on abortion counseling and fetal-tissue research, etc.

It's just that it's pretty hard to not come out sounding like a hypocrite when the most ringing endorsement you can honestly muster is: ''Sure, I'm pro-choice. Now.''

Stan Sinberg is a journalist.

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