I was one of the people in the crowd at NN12 who stood up - to voluntarily break anonymity- to come out of the closet about my abortion. Afterwards - last Sunday before leaving Providence I told my pastor and the 9th CD Chair (who also attended Netroots) the rest of the story. I want to share it with Darcy.
At 14 and a sophomore in HS my sister became pregnant and delivered a beautiful girl. I was the older sister who as a Senior in HS would take my sister to long, drawn out, all day appointments within the Medicaid system at University Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida. We rode buses back and forth and sometimes I drove. I knew I never wanted to have a child under those circumstances; she was spoken to rudely, quantified, and categorized. At the time I didn't want children at all thinking what a horrible world in which to bring life.
I found Planned Parenthood by way of other girls who whispered we could get free pills and I was aggravated that my sister did not use hers. You see, as her big sister I tried to look out for her because we had very rough childhoods and I thought she made choices that made it harder on herself. She chose to marry and have a baby to move out of our house. I waited until I was 18 to run away.
I found myself pregnant at 21 and had long conversations with my boyfriend and he and I agreed we were not ready. We had no home, we were working intermittently and he took me to have the abortion. He shamed me later by saying "I" didn't want his baby, and that was not how it went at all. Two adults made a decision together. Ultimately, it was my decision and I knew it was the right one for me. I know that now.
When I stood up in the darkened crowd at NN12 a healing came upon me. I felt grief, hurt, and despair lift from my shoulders. That is what brought the conversation around to an inner revelation the last Sunday morning in Providence. You see my sister shot herself back in the '80s, leaving her 5 and 3 yr old. I was inconsolable.
I was 22 or so when sister died. I asked my Mother to please help me get an apartment of my own and help me leave the man I had been with since high school. They did. I recall working for minimum wage in 1985 and making it for almost 6 or 7 months. You see I fell off a bicycle and broke my foot. No workers compensation; my job said they would hold my place for 6 weeks. As time progressed bills came due, lights, heat, and rent. Mother took me to the City Welfare to get help with my bills. They had no money for one such as me. (Single woman who had no children) They paid half the rent and sent me to a Catholic Church who paid one month lights, THEN I had to wait 2 more weeks in a cast for my bone to heal and my employer gave my job to someone else. They could not wait any longer. I literally cried for days. My Mother was just divorcing and I had no family for 750 miles.
As I applied for Food Stamps, HUD, and the like I was told over and over again that "if I had children" I could get housing and help. Now the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say. I moved back in with the same boyfriend who beat me (he was all I knew) and was pregnant within a year. I knew I would leave him as soon as possible;and I did when she was just 2 months old.
How is it that we live in a system that suggests it empowers women when there are so many more like me? I would never want to tell my children that they were unwanted, I took extreme care to be the best Mother I could be for the two girls I had, its just that in revealing the story it relays back both the disgust that I had to have a man to take care of me and the fact that little has changed within this corrupt system of discrimination. I share my story with you Darcy because there is far more shame to be lifted from women like myself who had NO OTHER WAY OUT of extreme poverty. I watched my own daughter, 23 years old live in an efficiency for a year working for a little over minimum wage and thought NOTHING has changed. She did not marry and she is now starting her Bachelor's at Georgia University. My other daughter is childless and single as well. Perhaps I like to think I have broken the chain of poverty and fear with my two girls. I know it is not so for millions of others.
This two sided conversation about women's rights is polluted. I for one will tell it from the mountain tops and am thankful Darcy Burner and Netroots2012 helped me heal and now reveal the other "dirty secret" that I have held for so long - that I had children to improve my life without a man. I am a white woman coming out because I get so sick of Conservatives talking about color as if some women use the system and others do not. The truth is women need help to become independent and how are we to survive in a mans world ? I stand with you Darcy and I stand for all of the women who made the choice that I did. I stand with you all, always.
Thanks for the inspiring message of hope and I hope my story encourages others. Please, if you ever come South, we would love to have you visit Georgia. I have 24 rural counties that I oversee as Congressional District 1 Chair, I am also going as a Delegate this year to the Convention. That's a first for our family! Women can achieve and overcome, we need help and encouragement and most of all leaders like yourself. I role model the change I seek in the world around me, that is why I write this open letter Darcy. I pray you win your election; we need brave, fearless women to lead us all to a more perfect day. It is more empowering to have strong ethics than to ever Kai-tow down to a lie. I thank you sincerely for freeing me of the past and I hope we will free many more women with legislation and help that they as citizens so deserve.
We all matter democratically, and I remain in service,
1st CD Chair at Democratic Party of Georgia
Founder of Team Rural / Redneck Party
7:31 PM PT: My oldest daughter pointed out that I was remiss to share with you all that we were married for 7 years before we had our 1st baby. I was 28 years and 33 years respectively when I had my children. I know when both of my children were conceived and they changed my life. I didn't have the best plan in place, however, it will always be the pivotal moment for me as a woman. That baby smiled at me and I had to protect her, or so I thought. That is another story for another day.
Thank you all for receiving me so kindly at the KOS.