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1970s Rocker’s memoir tells of being haunted by her abortion, regretting her abortion, but defends “right” to abortion anyway

by | Nov 25, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

clothesmusicboysbookBack in late April, I ran across a blurb for a forthcoming book, “Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys,” the memoir of Viv Albertine.

As I said at the time, I didn’t have a clue who she was. Turns out Albertine was the star of the 1970s all-girl punk band, “The Slits,” a group that was hugely influential in breaking through in a very much male-dominated industry.

Albertine had an abortion in 1978 “rather than give up her career,” as publicity blurb for the book puts it. In the years to come Albertine tried IVF treatments eleven times and “lost two babies before finally becoming mother to a little girl in 1999.”

In the book, she writes, “I didn’t regret the abortion for 20 years. But eventually I did and I still regret it now. I wish I’d kept the baby, whatever the cost. It’s hard to live with.”

Well today I ran across a long excerpt from the book in which she described her abortion. What else do we learn?

To begin with Albertine is remarkably articulate and brutally honest. When she becomes pregnant, she tells us that her “mum” offered to help raise the baby and, if not that, suggested adoption as an alternative. Read the following section and how Albertine (looking back at her much younger self) recalls what she was thinking… the rationalizations she employed

Mum suggests adoption, but I think that’s crueller than death. That’s my opinion. To burden a child with abandonment and rejection right from the start. A living death. All or nothing, that’s me. I choose nothing. Nothingness for baby. I think this is a responsible decision. I will not countenance any other option.

“Nothingness”—a desire for emotional numbness–is the unmistakable theme that runs through her very sad and very revealing account. Before she leaves for the abortion clinic, Albertine calls her boyfriend to tell him

that I’m pregnant and I’m off to the hospital to deal with it on my own. He offers to come with me but I don’t want him to. I don’t want to feel anything. If he’s there I might feel something.

The day after her abortion

I can’t sleep. I think about the terrifying power that women and mothers have. We don’t need to fight in wars. We have nothing to prove. We have the power to kill and lots of us have used it. How many of you boys have ever killed anyone? I have. I’ve killed a baby. It doesn’t get much worse than that. Maybe your mother has secretly used her power to kill in the past and not told you. Maybe she even thought about doing it to you. It’s a secret and a burden she carries with her.

One other particularly telling quote. She meets a guy, Jeannot, who crushes her confidence with a dismissive putdown and then offers her heroin.

I laugh it off but inside I’m crushed. I have no confidence. It’s been sucked out of me with the baby. Jeannot offers me heroin. I’m tempted. Not because I want to forget what I’ve done, or because I’m so down, even though both are true, but because I’ve lost my identity. I haven’t a clue who I am. I feel like a nothing. But I know without a doubt, if I take heroin now, I will destroy the tiny morsel of myself that is left, I will be lost forever.

She will subsequently have plenty of trouble with drugs but this time she says no. She describes looking out her hotel window and considering the tradeoffs:

So this is what I’ve chosen over a baby: the Slits [her band], gigging, hotel rooms, music, self-expression, loneliness. It was the right decision – wasn’t it? I wish I was at home with Mum.

As I wrote back in April, Albertine ends on a semi-defiant note. Having said all of the above (how “I wish I’d kept the baby, whatever the cost. It’s hard to live with”), she ends, “I still defend a woman’s right to choose. To have control over her own body and life. That cannot and must not ever be taken away from us.”

Really? Is that her head speaking? Is that her heart speaking?

I think it is neither.

Categories: Abortion Celebrities