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“The abortion I didn’t want” but woman says it was still the right decision

by | Mar 13, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

womansketch3To begin with, you are rarely, if ever, going to find a pro-life essay at So if you read accounts there, the best you can hope for is an acknowledgement that abortion is “complex.”

But even though a writer will come to the “right” conclusion (complex but a wise decision], sometimes she will inadvertently reveal the truth about abortion (and herself) in ways that are incredibly revealing and very sad.

Put another way, what Caitlin McDonnell says about the child she extinguished and how she felt at the time, belies her bottom-line conclusion that she is better off—and likely the dead baby, too (“Sometimes it’s the ultimate act of generosity,” her long-time therapist reassures her).

The moral of ””The abortion I didn’t want: Afterward, I felt grief, emptiness — and relief. Why don’t we tell stories that are emotionally complicated, too?” is only a few paragraphs in:

Mine is a story of an abortion I didn’t want but chose to go through with anyway. It’s a grief I live with. It’s my grief. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why wouldn’t she have it any other way? McDonnell tells us because

If I had remained pregnant, I’d have been bringing into the world a child with a dearth of stability and a father who’d stated clearly he didn’t want him. I think I probably would have made it work somehow, but my wanting a child at that point was not compatible with the reality of my circumstances and it would have tied me irrevocably to a man I didn’t trust.

You really should read “The abortion I didn’t want,” so let me mull over just a few of the remarkable statements.

She begins by recalling the day of the abortion and “being held down by three young clinicians while a doctor performs the procedure.

There are tapestries and Georgia O’Keeffe prints on the walls. I can’t move or see what’s beneath my knees. My body resists; I do not want this. The hands restrain me until it’s done.

‘You’re not pregnant anymore,’ the doctor says, and then leaves the room.”

It isn’t until well into the essay that we discover the McDonnell had asked that they pin her down. Why?

I needed to end my pregnancy — and not think about being an arbiter of life and death, at least not that day. I asked them to hold me down because I was afraid my body might resist. What they did for me that day was heroic and kind.

So…she is saying….hold me down because my body is saying “NO!!!!!” but thanks guys for your heroic actions. Think about that message for a minute—what’s on the surface and what’s below.


And what does it mean that as she drives across country to move in with a guy she hardly knows that she tells us that she’d sung along with Fiona Apple’s song, “A mistake” the whole way? The operative lyrics?

“I’m going to make a mistake / I’m going to do it on purpose.”

Which of her mistakes? Which incorrect decision that she did “on purpose”?

For our purposes here, the most revealing passages come early–before she starts philosophizing about why her abortion, while an object of regret, was the correction decision.

She tells her boyfriend she is pregnant. And

When I told him my news, he said he needed to take a walk. When he returned, he looked at me with a defiant distance in his eyes.

“This is the worst thing I’m going to do in my whole life, but no part of me wants to take this journey with you.” It felt like someone was reading a horrible line from a play. I wanted to hand him a different line, and tried to, for weeks, months. I was in the kind of love with him that shocks the system with its compelling wrongness. We were in a standoff.

McDonnell keeps finding excuses not to abort. Her boyfriend’s contribution?

How do you think you’re going to do it, he kept asking, how?

“How”? Again, there are multiple possible meanings that we will leave for another day. One meaning is unambiguous: what a jerk!

In the bio that comes at the end of the essay, McDonnell is described as “as a poet/writer/teacher/mother who lives in Brooklyn.”

That is important because after she has her abortion, and while still in a fog, McDonnell asks (indirectly) when will it all get better—that is, when will the pain ease? McDonnell is told “’Not until you have a baby,’ she answered, from her own experience.”

And McDonnell does now have a child—“the most amazing daughter in the world. She knows she has always been wanted.”

But then the ultimate duck, McDonnell’s way of explaining a decision which (based on statements weaved throughout the story) was very much at odds with who is was and is:

I accept the sadness that accompanies the choices I’ve made, both by seizing my agency and by ducking it. I live with the grief of my abortion in the same way I live with the grief of many paths not taken. They are all part of the story that got me here.

Some paths you take (allow your unborn child to be born), some you don’t (you have three people hold you down so the “agency” is not yours when the abortionist takes the life of that unborn child).

Your story is what it is, the culmination of all the paths you did and didn’t take.

So, so terribly sad that she didn’t take the path less traveled. It would have taken courage, but, as McDonnell has come to acknowledge, she did have a choice.

Tragically for the baby, she chose poorly.

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Categories: Abortion
Tags: abortion