Memories of abortion haunt one S.D. woman

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

When she was growing up, Abby’s (not her real name) mother told her that if she ever discovered she was pregnant, she could always come home.

“My mother always told me ‘If any of my girls ever get pregnant and they don’t know where to go, they can always bring that baby home to me and I’ll raise it,'” she said.

She smiles. Her mother raised six children and the offer was understandable from a woman who knew more than most could hope to know about child care.

Of course, things didn’t quite work out that way. Things rarely work out the way we plan them in our heads.

For Abby, things were no different.


Abby contacted the Collegian after we ran the second part of our series on pregnancy last week. Dealing with abortion, the article attempted to find the personal stories behind this very politicized issue. Unfortunately, no women would talk to us about their abortions or even their brief consideration of abortion.

No women but Abby, that is.

In an e-mail sent to the Collegian’s account, Abby simply said “I thought I could tell you about my experience with abortion.”

This is Abby’s story.


Growing up, Abby was a fun-loving girl who enjoyed writing, singing, dancing, music, reading and cars. She says she wasn’t a perfect Catholic school girl but she did go to church every Sunday and even sang in the choir.

When she was 20, Abby fell in love, as so many girls her age do. She was swept away by a young man who seemed caring and kind. After six months, she had to go overseas.

“It was just horribly tragic to be separated from him,” she says with a wry smile, “and when I was over there, I ran short on my prescription for my birth control.”

Upon returning, Abby and her boyfriend went to a concert in Minneapolis and shared a hotel room. They later determined that that was the night she became pregnant.

Abby first considered carrying the baby to term and bringing it home to her mother. Her boyfriend, however, did not think that was a good idea. He said his family would have nothing to do with the child, that he wanted nothing to do with it and that they were not financially responsible enough.

“He was all, ‘Let’s keep it a secret. Nobody can know. It will ruin my reputation.'” She looks down at the table, her hand clutching a Mello Yello bottle with white knuckles. “It really bothered me that he put his reputation before me.”

She made an appointment at Planned Parenthood in early September and drove down to Sioux Falls one bright Tuesday to have an abortion. For whatever reason, though, terrorists chose that day to attack the United States.

Alone in the clinic (her boyfriend had class and had sent her with a blank check), Abby wondered if she was supposed to go through with the abortion after all.

“I was down there by myself and the planes were crashing on the TV and the nurse comes in and says, ‘Our doctor is stuck in Minneapolis,'” Abby recalls. “I seriously thought that, hey, maybe this isn’t supposed to happen and maybe there’s a reason why I got sent home.”

She made another appointment, though, and her boyfriend drove her back to Sioux Falls because she simply could not. She felt too sick at the decision she had to make.

In the end, though, Abby went through with it. After 12 weeks, she terminated her pregnancy. Despite the circumstances, Abby feels the choice was her own. She appreciates the fact that she was able to make that choice, even if it sometimes causes her pain.

“It was my own choice. At the time, I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “It’s one of those things you look back on and you wonder, ‘What if …'”

Abby has a nephew that is about the same age her child would have been. To this day, she has trouble looking at him.

Abby and her boyfriend broke up. He chose a different path, becoming very religious. She lived alone with her pain, finding herself sleeping in the campus Catholic church at night, where the priests helped her come to terms with her decisions.

Now, she has mellowed. Once a year, she has nightmares and “Choose Life” billboards still make her pull over her car and cry, but she has come to the other end of her longing. She has begun to write again and will re-enroll at SDSU in May.

Abby does not know if she would make the same choice if she were confronted with it again, but she remains firmly pro-choice. In the waiting room, she saw a 13-year-old girl and a poor family who could not afford another child. She remains pro-choice for them. She also believes that if what she and they did was wrong, forgiveness awaits them after death.

“I think that you have to make choices sometimes and I think that’s why we’re put on this Earth is to make those decisions and to see how we’ll deal with situations,” she says.

Slowly, she is dealing.

Slowly, she picks up her life.