Magazine article The American Prospect

The Women's View: The Pro-Choice Movement Has Seen Moral Complexity as Its Enemy. but Moral Complexity Is Exactly Why Choice Must Be Saved

Magazine article The American Prospect

The Women's View: The Pro-Choice Movement Has Seen Moral Complexity as Its Enemy. but Moral Complexity Is Exactly Why Choice Must Be Saved

Article excerpt

KIMBERLY WAS AT HOME WITH HER TWO SLEEPING children when her estranged husband, high on methamphetamines and angry about their impending divorce, showed up at her door last

"He came in and said he wanted to talk about child-support payments. We were fighting about everything. The divorce was not final," Kimberly said. "He raped me."

Kimberly didn't call the police because she wanted to protect her children from further trauma. Their lives had been upended during the previous two and a half years, ever since she was pregnant with her younger son and discovered that her husband was an addict. Since then, he'd quit his job, and she'd worked two; he put $50,000 on their credit cards at casinos and strip clubs; he threatened to kill her when she moved out with the boys; and he stole 8700 from her boss, costing her a part-time bookkeeping job. After taking medical leave because she feared a nervous breakdown, Kimberly was fired from her primary job in the business department of a Phoenix TV station.

Kimberly, then 33, didn't tell anyone about the rape, not even her closest friends. "I had no strength," she explained. Two weeks later, she realized she was pregnant. She didn't tell anyone about that, either.

She wanted an abortion, but she couldn't afford one. "I didn't know what to do," she said. "There was no way I could have had that baby. My ex would have killed me. That was never an option." Adoption wasn't, either. Kimberly couldn't bring herself to let her pregnancy show in Phoenix, and she couldn't leave town for several months the way women used to when they got pregnant out of wedlock. "I couldn't take my kids, and I couldn't leave them with my ex. I couldn't bring another child into this world. It came out of this ...," she said, swallowing the word "rape" as she uttered it.

So, Kimberly thought, she'd wait until she could scrape together enough money for an abortion. She had no idea how difficult that would be. "I didn't realize that the price was going up and up and up each week [as] I was going further along."

Desperate and without medical care, Kimberly went to the state for help. She qualified for Medicaid, but was told it wouldn't cover her abortion. She found a Web site that showed her how to apply to nonprofit groups for money to pay, for an abortion. The Minneapolis-based Hersey Abortion Assistance Fund offered her $100, not nearly enough. Determined not to let the fetus reach the point of viability (generally interpreted to be 24 weeks gestation in Arizona), after which the state prohibits most abortions, Kimberly applied to dozens of funds around the country and sold her TV. By the end of January, she'd pulled together $900, the amount one clinic had told her was enough to cover her second-trimester abortion. She made an appointment for the two-day procedure.

When she went in the first day; the sonogram showed that she was nearly 20 weeks into her pregnancy. The abortion would cost $1,000. She didn't have it. The doctor said Kimberly would have to get the money by the next morning or postpone the procedure another week, which would drive up the price again. She sat in a park and cried.

By the next morning, Kimberly had managed to get another $100 from an abortion fired, but the delay made her miss the training session for her brand-new state job. She lost the job.

As I listened to Kimberly pour out her story just three weeks after her abortion, I was struck not only by the tragedy of her situation, the rawness of her emotions, but by what it meant to the larger abortion debate. Here was a mother who was struggling to take care of a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old in the face of incredible psychological and financial hardships, a woman striving to make a moral decision for her family. She did not want an abortion. She didn't even want the sex that led to her pregnancy. But having had the latter forced on her, she felt the former was the best response. …

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