Telling Their Stories: Puerto Rican Women and Abortion

By Jean P. Peterman | Go to book overview

5
The Cultural Story and the Decision to Get an Abortion

In this chapter I will return to the narratives about abortion in order to examine how the cultural story each woman grew up with affected her abortion experience, and how that experience, in turn, might have affected her beliefs. In the course of telling me her story, each woman described certain cultural values (the cultural story) that she grew up with, and may still hold. In some cases, these values were transmitted chiefly by her mother and other family members. In other cases, the woman mentioned her church or her friends, in addition to family, as sources of cultural values. In most cases (fifteen), these values, and the source of these values, had an effect on who the woman told about her pregnancy, or whether she discussed it at all. Ten women stated that the conflict between their upbringing and their decision to get an abortion made the decision difficult. Five stated that they wished they had more time or opportunity to talk about their decision before actually making it. The importance of the family as a source of values, and a needed (but usually unavailable) source of support in the abortion experience indicate the interdependence and respect that characterize Latina family life.

Throughout the narratives, there was little variation about the cultural story. Women's descriptions of their upbringing, whether or not the family was religious, resonate with themes discussed in the previous chapter: virginity prior to marriage, sexual shame, the importance of family, and the belief that abortion is wrong. Only one woman, Mayra, told me that she was raised (by her maternal grandmother) to "make my own choices" about important life decisions. For thirteen women, the abortion experience was in some way empowering. That is, it allowed them to confirm, or reconfirm, that, in Mayra's words, "my life belonged to me."

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