July 9 2004

Family, Fatherhood, and a Woman’s Choice: Two Youth Views on Abortion

Robbed of Fatherhood

By Hector Gonzalez

When I was young, immigration took most of my family. In high school, my girlfriend’s decision took the rest.

Growing up, I never had much of a family. I lived with my mother and my half sister in El Salvador until the age of 6. After that, I met my father for the first time and he brought me to the United States. When I left El Salvador, I left all my relatives; I have not seen them since. My father and I never really got along, and when he got remarried, things between us got even worse. I was 15 at the time.

Later, in high school, I finally had a chance to build a family, one that would stay with me.

I met her in my junior year, and I was completely devoted. Our relationship lasted from April of my junior year all they way to June of my senior year. She was my high school sweetheart.

We eventually became sexually active. On a hot August night before my senior year, she asked me to come over. It was close to 11 p.m. I snuck out of my house, and I had to sneak into hers so that her parents wouldn’t know. We had sex that night without protection. We didn’t have a condom and weren’t too concerned about it.

We started our senior year shortly after that night. About three weeks into the school year, my girlfriend told me that her period was late and that her breasts felt hard. We went to the nearest pharmacy to get a pregnancy test. Sure enough, it was positive. She put her head down on her kitchen table and cried.

We went to Planned Parenthood to confirm, and again the results were positive. We were both scared, but to her the idea of having a child was not even fathomable. I, on the other hand, would soon have a family member that would be mine, and could never be taken away from me. I was 17.

I was attending a Christian Church at the time. I brought up the subject to one of the youth leaders of my church and she gave me her word that she and the church would support the child and me. I was happy and excited.

When my girlfriend told me that her only option was abortion, I was torn. I did everything I could to talk her out of it. I asked her to marry me, but there was nothing I could do to change her mind. What hurt me the most was that her biggest fear was not about motherhood, but about telling her parents that she was pregnant. She was 18, so she could have an abortion without the consent of her parents. I had to accept her decision — what could I do?

I believe a woman has the right to decide whether or not she wants a fetus developing in her body. But my question is, why doesn’t the male have a voice in his possible fatherhood? To me, if the woman can abort a child without the consent of the father, and choose not to be a mother, then there should be nothing wrong with a father abandoning his children and choosing not to be a father.

I returned with her to Planned Parenthood, and on that day I lost my right as a father to a being that I helped to create.

She and I were together for eight more months after the abortion. Throughout that time, I had dreams of a baby girl. In one dream, a baby girl is in heaven, everything is white, and the baby looks at me. I realize that she is my child. She gestures with her hand for me to come closer to her, but with every step I take, the further away she goes.

I hit a big stage of depression, and for a time even felt suicidal. Eventually, I overcame my grief and went on with my life. I no longer talk to my ex-girlfriend, for reasons unrelated to her abortion, but I know that inside she is still hurt from aborting a child.

Every now and then I have conversations with people who tell me that when teenagers have children, their only option is abortion because they are not ready. I respond to them with my life as an example. My father was 15 when I was born and my mother was 16, and although I have suffered many hardships growing up because of immature parents, I’m glad and thankful that my life was not denied.

MY ABORTION

By Karina Diaz

Every time abortion is debated in the courts or the media, it stirs up the emotions of women across America. I know this because I had an abortion in 2002. I was 21, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

I was never against abortions, but I never thought I would have to consider it myself.

It was February and I had missed two periods, but was in complete denial about the morning sickness and my constant cravings for corn dogs and lemon ice cream. I ignored the symptoms until one day in class I began to feel extremely dizzy and hot. I went to the restroom but still felt strange and decided to go to the health center. On the way there my vision failed me. I could hear people around me, but couldn’t see them. I asked for help and a friend led me blind to the center. It turned out I was rapidly approaching 12 weeks of my pregnancy.

The doctor said I needed to make an appointment right away if I was going to keep the baby. Between tears I managed to let out, “I can’t keep it, I can’t keep the baby.” Millions of thoughts raced through my head. I couldn’t believe it was true. I was pursuing my education, had a long-term boyfriend who I was completely in love with. We even thought we would get married. However, I knew I could not have our child, which I did want, but not then.

The doctor gave me the information about a clinic that performed abortions and I went on my way to try to act normal.

I made an appointment for that same week because they were going to do abortions the following weekend. I went in with my sister and we waited endlessly in that room.

When I finally saw the counselor, I didn’t get a lot of counseling. She wanted to be sure that this was going to be my decision, and that I make it fast, because I was at nearly 12 weeks. I would have to go back for an ultrasound and get some things inserted in me to make it easier to perform the abortion. During the ultrasound, I desperately wanted to see that picture, to see my child, but I fought the urge to turn toward the screen.

On the day of the abortion, my boyfriend dropped me off in the parking lot and an escort helped me inside the clinic while a single “pro-lifer” waved a sign at me from the street. I was so scared. I changed into a hospital gown and went into a room already full of young women in gowns. They were all different ethnicities, mostly young, and we sat in silence for the most part. They didn’t seem nervous and I wondered what their reasons were, while I thought of my own.

When it was my turn, I slowly followed the nurse down the hallway and took a seat on the table, with fear in my heart. I placed my feet on the stirrups and laid back watching several people move about the room. I started shaking. They strapped me in, and the nurse held my hand to put the injection in my arm. My legs began to tremble and I blacked out.

When I woke up I was lying in another room, with several girls beside me. I felt a little disoriented; I think I even threw up. I put my clothes back on and my boyfriend came in to give me a ride home. I was quiet and tired and couldn’t believe it was over so quickly.

Although the physical part is over, psychologically I contine to be haunted, in thoughts, dreams, and mostly in the faces of children that would be her age.

I can never get away from that. But I also know that it was the best decision for me at the time. I should not have to defend my actions to those who have not had to make the choice themselves. I made this decision from the depths of my soul. You can never understand, and you have no right to make the choice for me.

Hector Gonzales, 21, and Karina Diaz, 23, write for Silicon Valley De-Bug (www.siliconvalleydebug.com), a Pacific News Service publication by young workers, writers and artists in Silicon Valley.

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