Readers debate author Laura Walters decision to terminate her pregnancy during the breakup of her marriage.

By Salon Staff
Published August 24, 2004 4:35PM (EDT)

[Read "Aborting My Marriage," by Laura Walters.]

I found Laura Walters' article "Aborting My Marriage" unspeakably sad. As a liberal, pro-choice Christian, it's easier to believe in black-and-white, life or death, "get the government out of my body" generalities. It's infinitely harder to face the various shades of gray. As a mother who very much yearned and planned for her children, it isn't so much of a stretch to imagine myself in a situation where I might have considered abortion, and that is very scary. Perhaps that is behind so much of the rhetoric from the pro-lifers -- the fear that somewhere inside, we're all capable of opting for one. To me, this article further illustrates the need for choice, and that sweeping generalities only mask the messy, painful, tortuous road women face, no matter what their final decision is.

-- Stephanie Littleton

I can't believe that I am writing this letter. I have always been steadfastly in favor of a woman's right to choose an abortion. I still am. But Laura Walters' story has made me seriously reconsider my stance.

Should a person really have a right to make these choices? Ms. Walters chose to marry her husband, to become pregnant. When she confronted her husband about the pregnancy, she still hoped he would "assure me that we'd work things out, that he'd take care of me." When he didn't, she terminated the pregnancy.

Why not do something admirable, like give the child up for adoption or raise the child on your own? Why does a woman of 37 feel that she can't stand on her own feet? It seems she still blames her ex-husband for the choices she made.

I'm tired of hearing about women who are unwilling to do anything difficult, yet shield themselves behind the mantle of "feminism." Surely we can do better.

Feel free to print my real name. I have nothing to hide.

-- Kristen Coughlin

Thank you to both Salon and the writer of this thoughtful piece for the honest exploration of this very personal topic. There are few venues (on the Internet and elsewhere) for women to discuss their complicated and changing emotions about marriage, child care and abortion in a society that continues to hold very narrow definitions of femininity, mothering and womanhood in general. When women do express their ambivalence toward being pushed into this motherhood box by the media, relatives and the larger culture, they run the risk of being portrayed as the odd exception in a culture that is insistent on the primacy of motherhood. I just wanted to say that, as another 37-year-old woman who has experienced similar feelings as the writer in relation to this topic, I felt somewhat less alone.

-- Patricia Gott

Though I respect and have been personally witness to the difficulty of others' abortions, Ms Walter's situation does not elicit too much sympathy from me.

Unlike most situations resulting in abortion, she tried to get pregnant, and after succeeding, she aborted because she realized that to "a woman like me who'd lived an independent life, the idea of giving birth and raising children began to seem almost a retro, labor-intensive enterprise, like growing your own vegetables or sewing your own clothes." This "independent woman" wasn't independent enough, however, to leave an emotionally barren marriage or get back on the Pill. Not only is this far too little, too late, it's an insult to the very modern women (and men) who choose to invest time in raising children.

Women who choose not to have kids should be proud of their decision, too -- but these women, from what I understand, do not, in fact, try to make babies anyway.

-- D. Mountz

This was one of the saddest things I've ever read. The author expresses grief over the fact that she will probably never have a child, seemingly not realizing that she did have a child -- for the few weeks or months before she aborted it. The real tragedy is that her fear of the burden on her "lifestyle" led her to end her child's life.

-- Cassandra Cavanaugh

Please thank the author for submitting such a personal and soul-baring article. I read it and felt deep sympathy for her, and I hope she finds happiness and fulfillment. She will probably only then realize how making that difficult decision was absolutely her only real choice.

-- Katie Carlin

When I began reading Ms. Walters' essay I couldn't help feeling a bit of the old "so what?" What should I find compelling in the story of an educated, presumably white and well-paid woman giving up her pregnancy because she found herself with a selfish, unsupportive partner? But something about her voice pulled me along. By the end I felt deeply for her, alone in her apartment, free of her bad marriage and the child that would have complicated it further, yes, but still wondering if she has made an irrevocable mess of her life. There are a lot of us in the world: rich and poor, male and female, white and non-white, living with our decisions and wondering the same thing.

-- Michael Hamilton

Salon Staff

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