Protecting the Children


My report cards when I was a kid are pretty consistent – I was quiet, reserved, smart, and helpful. I was not a drama queen, nor did I take risks. So I think I surprised myself, as well as those who knew me, in December 1985 when I had my first real experience of being courageous. It was the first time I felt the protectiveness of a lioness.

I was an accountant for a CPA firm in Boston. My boyfriend had taken the day off work with three of his buddies and they had been holiday shopping. They decided to stop at Clark’s, a bar around the corner from my office, before heading home. The bar was loud as I wended my way through the crowd to meet them after work.  

Mark was excited to show me his purchases. He was particularly pleased with a sweater he had chosen for his sister, his eyes dancing with delight as he showed it to me. As we were looking through the rest of his gifts, three women came over, flirting with his friends. They did not stay long and we laughed when they left about the guys getting “hit on.” Not much later, we put on our coats and reached for our belongings. Mark, however, couldn’t find several of his bags, including the one containing the sweater for his sister. We searched and searched, but the bags were gone. It seemed clear that the young women who stopped to flirt were probably not flirting at all, they were setting us up to pilfer the packages. John remembered they had said they were going to Houlihan’s at the other end of Faneuil Hall next. Mark wasn’t too happy thinking about giving up that sweater, and we were both on tight budgets.

It seemed clear: we had to go after them.

Mark, not one to be confrontational, was not excited about tracking the thieves down. His buddies were embarrassed to have been so easily deceived and they were not anxious to meet up with the women again either. But I persisted, and off we went. 

When we got to Houlihan’s, the women were nowhere in sight. We spoke with the hostess, and learned they were in the ladies’ room. Where the guys had hesitated before, I knew they were certainly not going in with me now. I marched into the bathroom. There they were, primping in front of the mirror when I burst in. 

Somehow, it came naturally to me to stand in front of the door, blocking the women’s exit until I had all Mark’s gifts back. I am 5’2” and not a physically dominating presence by any means. But the women handed over the bags.

When I came out carrying Mark’s bags, I am not sure who was more surprised by my actions, them or me. 

I have thought about this encounter many times over the years. It seems symbolic of a protective fierceness I did not know I had. I believe most women have this lioness instinct when it comes to protecting our loved ones. Our bodies were made to create life, and it is natural for us to want to protect life.

So how, then, do we come to have abortions? For myself and for many of the women I have spoken to over the years, we believe we are protecting our children when we choose to have an abortion. I remember for myself feeling that both my baby's life and my own would be dramatically different in a very hard way if I continued with the pregnancy. I foresaw divorce and hard work to make ends meet for myself. I envisioned poverty for both of us.

Was it instinct, intuition, or fear?  Our past ( or present ( experiences might have informed us that it is not safe to bring a child into the world and we believe we are protecting our children in making a choice to abort. I wonder, if I had such a strong instinct to protect my boyfriend's sweater, that maybe my instinct to choose an abortion was also a protective mechanism.

When I think back on my grandmother's situation, knowing she chose an abortion at a time when it was not only illegal, but when she could have lost her life (during the Great Depression), I see a woman of great courage. I imagine that with a frail baby and small income already, her choice was made not just to protect her unborn child, but the child she already in her arms. As I wonder about her state of mind some eighty years ago when she made her choice, I find myself awed by her courage.

As I contemplate my situation and that of the many women I have known who have made the same choice, I believe we are each doing what we feel is right to protect the our unborn, and sometimes already born, children. It is not an easy choice, but it is often the most courageous one.


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