Silence also allows menacing myths about abortion to thrive. Most Americans believe the procedure to be less common than it is, and more dangerous. No wonder: According to one study, on television 5 percent of all female characters who choose abortion die — a figure that is 7,000 times the actual, very low real-life mortality rate. As for the popular perception that women regret their abortions, 95 percent of women who end their pregnancies say they believe they made the right decision. Oh, and the stereotype that women who get abortions are selfish or unmaternal? Well, the majority already have one child, studies show. But for a young woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy, those are terrifying misperceptions to contend with.
It’s time for those of us who know and have lived the truth to raise our hands and say no, this is the real story: Many of us have been here before you, and we are here for you, and we will not let your rights be rolled back. With that in mind, I recently told my own 15-year-old daughter about the choice I’d made. To my surprise, I cried as I described my life that year — the confusion, my mother’s illness — and though she was just a kid, not much younger than I had been then, she wiped my tears. I told her that I felt immense gratitude for the life I have been able to build, for the two children I’ve been able to care and provide for, for the marriage I could choose freely, for the dreams I was able to pursue. And all of it, I told her, was made possible by my right to decide when I was ready to be a mother.