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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Choice is different for Latina women. Latina women ask about a "legrado" in hushed tones, using the word that's more delicate and more ambiguous than "aborto." They explain, "I have four children and I'm out of work and my husband just left and I just missed my period and no, no, no, no, no," leaving me to draw my own conclusions, gently suggesting, "And you're interested in information about abortion?"

Latina women not only remember the time before Roe v. Wade when abortion was illegal, but they remember their home countries where abortion is still illegal. They remember people labeling them, as people, "illegals," so why wouldn't an abortion be illegal, too? When I quote prices and describe the procedure, I slip in the fact that abortion is legal and safe. Sometimes, I forget, and then the woman is about to go and meet her doctor, and she asks quietly, "Is this illegal?"

The clinic isn't the first exposure to abortion for many Latina women. Her first exposure was a sister suffering complications from an at-home abortion years ago in Mexico. Or her first exposure was the series of pills she bought from an acquaintance, pills that promised to "bring on her period," and pills that she bought right here in town because she was too ashamed and scared to do anything else.

A lot of Latina women are good Catholics, and good Catholics don't have abortions, they tell me. And then they go on to tell me the most beautiful, well thought out reasons for choosing this path. They're willing to pour their hearts out to me and to God and to themselves, and they're willing to try to believe that they are still good Catholics who made a difficult decision for the good of their families and their lives.

Latina women are the ones more likely to go through the abortion experience alone, going to extreme measures to put on a charade of going to a clinic for a "surgery on a cyst." And they're more likely to stare blankly on the pile of forms we hand them, until an interpreter comes over and quietly asks if they need help. A lot of times, it's because they stopped their schooling after elementary grades and they can't read this complicated translation of a medical history.

And Latina women are the ones who will never add her abortion story to the litany of their experiences in America. They are strong and proud and wonderful, and this is a tiny part of their stories.


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