Courageous Woman: My Choice for Life
After Roe vs. Wade abortions were legal and easy to get. Planned Parenthood clinics were abundant and easily accessible. Abortion had become the instant quick fix nationwide. I was impressionable, lacking in hard-core common sense and ignorant when it came to the knowledge and insight that comes with age. Had I been then, the person I am now, I would have told Terry to get lost. Instead, heartbroken and crushed, I unwittingly let him drive me to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Houston.
Lisa Matl with husband Peter and their 7 beautiful children
GOLIAD, TEXAS (Catholic Online) - Forty two years ago in January of 1970, after being taught morals and values, I found myself pregnant. I was only fifteen years old. It was a shocking surprise and we all went through the gamut of emotions: alarm, concern, fear, worry and confusion.
A little baby, a human being, was at stake here.
My family and I, and the baby's father, Chuck, and his family had some serious decisions to make, but abortion was not one of them. For one thing, abortion was illegal in 1970, and for most people, immoral as well.
My mother, I think in sheer desperation, did quietly mention abortion to me as I lay in my bed one evening. Sitting next to me on the edge of the bed, she posed it as a question, but then quickly shook her head and dismissed the subject saying abortion was not possible.
She never mentioned it again.
Had abortion been legal and convenient then as it is now, my parents may very well have considered it as the easy way out.
My baby deserved life and a future just as much as anyone, and ending its life, thankfully, was not an option.
We lived in the small town of Alice, Texas and in 1970 teenage pregnancy was not as commonplace as it is today.
For several days, both families grappled with the news, pondering what course of action should be taken. In the meantime, I began pre-natal care with a local obstetrician. I experienced my first gynecological exams and suffered embarrassment and humiliation at my predicament as I continued my sophomore year of high school.
Being faithful and devout Catholics, Chuck's parents were understandably fearful of uniting us in a church marriage. They knew that statistically, our marriage would ultimately fail. They suggested rather strongly that we put the baby up for adoption. My parents however, adamantly refused. They could not fathom giving away their own flesh and blood. Still a child myself, I had no particular convictions either way and followed my parents' wishes, deciding against adoption.
Negotiations and discussions continued between our families. Finally, my parents drove over to his parents' home with the proverbial "shotgun" and threatened to charge Chuck with statutory rape (he was eighteen) if they would not agree to a lawful marriage between the two of us which would, of course, commit him to financial support of the child. A church wedding was out of the question, but both families agreed to a civil ceremony.
Chuck, his parents, my parents, and I did the deed one cold afternoon in late January. Following the somber ceremony, we all went out for lunch at Ship Ahoy Seafood Restaurant, and afterward I went home with my parents and Chuck went home with his.
My parents were somewhat appeased - they got a legal union between us, but his parents were still reluctant to have us "act out" or consummate the marriage by living together. As Catholics, this would have been sinful since we had not married in the Church. It was hard for both sets of parents, I know, because we were so very young, still children ourselves.
Chuck and I continued to attend high school. I hid my growing belly under large, loose dresses and blouses, missed early classes because of morning sickness, and desperately fought against dizziness and nausea during the long, hot afternoons. We had no air conditioning in the schools back then. This arrangement continued until my parents stepped up once again and insisted that we live together as man and wife. So, I turned sixteen in February and moved in with his family until I finished tenth grade and Chuck graduated from high school.
That summer Chuck and I moved to Kingsville, about thirty miles from Alice. Chuck began college at Texas A&I. Our daughter, Lisa, was born in September and I became an official high school dropout and teenage mother.
I missed out on the traditional high school parties and dances, football games and pep rallies. I never attended a prom. Instead, I cooked cleaned, shopped and changed diapers. I had to learn about babies, diapers, loose stools, cracked and bleeding nipples, staying up all night, hospitals, croup and croup tents, vaporizers, diaper rash, etc.
Chuck and I stayed married about two years. Not surprisingly, we divorced and I moved back home with my parents. I enjoyed taking some college classes, but living at home was not fun and I became restless and lonely. I longed to go out and date again, so when a friend set me up on a blind date, I couldn't wait! Maybe I was craving love and attention, maybe I was just eager to get out of my parents' house, or maybe I was simply a victim of the times, but I fell in love immediately.
It was the seventies and the sexual revolution that began in the early sixties had reached my neck of the woods.
Sex without guilt. If it feels good do it. Free love. These were the slogans I was becoming accustomed to. Throwing caution to the wind, I fell headlong into this new relationship and was thrilled, excited and happy. Terry and I had fun together and I took advantage of my parents as babysitters while I went out as often as I could. I thought we were in love and he was the one for me.
In November, 1973, I found myself pregnant again. Though I was only nineteen and still a teenager, I was not the innocent, helpless child I had been at fifteen. This time, I hid my pregnancy from my parents, confident that Terry and I would marry soon and all would be well. I was wrong.
Terry balked, making it clear that he did not want to marry me. He even accused me of "trapping" him by getting pregnant on purpose. I had been careless and ignorant with birth control, but I had not done what he accused me of.
Even though he had been raised a Catholic, Terry wanted me to get an abortion.
Feeling hurt and betrayed, and even desperate, I decided it was the only way I could prove to him that I had not done this on purpose.
After the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling earlier that year, abortions were now legal and easy to get. No big deal. Planned Parenthood clinics were abundant and easily accessible. Abortion had become the instant quick fix nationwide.
I was impressionable, lacking in hard-core common sense and ignorant when it came to the knowledge and insight that comes with age. Had I been then, the person I am now, I would have told Terry to get lost.
Instead, heartbroken and crushed, I unwittingly let him drive me to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Houston.
The building was large, white and scary.
Overwhelmed with fear, I ascended the steps and entered the building.
Terry escorted me inside where I signed in and then he left me in the waiting room which was full of girls, most of them very young like me. Some were alone and some even had their mothers with them.
I remember a set of identical twins, two blonde girls, sitting across from me, and wondered if they were both getting abortions or if one was simply there for moral support.
To this day, I cannot remember seeing any boys or men in that room.
My name was called and I was led into a small office and seated in a hard chair facing a woman sitting behind a desk. She shuffled some papers and without looking up and in a very businesslike manner asked me a few basic questions and wrote on the papers. She gave me some simple instructions on how to take care of myself after the procedure including activities to avoid and problems I should look out for. But as for the procedure itself, she said not a word.
Looking back now, I realize I didn't have a clue about what an abortion actually entailed. All I knew was that I would no longer be pregnant.
I had no idea how the "fetus" would be removed or what would happen to it.
When the paperwork was completed, a nurse came for me. She was actually a little more friendly and the first person to smile at me that day. She led me down a hall into what I guess was the operating room, and handing me a sheet to cover myself, instructed me to remove my clothing from the waist down. I did so and with the sheet wrapped around me, climbed up onto the examining table, where she helped me into position with my knees wide apart and my feet in stirrups. When she left, I lay there open and exposed, completely enveloped in fear and dread with no idea what lay ahead.
When the doctor came in, followed by the nurse, he never even looked at me. In a hurried and no nonsense manner he went straight to the end of the examining table, slipped on surgical gloves, and began an exam. In less than a minute, he jerked his head up, looked toward the nurse and exclaimed with little emotion, "We can't do this. She's too far along."
All I can remember then was a physical whoosh, a rush of relief as my whole being instantly relaxed and without thinking blurted out, "Thank goodness!"
Then for the first time since entering the room, that doctor looked at me.
I tensed up again as I saw the anger in his eyes. He frowned and said sternly, "Now you'll just have to go somewhere else!" Without waiting for a response, he abruptly turned and left the room.
I don't remember getting off that table or even getting dressed. All I remember is feeling ecstatic with relief and a tremendous urge to literally jump for joy.
I left that room and searched for the exit. Passing once more through the waiting room, I looked around at all the pretty, sad faces and felt so overwhelmingly sorry for them. I remember thinking how fortunate I was to not be one of them.
Then I met Terry at the top of the steps outside the building. He looked at me questioningly. "Well?"
"They didn't do it," I told him.
"What?" he asked in surprise.
I explained to him that the doctor said I was too far along and I would have to go somewhere else to do it. I saw the relief in his eyes and thanked my lucky stars.
We never did go to another clinic. Maybe his Catholic upbringing got the better of him. Maybe he cared about me after all. I only know he had a change of heart and decided to marry me.
Oftentimes I think about what happened that day. Though I did nothing to deserve God's hand in stopping what was about to happen, I can only believe it was divine intervention. There was no possible way I could have been more than twelve weeks along in the pregnancy. I had only missed two periods and the math just didn't add up. I don't question it any more, however, because I'd just go crazy wondering why. Why only me? Why not all those other poor, unfortunate souls in that waiting room?
Six and a half months later, I gave birth to a healthy, happy baby boy we named Kenny. He is now thirty eight years old with an engineering degree from Texas A&M University. He has a great job, a beautiful, intelligent wife who is a certified public accountant, and five lovely, lively and precocious children.
My first child, Lisa, has a biochemistry degree from the University of Texas and a nursing degree from Texas A&M. She is married to a great man with a PhD in Physics from Princeton University. Together they have seven precious, beautiful, intelligent and amazing children.
Their oldest son, a national merit scholar, graduated valedictorian from his high school in Corpus Christi and will attend Princeton University in the fall. And do you know what? He could very well be president of the United States one day. He would make a great one. Yet, had abortion been legal then and my parents chosen to terminate the pregnancy, not only would this young grandson of mine not exist today; neither would his beautiful siblings.
I have no doubt every one of these precious grandchildren of mine will grow up to do important and amazing things someday. We are all designed by God with a purpose in life and none of these precious souls would have had the chance to achieve this purpose and realize their potential in this world had I aborted my babies.
I can't help but wonder about all the young girls dropped off at abortion clinics nationwide by boyfriends who leave them to live with the consequences the rest of their lives.
I think about the women who, as young girls, were betrayed by our culture into believing their fetuses were not real babies and then victimized by laws that made it too easy to get abortions.
I think about all the girls who choose abortion over adoption because our government has made it so much easier to kill a child than to give it away.
I think about the women, traumatized by an abortion when they were young, who now suffer from depression or even thoughts of suicide.
I think about these women because they can only imagine what they lost.
Judy Schulte is a retired teacher living in Goliad, Texas. She taught in elementary school twenty eight years for the Victoria Independent School District during which time she earned a Master's degree in education with a reading specialization. For ten years she also served as a consultant for the New Jersey Writing Project in Texas teaching summer writing institutes to teachers in area school districts. She now works part-time as a librarian at Mission Valley Elementary School in Victoria and is an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Goliad.
Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for FEBRUARY 2017
Comfort for the Afflicted. That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities.