Small Town Stigma

One of my best friends has had two abortions.

I remember when she told me about the first one. We were 18, and were sitting on the kitchen counter cross-legged eating Okanogan cherries and drinking some horrible cheap white wine. I had already heard through other friends.

“So, you probably already know, but I just wanted to tell you myself - I had an abortion.” Her eyes teared up and the expression in them was almost as if she was pleading with me. ‘Please don’t judge me’, ‘please don’t stop being my friend’. She seemed to be searching my eyes for judgment – there was absolutely none. I would have done the same thing in her situation.

I held her as she cried. It had been late enough that she needed someone to go with her to drive her home. She had also been so worried about people in our town finding out that she had opted to drive 4 hours to a different city to have it done.

She told me about the car ride home with her stone-faced and silent mother – so utterly, disgustingly and disappointed in her daughter. She maintains to this day, that that was the worst day of her life.

Despite her precautions, everyone found out. She had told the would-be-father, her ex-boyfriend. Because he was angry over their break up, he openly told his friends - soon it seemed the whole small town knew.

She told me that one day she ran into a girl who had gone to high school with her. This girl said, “I’d be so embarrassed to be you, I’d probably never leave my house.”

Slowly I noticed that more and more people began to look down on her. Some began to give her last name new and derogatory twists implying she was unclean or slutty. Men began to treat her with less respect and seemed to be more aggressive with their advances. Women were even worse; they looked at her like a second-class citizen.

The biggest change was in her. She began to look quite pale. She changed from the size 6 she normally was to a size 00. She lost her ‘sparkle.’ She didn’t want to ‘do’ as much.

She started dating genuine ass holes because she thought that was all she deserved.

When we were 20, she has become pregnant again. This time her boyfriend has asks her to ‘get rid of it.’ He was furious that she had somehow messed up ‘again!’ He had often said things to her when he was drunk like she was lucky he even wanted to date her with her ‘reputation.’

She felt she owed him an abortion because having a child would ruin up his life. That second time, I believe that she didn’t really want to have one. But she did.

Her mom doesn’t talk to her anymore.

At age 24 and were at a department store shopping for bridesmaids dresses for our friend’s wedding. The party of giggly girls happened across the baby section on the way to pick out shoes. One of the girls has a baby and many have nieces and nephews. My friend looked at me over all of the ‘ooing and awing’ about the cute baby clothes with tears in her eyes: ‘please get me out of here, I can’t bear it’ they said to me.

We’re now 26. She is in an abusive relationship. She has tried to leave him 4 times but ends up back with him. She doesn’t have enough confidence to leave him. I can’t seem to convince her that she is worthy of so much more. She feels unlovable and undeserving of kindness. She said feels “tainted” by that small town stigma.

Although there are many reasons women develop low self-esteem and feel trapped in abusive relationships, I believe things may have been different for her if her abortions were destigmatized.