OTI Online
Summer 1997

Reader Feedback
Summer 1997

"Deep down, I knew I was pregnant ... I had weight gain, no period for five months, nausea, ... but denial was so much safer than accepting reality."

Laura M. Lamar, Chicago, IL (excerpt)

Life After Denial

I wanted to thank Merle Hoffman for her article, Fatal Denial (spring 1997), discussing the denial of pregnancy. You could have been writing about me 25 years ago. I was 17 years old, single and a senior in a Catholic high school. From an early age, I learned denial as a coping mechanism from my ineffectual, downtrodden mother. Deep down, I knew I was pregnant... I had weight gain, no period for five months, nausea, engorged breasts and finally, quickening. But denial was so much safer that accepting reality.

Finally, I went to see a doctor who confirmed what I already knew. On the way home, I contemplated suicide. At the very least, I expected a nasty beating (I had survived a few before). Possibly, they would force me to carry the pregnancy to term and raise the result ( in which case I would opt for suicide). I never expected my parents to be understanding. They surprised me.

I walked in hysterical. My mother knew exactly what the problem was and said, "If you don't want this baby, no one will make you have it." She informed my father, who immediately arranged for an examination. The doctor confirmed that I was five months along. He said to my father, "If she weren't so far along, we could send her to Jane." In my ignorance, I thought this was a colleague who could take care of my problem. I learned years later they were sending their patients to the underground abortion service in Chicago.

On the way home, my father told me that this would be my decision to make, and that if I needed help in making the decision, I would have it. I told him that I wanted an abortion. There was no question in my mind. After my father did a review of the literature and spoke to doctors to find the most qualified, we went to New York. In March 1972, the saline-induced abortion was done at Wickersham Hospital. Two women employees who I believe were social workers were most kind. I will never forget them. My regret is that I never had the chance to tell them that things worked out well, in large part because of their kindness.

That experience, painful as it was, shaped the rest of my life in a positive way. I learned that I can make difficult decisions and that valuable lessons, even joy, can come from painful experiences. I am now active in the pro-choice movement, serving on the Auxiliary Board of Planned Parenthood Chicago Area, The Pro-choice Alliance, and The Women's Bar Association of Illinois, a pro-choice organization. I woke up from a state of denial and have learned to enjoy life. I would not trade the experience for anything. March 20 is a day each year that I celebrate, because it was on that day I began to live.

Laura M. Lamar, R.N., J.D., Chicago, IL

The "L" Word

I appreciated your article, Fatal Denial (spring 1997). However, I was rather taken aback by this phrase: "Her story is another lesson for liberal optimists who think mass education is the antidote to the epidemic"; my question is specifically about your use of the word liberal. To me, liberal is one of the words we need to stand up for, rather than use it in a denigrating fashion. If we are liberal, we by definition are broad-minded and not bound by tradition. Thus those of us who consider ourselves to be liberal and proud of it agree with what I think you are saying about the need for more self-determination and sexual empowerment of young people (in addition to the need for accurate facts and information). Perhaps I need more background on what "mass education" programs you seem to be criticizing.

Catherine Briggs, Sudbury, MA

More About Alice

I would like to thank you for your commendable magazine. Having read the last three issues, I find your articles lucid and thought-provoking and the topics of the day are dealt with objectively and with singular perception. I am particularly impressed by your strong pro-choice stance and your insistence on discussing the many different aspects of the abortion issue, a topic unfortunately overlooked or distorted by most of today's media.

As a devout Wiccan, I was particularly moved by Alice Walker's article, "The Only Reason You Want to Go to Heaven..." (spring 1997). Although Walker's southern black childhood consisted of harsher realities and less freedom than mine, the "tender, loving people" she grew up with were very similar to the people I recall from my rural Canadian background. Likewise, my childhood love of Nature as God/Goddess grew out of the very same pagan perception of the all-pervasive mystery which the young Alice had experienced. Her article so eloquently states what I have believed for years -- that we are all indigenous and marginalized people and will never be free until we rediscover our collective "heathen" past.

Sue Taylor, New Westminster, B.C., Canada

Editor's note: Alice Walker's essay, "The Only Reason You Want to Go to Heaven..." is excerpted from her latest collection, Anything We Love Can Be Saved, published in April by Random House. We inadvertently omitted this information in the last issue, and we regret the error.

See also:

FEEDBACK (published Spring 1997)

FEEDBACK (published Winter 1997)

FEEDBACK (published Fall 1996)

FEEDBACK (published Summer 1996)

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