"The first time I voted was so that I could vote for John
Kennedy because I felt it was important. I always vote because I feel if you
don’t vote you don’t have any right to complain about the results."
In celebration of Women's Equality Day, the next few posts will be focused on women's experiences voting. We'd love to hear your story as well. Why do you vote? What issues bring you to the polls? What was it like voting for the first time? Maybe you choose not to vote, why? Have you ever had trouble registering to vote? We want all the stories! Tell us your story here.
Peggy, age 98, Wisconsin
"My mother was a suffragette and spoke about the days before women could vote. Her first vote was in the town of Conrad, Montana where she and her family homesteaded. Then, when I turned 21 - that was when we were allowed to vote in those days - I voted in the 1940 elections in Minneapolis, MN. How proud I was and how proud my father was when I entered the polling booth. I do not recall the Spring elections but I do remember the presidential elections later that year. I have voted in every single election since my first vote - often by absentee ballot after we retired and we started our retirement travel. And, now, a woman is running for President. How things have changed!"
Anonymous, age 90, Maine
"I was raised in a democratic family and was always told the democrats were for working people. I began voting at age 21 or 22 and was proud that I voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Kennedy. I stopped voting about 25 years ago. I don't think my vote matters. I have had to work very hard and over the years I've had several jobs to support my family and I was in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. I just did not have the time or energy to vote."
Catherine Frederick’s Story told on May 19, 2016 at Mabel Wadsworth Center's Annual Dinner Celebration
We have bad days, long weeks, and difficult years. For me, February 2015 was the endpoint of a disparaging brutish year. It was early in the month and I was staring at a positive pregnancy test. It was the fourth test I had taken that day with the same daunting result. I was baffled, confused, angry, and scared. Initially, my brain refused to accept the outcome. I made every attempt to reconstruct the previous months. I tried to imagine and capture my monthly flow. There was a two-month gap of uncertainty and my mind worked like a Rolodex as I attempted to retrace my contraceptive prescriptions. I had been on the pill at the time. I had been responsible. Or so I thought. For several hours I laid on the cold floor of my bathroom, internally processing the potential of a skipped day. I was tired and confused and vague memories were my only clues. Time passed but everything felt so still. My body was limp but my brain was racing in a frantic state. I had somehow convinced myself that if I could solve an imagined equation of events my pregnancy test would be invalid. Of course I understood false positives were impossible, yet my psyche remained unconvinced. I eventually contacted a close and dear friend and shared my uncertainty, my choice to abort, and my overflowing anxiety.
An added complication: I was in an abusive relationship with a man who frequently expressed that abortion was not an option he was willing to accept. In the course of 10 years, 3 women he had dated became pregnant, all of whom had sought abortions without his counsel. Already abusive and controlling, the concept that a woman would, in his words, refuse to acknowledge his choice in the matter, infuriated him. Naturally, I feared his retaliation should he discover my predicament. Another fact: I lacked necessary funds for an abortion. Graduate students are not renowned for their overly generous stipends. If I had been single I might have managed to pull together the funds. However, I was solely responsible for the financial care and support of myself and my abuser. You could imagine that severe depression, anxiety, and fear were a constant state of mind. Intuitively I knew there were options but my mind lacked the clarity or emotional capacity to construct a rational and sound approach. It was my conviction, however, that I could not, under any circumstance, subject a child to my financial and emotional constraints.
In the context of our conversation, my friend assured me that i was not alone and that I needed to not worry. A plan was manageable and options were available. I am confident she said more, but I was exhausted and the finer details are difficult to recall. I do know that she encouraged contact with Spruce Run regarding my situation. I did as she asked and fell asleep. I woke up the next day fretting over my situation. I trusted my friend, but it was easy to anticipate the pieces that could fall apart. Within 24 hours of our initial conversation my phone rang and Private Number flashed across my telephone screen. In Maine, there is only one place I associate with a Private Number: Mabel Wadsworth. I held my breath and answered as my beating heart slowed to a still. I was introduced to a founder and immediately noted her gentle yet firm and reassuring voice. It was revealed funding was available for the cost of my treatment, if I wished to pursue my decision. I wish I could express the emotions that proceeded, but there was nothing eloquent in my reception of such news. I had quite literally turned into a messy ball of tears and a barrage of thank yous. With good news in hand and encouragement from Spruce Run, I also managed to contact my abuser and explain that I was seeking an abortion, he was no longer welcome in my home, and that when he found his own space, his personal effects would find their way in boxes. With financial support and the reclamation of my life I knew I could proceed. In that moment, I felt strong, capable, and incredibly vulnerable. I met with the health practitioners at the center and discovered that I was early in pregnancy. At a time when most doctors would ask a patient to wait before proceeding, Dr. Savidge was willing to remove the material from my uterus. Although Dr. Savidge was not privy to the entirety of my story, I think it’s safe to say that his years of service molded natural intuition that an early stage abortion was critical for my emotional recovery.
I truly believe that if access to a safe abortion was restricted:
·I could be a welfare mother ·I may have not earned my PhD candidacy, an achievement as of January this year. ·My decision may have not been my own or my abuser may have had final say. ·I may still be with a domestically abusive male. ·And an early, safe, and legal termination in the first trimester may have been impossible, hindering my recovery.
At this time, I’d like to thank Mabel Wadsworth Center for the assistance and access to abortion care that they provide through their facility. With their continued advocacy, my reality is not any one of the circumstances I’ve described. I’m also grateful that their staff provided a safe space for my procedure and access to guidance and counseling during recovery. I also need to thank Dr. Savidge. With complete sincerity, Dr. Savidge is one of the kindest and most empathetic individuals I’ve been under the care of and I am glad to have been his patient. I’d also like to take this time to say thanks for the support and empathy of dear friends and informed colleagues. With their care I was able to recover from the procedure with greater ease. And lastly, I’d like to thank the audience for listening to my story. I hope it shares with you the good work and deeds that Mabel’s does for the women in our community and for the health of our state.
(Note from Mabel's: Thank you, Catherine for sharing your story at our Annual Dinner Celebration.)
I'm a 48 year old woman, wife and mother of two wonderful
children who are now young adults. When I was 34, I was a single mother,
struggling to work, finish graduate school, and get sober. I feel like I had
been a good mom up until my 34th year when I suddenly left a stable marriage
and took up drinking heavily.
Because I had my kids so young, I rationalized in
my mind that I never had a young adulthood. I had a few short-term
relationships, one of which resulted in a pregnancy. I found out within days of
missing my period because I was scheduled to have surgery. I had broken up with
the man who got me pregnant. I grew up Catholic and never in a million years
thought I'd be in this position. I was 34, not a teenager.
I spoke with my
doctor and asked what he thought about abortion. He said personally he thought
it was ethical if done very early on a pregnancy so not to cause pain to the
fetus. That stuck with me and I had my abortions few days after that conversation! I felt it
was the best decision at the time. I didn't want to have another child while
raising my own children who were 12 and 8 at the time.
For the most part, I
know I made the right decision and was grateful for a safe medical facility to
have it done. Last week when I was leaving my doctor's office, I drove by some
women with signs that said "Pray to end abortion" and "I regret
my abortion." That made me really sad and I've been thinking about my
abortion ever since. Even though now I'm very happily married, I've been going
through horrible empty nest syndrome and rethinking my choice. If I hadn't had
an abortion, I'd still have a 13 year old at home. Maybe it would have been
another daughter. My own daughter isn't close to me like she used to be. So, in
my head I know I made the right decision for the place and time but since
seeing that damn sign, I've felt a sadness. I wouldn't call it regret but
Note from Mabel Wadsworth Center:
If you need someone to talk to about your abortion experience don't hesitate to reach out. Here are a couple great resources:
From the moment I first called to make an appointment to the moment I walked out the door afterward, I never once felt uncomfortable, unsafe, or judged. Instead, I felt safe, comfortable, understood, and respected. The attention that was paid to ensure all of these conditions was incredible and the empathy and compassion I was treated with went above and beyond what I ever could have anticipated, expected, or hoped for. An experience that could have been negative and horrible was met with such care and compassion that I felt completely confident and at ease.
I know it must be challenging at times to face the type of opposition that practices like this often do, so I wanted to make sure that you knew that this practice, and most importantly, the people who work there, provide a necessary service in a manner that positively impacts the lives of your patients. Without the support of the staff at Mabel Wadsworth Women's Health Center, I never would have made it through this with the confidence and conviction I have, no matter how sure of myself I may act. Everyone needs support in situations such as this and I was provided that from every member of the staff I encountered, which meant more to me than I will ever be able to articulate.
I am having a very hard time finding the words to adequately express the gratitude I feel, so I will simply say this -
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for guiding me through this experience with such care for my physical and emotional needs and well-being, for offering me kind words of encouragement, strength, and compassion, for figuratively and literally offering me a hand when I needed it, and for reminding me that I am brave. I will be forever grateful for the care I was provided with at the Mabel Wadsworth Women's Health Center.
By Jessy Brainerd When I was in eighth grade at Catholic School, in my
Religion class, we had to take part in a mock debate project. I felt incredibly lucky to get to argue the
"Pro-Life" side of the abortion debate. It was simple to me - abortion is murder, and
anyone who had one was a murderer, and, unless they were a cold, hard
psychopath, would obviously regret it for the rest of their life. I still have a photo I snapped of the two
other kids who were on my side of the debate, grinning and holding this accordion
fold pro-life brochure with photos of aborted fetuses.
Fast forward to my learning to think for myself, becoming
a parent at 19, and starting college at 20.
By this point, I had definitely become pro-choice, although I still
remember very clearly thinking that I was pro-choice for "other"
people, and knew it was never a decision I would make for myself.
At one point, when I was in college, I was visiting with
a neighbor, a woman in her forties, and another woman her age was
visiting.Somehow we got on the topic of
abortion, and the other woman shared that when she had been in her thirties,
married with two small children, she had learned she was pregnant, and knowing
that her family couldn't afford it, had made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.I can remember very clearly how uncomfortable
her story made me.I made polite and
understanding comments, but can remember thinking VERY clearly that she had
"taken the easy way out" and wondering how someone who already had
children could possibly decide not to have another.It just didn't make sense to me. Fast forward again to the fall of my senior year of
college.I had been casually dating
someone for a few months - nothing serious, we had been friends for years, and
the relationship had evolved.My
daughter was four, and I was working part-time in an administrative office on
campus, and going to school full time, consistently making the Dean's
list.I have never, in all my life, had
a regular menstrual cycle, and it was not at all notable to me if I wouldn't
get my period for months at a time. The night of a big winter "semi-formal"
party/dance put on by one of the fraternities, I was getting ready with a
friend, who was concerned because her period was late, but didn't want to go to
the store to buy a pregnancy test.I ran
out to the drug store, and there happened to be a deal on a two-pack, so I
decided that since I'd not had my period in a couple of months, and was
sexually active, that I might as well take a test with her. I can't describe the level of shock I felt when I saw an
almost fully darkened "plus" where I was quite sure a
"minus" should have been. I
decided that the sign was too ambiguous, and went out, occasionally breaking
down in tears between drinks and dancing.
The next morning, I went with my Mother and my daughter on a little road
trip, and between the stress, and the previous night's drinking, ended up
having to ask my mother to pull over on the side of the road so I could throw
When I returned to my house, my mother taking my daughter
out for the afternoon, I ran into the bathroom to take another test. This time the plus sign was unmistakable,
fully dark and accusatory. I immediately
lit a cigarette and started to sob. Mom
came back in, as she had forgotten something, and asked what was wrong. I sputtered out that I was pregnant, and
started crying again. She was silent for
just a few seconds and then said "It's going to be fine - you need to
either put out that cigarette, or we need to call Mabel Wadsworth."
I knew, right away, that I couldn't continue the pregnancy. I suspected I was probably about eight weeks
pregnant, and hadn't been treating my body in a particularly healthy way. I was working, taking a full load of classes,
with the necessary amount of studying and homework, along with taking care of a
four-year-old. I was on track to graduate in the spring, and knew that would be
impossible with a pregnancy, and with another child to take care of. I was so close to getting out of the need for
food stamps, low-income housing, and Medicaid, and the idea of putting my
daughter through years more of that struggle was unconscionable; we had
Before I called to make an appointment at Mabel
Wadsworth, I called the guy I had been dating, putting a movie on the TV for my
daughter, and taking the phone in the bathroom.
I explained the situation, and as soon as I mentioned having an
abortion, I could hear the relief in his voice as well. Neither of us was at a place in our lives for
I made the initial appointment for an exam, and after the
pregnancy was confirmed, made the appointment to terminate the pregnancy. Because it was December, and I had no idea
how I'd feel afterwards, I bypassed Christmas, and made the appointment for the
week of New Year's Day.
My sister went along with me to both appointments. I remember being so incredibly grateful that
I didn't have to walk through the awful protesters holding signs like the ones
I had used in my "debate" back in eighth grade. My sister held my hand through the entire
process, and brushed my tears away when I started crying due to
I remember before I went in for my abortion, being
absolutely terrified that I would immediately be filled with regret, and that
this would be a pivotal moment in my life, from which I could never bounce
back. On the contrary, while I did feel
a bit sore afterwards, my primary emotion was relief. I was feeling back to myself by that
afternoon, and spent the day with my daughter.
Since that day, twelve years ago, I have not regretted my
decision. There is no doubt in my mind
that I made the right decision. This is
not to say that I haven't had those "what if?" moments. Just a couple of months later, the friend I
had taken the test with did get pregnant.
She continued the pregnancy and has a gorgeous daughter now, she was
also engaged to a wonderful man at the time, and they have since had another
I graduated on schedule that spring, and am incredibly
happy with the path my life has taken.
As my daughter is sixteen now, teetering on the cusp of adulthood, I
have shared my story with her, and want her to know that, if she is ever in a
situation where she has a difficult choice to make, I will support her.
I don't think anyone makes the decision to have an
abortion lightly, it's not like getting a haircut, it's a decision that affects
your life on the basest level. I wish
more women felt comfortable sharing their stories, because it can easily feel
like you are absolutely alone in making the choice you have, which is pretty
crazy considering that one in three women in the US will have an abortion.
April of 1973 my husband left me, pleading that he had fallen in love with our
upstairs tenant and wanted to spend his life with her. I was four months
pregnant. Roe v. Wade had been decided three months earlier.
My obstetrician sent me to see a social worker to help me
sort out my feelings and make my plans. She began every one of her questions or
suggestions with, "if you want an abortion…", until I finally shouted
at her, "I DON'T want an abortion. " "Well, " she observed,
"That solves that problem."
I had wanted this baby fiercely for some time, and my
husband's defection did nothing to diminish my desire. But that conversation
with the social worker, and the knowledge that an abortion would have been
legally available had I felt unable to proceed with the pregnancy, added depth
and resonance to my desire. This was a most wanted child. I had the choice, and
I chose to have a baby.
My daughter told me recently, in a discussion about her
father – who has never figured into her
life except as an absence, a question mark – "Mom, when I was a kid and
used to ask about my father, you always said, ‘You were a very wanted baby.'"
So that knowledge has been central to her sense of her self.
At another point, a few years later, I did have an
abortion. I was a single mother, working and pursuing a path to ordination in
the Episcopal Church. The potential father was not someone I would have
married; he would have been no better a candidate for fatherhood than my
daughter's absent father. The timing was wrong, the man was wrong, and I
easily, though not happily, made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.
I have not the slightest regret about either of these
decisions, nor the slightest guilt. I felt sorrow and loss at the time of my
abortion, but less so than when I'd miscarried some years earlier. Both of my
choices, I believe, were right for me and my circumstances: morally correct in
their context, practical, and fruitful in their outcomes.
That is, both choices were choices for life: in the first
instance, I chose for the life of the unborn child; in the second, I chose for
my own vocational life, my economic stability, and my mental and emotional
health and wholeness.
Shortly after my ordination to the priesthood, I was
asked to speak at the National Abortion Federation's annual meeting, on a
Clergy Panel, with the theme of "Abortion as a Moral Choice." I
wondered skeptically who would attend such a panel, but to my surprise, the
room was packed with people – abortion providers and other clinic workers. Our
audience was so eager and grateful to hear their work affirmed, to hear
religious authorities assuring them that God was on their side! I understood
that I had a responsibility, indeed, a call, as a pro-choice religious
professional, to speak out and to advocate publicly for women's reproductive
rights and health, and I have tried to be faithful to that call.
To talk theologically about women's right to choose is to
talk about justice, equality, health and wholeness, and respect for the full
humanity and autonomy of every woman. Typically, as moral theologians, we
discuss the value of potential life (the fetus) as against the value of lived
life – the mature and relational life of a woman deciding her capacity to
continue or terminate a pregnancy. And we believe that, in general, the value
of that actual life outweighs the value of the potential.
I like to talk, as well, in terms of gift and of calling.
I believe that all life is a gift – not only potential life, but life
developing and ripening with its many challenges, complications, joys and
sorrows. When we face difficult reproductive choices we balance many gifts,
many goods, and to fail to recognize the gifts of our accomplished lives is to
fail to recognize God's ongoing blessing. I believe as well that God calls us
all to particular vocations, and our decisions about whether and when to bear
children are part of that larger pattern of our lives' sacred meanings.