WASHINGTON — Kate was in her early 20s, just about to enter graduate school, when she discovered she was pregnant.
Her birth control, an intrauterine device, had failed her. But her boyfriend of three years was there for her at a difficult time. They discussed what to do: marriage? Both agreed they weren't ready. Parenthood? He wanted to have the child. But Kate didn't. She didn't seek anyone else's advice.
Religion and morality were not factors.
"I wasn't ready to have a baby," says Kate, not her real name. "I was caught up in my whole life - moving to New York, my fellowship at Columbia. I didn't want to let people down. So I had the abortion."
But as soon as the procedure was over, she knew she had made a big mistake. "I was shell-shocked," she says. "I cried for days and days. I realized that I really wanted to be a mother.... A year and a half later I quit school."
This was in 1981, and she continues to think about the child that never was. "I gave him a name - I decided it was a boy. I wrote stories about him," says Kate, who eventually did get married and have a son.
But she doesn't consider herself "pro-life" in the political sense. She's talked to women who've had back-street abortions in the days before the procedure was legal; she knows someone who lost the ability to have children because of a botched illegal abortion.
"I guess I'm pro-choice, politically," she says. "It really is the woman's decision. But I would never put a bumper sticker on my car.... I think women should think harder about having the baby. Maybe that's their only chance to be a parent. There's more room in our lives for children than we think."