Betsy is seven years older now than she was then, and seven years closer to the final tick of that notorious biological clock. So if she found herself facing the same dilemma at age 35 that she confronted at age 28, her decision might not seem so clear-cut.
"I'm not sure I could go through with an abortion today," says Betsy, a social worker in Costa Mesa. "Not because my beliefs have changed about women's reproductive rights, but because it might be my last chance to have a baby. When you're in your 20s, you think you have all the time in the world.
"But if I were in an unstable relationship . . ," she muses, her voice trailing off as she ruminates the question. "I'd probably have another abortion. I'd want to raise my child in a stable environment. I grew up in a single-parent household, and I'm not saying that it can't be done, but I'd want the optimum for my child.
"However," Betsy emphasizes, "I guarantee you I will not be in that position. I made that vow when I had my abortion: never again."
Betsy had just been through a divorce and, while "dating around," took a one-month break from the birth control pill. "I think subconsciously I may have become pregnant out of a desperate need to love someone and to be loved," she wrote in a letter to Single Life. "It was a time in my life when I was falling deeply in love with men who couldn't return love with the same intensity or commitment.
"Even though I could never prove it, I know exactly when I became pregnant. It was such a curious sensation, and I was in total awe of it.
"I waited for four weeks before taking a home pregnancy test. During that time I experienced a whirlpool of maternal instincts that drew me further and further away from reality. I fantasized about a life with an unconditional love machine. And I could finally please my father by fulfilling his highest goal for me: motherhood.
"The pregnancy test results snapped me out of it. My head cleared, and I knew precisely the right thing for me to do. I wasted no time in arranging for an abortion."
In an interview, Betsy says: "I made the best decision under the circumstances. The only regret I have is that I never found the right relationship. Being a pragmatist, I doubt I'll ever have children; I don't have any budding relationships right now, and I don't feel like having my first baby when I'm 40.
"I'm sorry that I may grow old without the comfort and security of a family. But I am as disappointed by the fact that I never ended up in a happy relationship as I am by the fact that I don't have children."
Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, about 1.5 million American women a year have opted to end unwanted pregnancies. Given the perspective that time and maturity allow, some of those women may look back on their decision with a sense of guilt and remorse. Others accept abortion as the only viable course of action they could have taken.
"For me, abortion seemed and still seems the lesser of three evils, though I really didn't even consider adoption as a feasible alternative," says Jan, a 22-year-old senior at Cal State Fullerton. "I had just started college--my big break--when I got pregnant. My boyfriend was 17 and a high school dropout. I could see my future going straight down the toilet. There was only one solution."
Two years later, Jan again accidentally became pregnant, this time by a casual acquaintance she had met in a bar. "It happened during a remarkably low point in my life," she says. "I was going through a series of one-night stands; I thought sexual acceptance was the only acceptance I could get. I had two lives--one, me at school, and the other, me waking up in a strange apartment in Hollywood wishing the previous night hadn't happened.
"Getting pregnant again, especially with that particular guy, made me realize what a bar-crawling, bed-hopping slime I had become," Jan wrote Single Life. "I had the abortion at the same clinic where I had my first one. Even though I had no boyfriend, and no intention of getting one, I went on birth control pills, and I'm still on them. I swore off bars, swore off creepy guys and swore that I would get my degree if it killed me."
Four months after her second abortion, Jan met the man she hopes to marry. "I told him about my abortions, practically immediately," Jan recalls in an interview. "I wanted to clear the air so that if he had any hang-ups about abortion, he could take the first train out.
"But the same thing (the termination of an unwanted pregnancy) had happened with him and his previous girlfriend, so he understood. When you start talking about it with friends, you realize how many women have had abortions--which underscores the necessity of legalized abortion.
"My boyfriend has made me learn the value of loving who you are with, of not taking sex so lightly. When I get pregnant again, I'm going to want that life inside of me.