Not Worth a Gamble

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By Carol Consalvo

Preface: This story was originally published as part of the Jewish Daily Forward’s series Silent No More: Forward Readers Tell Their Abortion Stories. Carol Consalvo is the NCJW Arizona State Policy Advocacy Chair. In her words:

The decision in Roe v. Wade was such an important event in my lifetime. I grew up in the 1950’s when getting pregnant before marriage was not socially acceptable. If one did make the mistake of having unprotected sex, it could become a life or death situation. At that time, because of the legal barriers to abortion care and social stigma, abortions could be physically and psychologically disastrous for women. Roe v. Wade changed that, and since 1973, abortion has been safe and legal for many. But safe and legal abortion care is still not accessible to all women, particularly low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, and young women. That has to change! I was drawn to the NCJW Arizona Chapter in the 1980s because NCJW works to make abortion accessible to all. Reproductive decision-making should be available to everyone and any deviation from that is absolutely unfair. My work with NCJW contributes to the fight to make America a fairer, more equitable place.

What should I do? What should I do? What should I do? Those four words went around in my head in the spring of 1973. I was 28 years old, wife, mother of two sons and I was pregnant. Being an only child, my dream was having a house full of kids with all the commotion that goes with raising a big family. At that time, my children were ages seven and four and I really, really wanted a daughter to begin to even out the sexes in my family dynamic.

I do not have any emotional scars and have not second-guessed myself on the decision I made 43 years ago.

However, my marriage was not “made in heaven,” as I had hoped it would be, and we constantly had financial setbacks due to my husband’s gambling habits. Gambling brings not only the lack of funds, it also brings lying, mistrust and disappointment into the marriage. I was miserable. My four-year-old son was severely asthmatic and caused us much worry and concern. That same year he had spent one week, at two different times, in an oxygen tent, and we also made countless trips to the emergency room, usually during the night. I never knew when he would have an attack, and our family life was filled with worry and interruptions. If I wasn’t worrying about the bills, I was worrying about his health.

I was two months pregnant and in no position emotionally or financially to take on another responsibility. Roe v. Wade had just been decided, and having an abortion was safe and legal. Was that an option for me and my family? After discussing this decision with my husband and my obstetrician, the doctor agreed to perform the procedure at the same hospital where only four years earlier he had delivered my son. Due to the high demand for the procedure and the hospital scheduling only four a day, I had to wait 10 days for my appointment.

Those were the hardest days of my life….I was not feeling well, my heart was breaking, but the voice in my head kept saying, “This is the best approach to the problem at hand.” Along with my voice, my mother was 100% in favor of my decision and she too kept me strong by supporting my decision. Thank you, MOM! My husband was indifferent and left the decision to me.

The day finally came, and my husband took me to the hospital, and when it was all over, I felt a wonderful feeling of relief. I have never regretted the decision. I do not have any emotional scars and have not second-guessed myself on the decision I made 43 years ago. I behaved responsibly to my family and made it possible for me to care for the children I already had without additional burdens. It took me seven additional years to have a tubal ligation, because at 28, I was not ready to make the decision to not have any more children. I wanted to leave that door open if I felt there might be a better time to add to my family; however that opportunity never presented itself.

I was a lucky woman then due to the wisdom of the Supreme Court justices at the time. And now I am a lucky women because my granddaughters still have the opportunity to make choices when it comes to their health care. This country cannot let this right to privacy become history and disappear.

Carol, now 71, was born and raised in Manhattan, New York. Her parents and grandparents were German Jewish refugees. She attended college in Rochester, New York and relocated to Arizona as a young wife and mother, where she worked in the financial services industry for 31 years. She has been married to Joe Consalvo for 17 years.