OPINION

My mother wanted to explain her decision to have an abortion. I wanted to help her do that.

Note: USA TODAY Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll has written a column about the abortion decision her mother made more than 45 years ago and how that rippled through the family in hopes of helping to spur a compassionate conversation about abortion. 

My mom had written an account of the legal abortion she had in Texas in 1975, why she made that decision and how it almost killed her. It was typed, with handwritten edits and a bibliography, the paper now soft and yellow.

She wanted to explain why a woman might choose an abortion. She quoted from a 1982 abortion handbook, “If abortion is ever to be demystified, we must work together to make it happen. … We can do that by talking about our experiences.”

She wrote this story in 1983, when I was 15. I had known about the abortion; I didn’t know the details. Now here they were. Simple facts in some places, graphic details in others. She changed the names of the main characters, but kept the initials. My mom, Judy, became Julie. My uncle, Larry, became Lonnie. 

‘Let’s start talking’:Why we’re sharing the story of one family’s conversations about a mom’s long-ago abortion

USA TODAY Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll looks through a box of family letters and pictures with her uncle, Larry Hamilton, and brother, Chris Carroll.

Her abortion was in 1975, two years after the procedure was made legal in Roe v. Wade, a case that started in Dallas. “Roe,” Norma McCorvey, was from Texas, like my mom. They were contemporaries, born five years apart almost to the day.

My mom wanted people to understand why she made the decision she did, what it spared her and what it cost her. On the last page, in her distinctive back-slanted handwriting was this reminder: "Needs footnotes." She was hoping to publish. 

As I was deciding what to make of my mom’s writings, a draft of a Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe was leaked. Pundits yelled from TV screens. Social media feeds erupted in righteousness on all sides. Our nation’s cracks deepened.

Nearly 50 years ago, both the Supreme Court and my mother made a complicated choice.

My mom called her story “The Decision.”

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