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Moving pictures

"Moving pictures" Continued...

Issue: "The fewer and the proud," April 23, 2005

Real, growing, and alive

By January 2004, Megan Sylves and Sal Boffoli had been together for four years. Megan, 25, was a part-time elementary education student and full-time grants assistant at the University of Pittsburgh. Sal, 25, a long-term-care nurse, was studying nursing at Pitt.

Then, a perversely timed one-two punch: First, they decided to break up. Then, they learned Megan was pregnant. Surprised and panicked, the couple felt they had no choice but abortion, Megan said. "He was going to school. I figured my parents would kill me. We automatically decided to have an abortion. We didn't even talk about anything else."

Megan didn't consider it a moral decision: She had long considered herself "pro-choice." Fearing the pain of a surgical abortion, she booked an appointment for a medical abortion using RU-486.

"I thought with a medical abortion all I would have to do is take a pill. . . . I didn't know much about it," she said. "I thought it would be simple, like taking a Tylenol to make a headache go away."

Her subconscious knew better. After Megan made the appointment, "I got really freaked out and started second-guessing myself," she said. Thinking about the abortion "literally made me feel sick."

For one thing, she'd been reading more about RU-486-the severe cramping, the potential complications. She had also read stories of women who gravely regretted their abortions. Meanwhile the clock was ticking: As her appointment neared, so did her pregnancy's seventh week. RU-486 is only an abortion option up to week nine.

Panic set in. "I felt like I had no time to think through my decision," she said. Megan went to work, worried, went to class, worried, came home, worried. The sun rose, set, and rose again. Soon, her RU-486 appointment was only a day away. That day she took a bus to another part of the campus to deliver some paperwork. At a bus stop, she saw a sign that said simply, "Pregnant and scared?"

"I thought, well, that's me," Megan said. "I thought it wouldn't hurt to talk to someone."

Megan dialed the number and connected with the Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC), a network of Pittsburgh-area crisis pregnancy facilities. After learning that the center offered abortion alternatives and free ultrasounds, but not abortion, she agreed to come in that afternoon. Then she called Sal and he agreed to go with her. It would later turn out that he was having doubts about the abortion, too. But since they were on the verge of breaking up, neither had wanted to upset the other by appearing unsure.

At the PRC, counselors explained to the couple "the pros and cons of keeping my baby, and gave me literature on the often hidden consequences of having an abortion," Megan said. "But they wouldn't tell me what to do, even though I wanted someone to. I wanted someone to tell me it was wrong to have the abortion."

After initial counseling, Megan and Sal battled 45 minutes of cross-town traffic to reach PRC of South Hills, the center that offered ultrasounds. Megan said she felt the test would probably confirm her choice to have an abortion. "I didn't think it would touch me in any way."

She was wrong. Though it took some time for a recognizable image to appear, what the couple saw moved the pregnancy from the abstract idea of "problem" to the concrete reality of "baby."

It was a little circle that "floated and bounced around," Megan said. "You could see that it was real and growing and alive! . . . I could picture what that little circle was going to become. I could see my baby when I was four months pregnant, then eight months pregnant. I thought, 'That thing everyone wants to call "tissue" will eventually turn into a baby that I can hold and who will look like me.' I had never thought about that before."

Sal was shocked and moved by the baby's on-screen antics. Megan remembers that they didn't have a long conversation about whether to keep the baby. After the ultrasound, they just knew. "Abortion would be wrong-wrong for us."

Sal and Megan stayed together, and on Sept. 23, 2004, Ava Isabel Boffoli made her debut. Now old enough to laugh, roll over, and lean from her highchair to swipe lettuce off her mother's dinner plate, tiny Ava did what the entire pro-life movement couldn't: She swept away Megan's former acceptance of abortion.

"I'm absolutely against it," Megan says now. "Women who can convince themselves to [have abortions] . . . manage to get through it because they don't allow themselves to think that [the fetus] is going to turn into someone who's going to laugh and talk and have feelings. I look at Ava now and think, look how she grows! Look at what wouldn't be here! I'm glad I didn't go through with the abortion. I'm sad that other people still do."

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