Derek Gentile: No clean way to end issue of abortion


PITTSFIELD -- I admit, I wasn’t happy with the decision by the Supreme Court to eliminate the 35-foot buffer zone abutting abortion clinics.

I understand the logic. The Court believed the buffer zone compromised the concept of free speech. I know many friends of mine would disagree emphatically and I understand that, also.

My point is that abortion is difficult enough without people trying to block the entrance to the facility and telling you that what you’re doing is wrong or immoral.

I don’t feel particularly experienced enough to make a judgment call on abortion and pregnancy. But I also don’t believe anyone but the person undergoing the procedure has the right to make that call.

My decision has some basis in experience. A long time ago, I met someone just after I had graduated from Northeastern University. She was funny and cute, and we really hit it off.

A few weeks into this relationship, my girlfriend revealed that she was pregnant (from the relationship prior to me) and had decided to terminate the pregnancy. The appointment, she said, was in about two days.

I had never been exposed to this before. Yes, there were people in Adams who had had abortions when I was growing up. My life wasn’t that sheltered. But it was suddenly quite personal. I believed, as a boyfriend, that I had to do something.

So I told my friend I would support her decision, and I went to the clinic with her.

I don’t recall protesters at the place we ended up. This was the 1980s and maybe that movement wasn’t as vocal. It was also a horrible, rainy day, perfect for the mood we were in.

Which is something I want to emphasize. My friend agonized over her decision. It was not something arrived at casually. It was not fun or easy. She didn’t speak of it with me, in part because I had only known her for a brief time. But I know she spoke of it to her friends.

She had a career, she had no family in the area (she was from Minnesota) and, let’s face it, I’m fairly sure she wasn’t counting on me to be of much help.

And I wasn’t. When we got back to her apartment later that day, she curled up on the couch and just lay there. Twice she got off the couch to throw up.

How poorly was she feeling? I made dinner.

We didn’t talk much that day or night. Certainly no deep philosophical discussions about what had happened. I can tell my readers with great certainty that I have rarely felt so stupid or useless.

I’ve told this story before, and my friends who are opposed to abortion felt that I let this woman down. The best thing, they said, would have been to get her to counseling and get her to carry the baby to term.

My friends who believe in a woman’s right to choose believe I did about the best I could. I still don’t know.

I think sometimes of this person, with whom I dated for about 18 months. Our breakup happened because she moved away, and I admit that at the time I pondered going to Minnesota with her.

But I had begun a job at the Boston Phoenix, a former weekly in Boston, and it seemed like too good an opportunity to ignore. We were both young and believed in our careers (she was a graphic artist.)

Like the issue of abortion, there is no clear philosophically clean ending to this story. My former GF is married with two children and I don’t hear from her much. In some ways, I think, I was probably a part of a chapter in her life she would much prefer not to recall too often.

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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