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Behind Every Choice Is a Story

Gloria Feldt with Carol Trickett Jennings

Publication Year: 2002

Behind Every Choice Is a Story is a poignant blend of personal stories, commentary, and memoir that chronicles the life-changing reproductive choices that women, men, and teens make every day. The book also traces Gloria Feldt's personal journey from the dusty oil fields of West Texas to becoming a Head Start teacher and activist in the civil rights and women's movement, culminating in her current standing as one of the most influential voices in the reproductive freedom movement. The book was inspired by the 1928 Motherhood in Bondage , a collection of letters written by women to Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. Publishing these letters from women in desperate circumstances helped to equate the concept of birth control with higher values of wanted children, healthy mothers, loving couples, self realization, and female emancipation. Behind Every Choice Is a Story addresses many of those same issues and values and advances a new agenda for the twenty-first century. Behind Every Choice Is a Story sounds a clarion call by highlighting the importance of storytelling as a cultural force in encouraging change. Feldt recognizes and values women's stories for their personal, social, and political importance. The book uniquely positions current issues of reproductive freedom in the context of everyday experiences and provides a refreshing new framework to understand the current political and social landscape. Although the primary audience for this book is women who support reproductive freedom, a wide audience including men and teens will find their experiences among the compelling stories. It will also appeal to those who are intrigued by the unique perspective the book gives to the real-life impact of reproductive choices. "Behind Every Choice Is a Story will change how America talks about reproductive rights. Gloria's book inspires us to heed the clarion call, tell out stories, and raise our voices together."--Kathleen Turner

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Behind Every Choice Is a Story

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pp. iii-vi


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-x

Judging from the brouhaha occasioned by my twenty seconds of nudity on the Broadway stage in The Graduate, this country has an anguished relationship with its sexuality. It’s fine to sell cars with sex, but to talk honestly about it, well . . . as Gloria Feldt notes in this moving and momentous book, “What are we teaching our children?...

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pp. xi-xii

In the course of writing Behind Every Choice Is a Story, I learned that a book is never finished; an author has to decide it is time to stop writing. Since I first conceptualized this book and until I finally decided it was time to stop, I have received the most amazing support and help from people who believed in me and in the importance of...

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pp. xiii-xix

For as long as there have been humans, there have been stories. The stories in this book chronicle what makes us human—the ability to shape our destinies. For as long as there have been humans, we have tried to determine our reproductive destinies—to have children when we want to and not to have children when we are unprepared or unable to care for them. Just as Crissy has done...

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Part I: Growing up

I don’t think adults realize the constant pressure put on teens today. Besides the fact that you always seem to have homework, extracurricular stuff, and work, most of us ‘normal’ teens have these crazy little inevitable things called ‘emotions.’ I think most adults believe that the majority of teens just have sex and don’t even think about it. But for the...

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Chapter One: The talk

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pp. 3-19

My mother visited me in New York City a few years ago. One day, as we were walking home from Rockefeller Center, she said to me, out of the blue, “You know, I don’t think I ever said the word ‘sex’ to you in my life.” I thought for a minute. Because of my job, I probably spend more time talking about sex than any woman in America...

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Chapter Two: Strong girl, jelly woman

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pp. 20-39

I can close my eyes today, forty-five years later, and feel that wobbly feeling in my gut that signaled the strength to stand my ground, to hold onto my very self, was melting away—melting into jelly. I was fifteen and thought I was in love. I was smart, I came from a “good” family, and I could set goals about many other things and reach them. But I definitely didn’t know how to set boundaries in relationships or feel like I could or should...

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Chapter Three: “He told me not to tell.”

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pp. 40-49

The conspiracy of silence about sex, on both a personal and social level, still leaves girls vulnerable to so many things. Pregnancy and disease, of course. But also exploitation by sexual predators. And they will know, thanks to our silence, that we’re not the ones they can come to for help. I find it is extraordinary to read the hundreds of letters from young women and see how many stories contain a thread of sexual...

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Chapter Four: Pierced ears

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pp. 50-64

I don’t have pierced ears. I figure that if God had wanted us to have holes in our ears, she would have put them there. So when my daughters, aged eleven and thirteen and generally well behaved, wanted to get their ears pierced, I said no. Soon after, my daughter Linda and a friend went into the bathroom and with a sterilized needle and ice as anesthetic, pierced each other’s ears. They did a pretty good job of it...

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Part II: Choosing a life

I was sixteen then and irresponsible, so much the child I believed I wasn’t. I was young, alone, without financial or moral support, and yes I had an abortion. I paid dearly for my ignorance. In those weeks prior to my decision I was presented with a crossroad. On one hand I could carry the pregnancy to term, feel what it truly means to have created a life so sweet and innocent. On the other, to take responsibility for that...

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Chapter Five: Jelly woman to handsome princess

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pp. 67-80

When I look back at my own life, I have to ask myself who was that fifteen-year-old who thought she was all grown up and ready to become a wife and mother? At what point did the child, who placed her chair in the doorway after family dinners so she could hear both the men’s political and business conversations in the living room and the women’s more personal conversations in the dining room, melt into a teenager who aspired only to be popular...

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Chapter Six: This month’s bills or this month’s pills

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pp. 81-95

For five years, in the 1960s and early ’70s, I taught in the Odessa, Texas, Head Start program. I started out as a volunteer teacher’s aide one day a week, and quickly became enthralled with early childhood education and obsessed with learning about every stage my own children were going through. I read every book on child development that I could get my hands on and my children became the victims of...

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Chapter Seven: Making family

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pp. 96-115

They are years of excruciating agony and limitless joy. Years in which we make the decisions—or fall into the situations—that define the course of our lives. Years when our families are shaped, our careers are launched, our worlds are created...

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Chapter Eight: Choice as sacrifice, choice as freedom

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pp. 116-128

People often assume that a personal experience with abortion motivated me to become a passionate advocate for reproductive choice. But it is a lot more complicated than that, as are most women’s stories about their lives. For every choice has its parallel choices known but not taken. When I was fifteen and pregnant, I was aware that the...

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Part III: Personally political

I am so grateful and thankful for the rights and choices I have been given because of the battles fought by other women. While some of my teenaged friends were affected by unwanted pregnancies in the 1980s, I was fortunate enough to have protection and kept my pride. They had wonderful counseling and were offered choices to decide what was best for them personally and morally. They had access to abortion...

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Chapter Nine: Viagra

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pp. 131-141

My first awareness of racial injustice came at age three, when I became morally outraged that Juanita, my favorite babysitter, couldn’t go to the high school on “our” side of town. I was a child of the South, and racial discrimination suffused the culture so completely that most people couldn’t even see it. I’ll admit that my outrage was fueled by the knowledge that when school started, she would have to go live...

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Chapter Ten: Rights v. access

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pp. 142-154

I hope this writer’s commitment continues, because the reproductive rights and health movement needs her passion and her advocacy. She understands what so many others who think we can’t go back to the bad old days don’t yet get: the bad old days are here...

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Chapter Eleven: Whose conscience counts?

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pp. 155-162

We had testified that Congress should not practice medicine and that reproductive health decisions should be made by women with their families and physicians, not by government. In my testimony, I told the stories of several women and their experiences with tragic and catastrophic pregnancies that had necessitated wrenching choices. My testimony concluded with the following...

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Chapter Twelve: Murder in the name of life

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pp. 163-182

When you multiply the intolerance and the ideological fanaticism of a Bob Barr or a Jerry Falwell by the others who share their views, and you take their assumed moral righteousness to its logical conclusion, you can predict tragedy...

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Part IV: Motherhood in freedom

My first baby was due on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Throughout my pregnancy, I took every opportunity to tell people my due date and the corresponding anniversary, because I was so proud to have the privilege of giving birth to a girl, the result of a planned and wanted pregnancy, on such an auspicious date...

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Chapter Thirteen: Calling ourselves free

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pp. 185-205

My first day of work in the reproductive health and rights movement was at Permian Basin Planned Parenthood on a hot August day in 1974...

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Chapter Fourteen: “We aren’t the future, we’re the present”

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pp. 206-221

I once made the mistake of calling young people “the future” of the family planning movement. The teens in the audience answered in no uncertain terms: “We aren’t the future, we’re the present.” But what does the present mean to them? What meaning will they give to reproductive rights?...

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Chapter Fifteen: Motherhood in freedom and fatherhood too

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pp. 222-224

My father was full of sayings, like, “There’s nothing wrong with me a million dollars wouldn’t cure.” When I first went to work for Planned Parenthood, he predicted I’d always have a job because “even when people go to the moon, they’ll still be screwing.” The process of writing this book, reading all the stories and thinking about my own, led me to ask my children what they remembered about our lives as they were growing up. My son, David, said...

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Epilogue: Tell me your story

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pp. 225-226

The earliest humans understood the power of stories. Stories connect us with our fellow humans. They teach and inspire. And they move us to make a better world. I encourage you to tell your stories. Telling my story in this book helped open up conversations with my children that deepened our relationships. It can do the same for you...


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pp. 227-236


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pp. 237-242

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414240
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411584

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2002

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America -- History.
  • Pro-choice movement -- United States.
  • Birth control -- United States.
  • Abortion -- United States.
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