Judi Boyle was just 16 when she became pregnant. It was a time when parental approval was necessary to obtain birth control, so Boyle kept her sexual relationship with her older boyfriend secret. As she faced an unplanned pregnancy, Boyle briefly considered having an abortion but wasn’t sure where to go for the procedure. When she told her boyfriend about the pregnancy, he promptly suggested they marry.
Boyle told Live Action News, “Because we were not using any protection, he had promised me he’d be careful, but he wasn’t. As a regular churchgoer who was active in the youth program, I knew what I was doing was wrong, yet did it anyway. I was so afraid to tell my mother but was relieved that my boyfriend had proposed marriage and felt things would work out.”
In a way, the marriage was the young woman’s ticket out of a volatile home life. Her father had died when Boyle was just two years old, and her mother re-married a man who abused alcohol. Nights at home were often fraught with violent arguments. While her mother tried to promote a stable upbringing by taking her children regularly to church services, Boyle was anxious to move on despite having to drop out of school to marry.
“I would try to convince my mother to leave my stepfather and get out of a bad situation as he would physically abuse her from time to time, but she refused,” Boyle said. “But still, she was worried about me marrying so young a man I had only known for a year, and becoming a mother while still a minor.”
Because she lived in a small town, Boyle’s mother was concerned about the gossip that would ensue when her teenage daughter’s pregnancy became news.
Boyle said, “Our neighbor’s daughter had become pregnant, and they sent her to the Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers, so she wasn’t visible during her pregnancy. My mother insisted I go there but I was determined not to do that.”
Her mother then tried reasoning with her, telling Boyle she was too young to raise a child and should consider placing her baby for adoption. But Boyle’s mind was set — she would wed her boyfriend and they would raise their child together.
“I just felt it wasn’t right for me to place my baby for adoption,” Boyle said. “For mothers who are unable to parent their child, adoption is a wonderful choice which I wholeheartedly support. But I wanted to marry, partly because I was eager to get out of my mother’s house.”
Teen marriage results in challenges that are hard to overcome
Boyle’s decision drove a wedge between her and her mother. She struggled initially with her mother’s interference in her life soon after marrying. She learned that, along with the typical challenges marriage brings, living with a man who offered no loving support was no better than her previous home life.
One day, when she was heavily pregnant, she went to the grocery store and attempted to lug the heavy bags up three flights of stairs to their apartment without help.
“My husband pretended to be asleep,” Boyle said. “After I had brought all the groceries upstairs, he suddenly woke up and laughed at the ‘joke’ he pulled on me.”
More heartbreak was to come. When their daughter was born, Boyle’s husband refused to interact with the baby in any way. He didn’t want to be left alone with her for more than 15 minutes.
Boyle said, “I told myself that I’m stuck with him. I didn’t want to go back into my family situation with my mother, so though I felt trapped, I kept quiet.”
When Boyle became pregnant with their son, her husband became angry and threatened to flee to New York to build a new life.
“He eventually relented and started going to church with me, but that only lasted a month or so,” Boyle said.
A new career promises a chance at independence
Working as an aide at the hospital, Boyle aspired to be an X-ray technician. She decided to return to school to complete her high school education, hoping her husband would help by watching the children when she was at school. But it was not to be.
Boyle said, “At the time, it was very hard to get into radiology tech school because they didn’t accept women into the program. But I was strong and focused in attaining my goals and finally was accepted after completing the high school credits. However, I had to hire a babysitter because my husband would literally sit in front of the TV and ignore our children.”
While it was a struggle balancing work, school, and motherhood, Boyle graduated at the top of her class. Secretly, she was hoping her new career would be a path toward independence from her husband.
“When I got my first job, I left my husband,” Boyle said. “I tried hard to save the marriage, but it was an impossible task. He had cheated on me and disrespected me and I was ready to leave.”
Reflecting on her experience as a young mother, Boyle says she wouldn’t change anything. She is grateful to have repaired her relationship with her mother who was pleased to see Boyle thrive in motherhood.
Boyle said, “Despite my difficult circumstances, my children were my greatest blessings. I can say with certainty that abortion is never the answer to an unplanned pregnancy. There are so many support networks available to young women today. Be confident in yourself and know you can get through obstacles with the right assistance. So many women regret their abortions. Don’t let that be you.”