I was recently there to support a love one through one of the most challenging decisions of her life. She had a very difficult choice to make. She had to decide if she was ready to become a mother. The answer to that question for her was a resounding NO. At 22 years old she had the understanding about herself and her present circumstances to know that brining another life into this world would present a hardship that neither she or the child were ready for.
My task was what to do and how to help. My family is full of women. Strong women. We all innately knew that she was not ready for that responsiblity so we all dealt with it in our own ways. I’m a woman of action, so I jumped in my car and drove out of state to pick her up. The state she lived in was a state with restrictive abortion laws. I knew that the governor had signed a bill that forced women to pay for burial costs of a fetus if they had an abortion or miscarriage, so we drove back home to Michigan (I later found out that a federal judge haulted that law but there are other restricts so we just kept it moving). We came together as a family to support her through this emotional journey that many women before her had taken. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve never had an abortion. I’ve only been to an aborition clinic to have a preganancy test many years ago and for an annual exam. I had no idea what this would be like for her, her mother or myself.
As a loved one there to support someone, I could only imagine the frustration she felt, she shared it with me but again I can only somewhat know since this experience was hers alone. First of all there was a 24 hour waiting period. This means that if you are from out of state, then you must take extra time off work because you have to visit the clinic to sign a consent the day before having the procedure. They send you home with a stack of papers to read through. I’m no medical profession but I have taken anatomy classes and some of the realisitic images that they gave of the fetus at the different stages of gestation were to not accurate. Some of the pictures were too advanced for the stages of gestation. Especially early on like 6-9 weeks. When I was pregnant (many years ago) I used to get weekly emails of what the fetus looked like each week and it was a while until that alien phase passed to almost human, that was not refelcted in the state mandated paperwork that she was given. It honestly felt like a guilt trip with inaccuarte information to sway women into keeping a child that they may not be ready for for a multitude of reasons.
The day of the clinic visit, you’re expected to wait between 6 and 8 hours to complete the process and procedure. The strange thing is that the paperwork they give you to take home says that the abortion itself takes 15-20 minutes. So why the all day wait? I’m still not sure. In all honesty it feels like a deterrent. There are literally about 8 to 10 trips back and forth in the waiting room before you see the doctor. They call the patient back to sign papers and then back to the waiting room. You’re required to have counseling then they sit you back in the waiting room. You go get your vitals taken. Then back to the waiting room. You go watch a video, the back to the waiting room. You go have an ultrasound then back to the waiting room. In her case she had to have a second ultrasoudn then back to the waiting room. Then a confirmation of something and back to the waiting room. Then a different vital check and back to the waiting room. It’s like emotional torture really. Each time you go back you think it’s the time to finally lie on the table and begin the procedure (which in and of itself makes one who has never been through this terrified). Each time, there’s a build up like this day, this process, this stress, the pain, the morning sickness, the potential life long connection to this emotionally abusive person is almost over, and then it’s yanked away yet again. I wondered if this is state mandated or if the clinic themselves come up with this onerous process.
She was tearful. But she was resolute that this was the best decision for her. I wonder how many other women leave clinics because of the tedious process that plays on their emotions. I have to be honest. By the 8th trip I was frustrated, I went to the window and asked what was taking so long and why did the apointment begin at 9:20am only for us to all still be sitting there at 1:30pm. I was told that a lot of people decided to come in that day. And that there was only one doctor. But from the postings on the wall I could tell that this process was the every day normal process. I don’t know how women do it. It’s not easy as a bystander. I felt a bit of anxiety and often found myself getting out of my seat and walking the hallways. In the end she knew what she had to do, and so did we. As a loved one I just wanted to love and nurture and listen to her. That’s what I felt like I was able to do. My heart goes out to all women who are making The Choice. I am grateful that abortion is still safe and legal and relatively affordable. My concerns is that the emotional toll of the day with the process is more frustrating than it needs to be and as laws become more restrictive there will be more patients in need than medical health professionals there to help them. There is no training in medical school for abortion, doctors and nurses have to learn by training at clinics. This means that abortion care providers are few and far between and the cost can be prohibative to many women especially if you factor in the many women who don’t have access to a clinic and have to travel far, good luck if they have a job and or children. In Michigan 95% of abortion providers are located in the southeastern part of the state. That means that women who live in the state have to travel anywhere from 4 to 10 hours one way to get abortion services. This is what happens when we elect people to office who think that it is their right to curb ours based on thier ideology or religion. We are lucky at this point that doctors and women are not faced with criminal charges, though they keep trying to push for it. Abortion is not something that makes women happy to do. Not one woman was in that clinic yucking it up or celebrating. Us having the ability to determine when we are ready to take on the ultimate responsibilty of bringing life into the world is vital. Statistics show that many of us end up doing it on our own at some point so shouldn’t we alone have the right to determine if and when that time comes? I think so. No. I know so.