Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Abortion Experience

I am terrified that we are headed back to the Dark Ages of Back Alley and Self-abort options.

I am terrified that once again women will find themselves facing the reality of no resources available for an unintended or unplanned pregancy.

I am terrified that women will once again have to face the Underground of untrained and money hungry abortionists just waiting to abuse women who are there to claim their rights to make a decision about when and if they bring a child in the world.

I am terrified and am still that Voice in the War Against Women.

I was almost 19 and became sexually active in college. It was 1970 and it was still difficult for a single woman (and most married women) to get birth control pills. I was still in the "care" of my parents as they were paying for college and they had made it clear to me that I was NOT to have sex until marriage and they would never support my getting on birth control. My sex training was my Dad giving me the V encyclopedia with Venereal Disease ear marked, the day I stared  my period at age 13. I was then told: "if you ever get pregnant before you get married, don't come home!"

So when I Chose to become sexually active, I used the ovulation method and the guy used condoms a couple of times and I was lucky. It was then, I decided to find a doctor who would prescribe the Pill for me, as I could not tell my family doctor. A girlfriend gave me a name; I made an appointment; I went and a nurse with a scowl on her face took me to this very little dark room with just enough space for a table with stirrups.

The male doctor came in, told me to put my feet in the stirrups (now, you see....I had never had a vaginal examination, so I didn't even know what stirrups were used for or what would happen). What I remember clearly is how bad it hurt as he jammed the speculum inside me (I had only had sex 3 times); then his hand up my vagina; and then him saying, "here is your prescription for pills." There was no medical history taken, nothing at all and I was told to leave. I am sure it cost money and I am not sure how I paid; all that is erased from my memory, but the pain and humiliation is clearly implanted in my brain.

In 1973, I began volunteering at Planned Parenthood while I was in college working on my Social Work degree. I had also been married one year. I was totally outspoken about Women's Rights at that time and with Roe vs Wade, I was caught up in the age of women now being able to access safe abortions. Yea, right! We were still seeing women who had had botched abortions and came in for birth control and STD info. I was one of the counselors at that time.

The Planned Parenthood in Chesapeake where I was going to school, did not do abortions, but there were now other clinics and doctors who were ready to accept patients. I counseled them and went with many of these women to the procedures. The most terrifying for me were the two 24 week saline abortions I attended. Both of these women had tried to get an abortion since they were 6 weeks, but it took this long to find someone to do an abortion and also get together the money for the procedure. I was there as they delivered the "babies" and counseled them afterwards regarding emotional changes and birth control. Both women had been raped; one by her husband who had abandoned her when she found out she was pregnant after the repeated rapes by him.

I am terrified we will be returning to more of these Second Trimester Abortions as First Trimester Clinics are closed due to the Republican agenda of taking away the Woman's right to choose.

My husband and I wait...he decided that it was time to have children. So when I was 26, I stopped using the Diaphragm (the pill had made me terrible sick) and he stopped condoms and we became pregnant almost immediately. Thrilled, we told everyone!!! At 10 weeks, I started spotting and was told by my OBGYN that there was no heartbeat and I was miscarrying. I was sent home and told that in 2 weeks I would have a D&C.

Here is my personal abortion story: That evening the bleeding became so heavy that I was on the floor. My husband took me to the ER where they called my OBGYN service and one of the doctors met me there (I worked with him at Planned Parenthood). He explained that since I had eaten dinner I could not have a D&C nor could I have anesthesia. He told me he would be doing an abortion procedure. He also told me that my husband could not be in there with me.

I was placed on the table; still cramping and bleeding profusely; and told to put my feet in the stirrups. The vacuum suction machine that I had heard with so many other women began and the tube was inserted in my vagina, through the cervix and into the uterus. I SCREAMED OUT IN PAIN. (My husband was on the pay phone with my mom and he could hear me.) I didn't want to scream, but I did.

Now, let me tell you. I had been with numerous women during this procedure and not one screamed. They were true Warriors. Probably afraid to scream with the pain. But then it was told to me that because I was already in the throws of a miscarriage that the pain would be unbearable at best.

When it was over, the doctor, who I liked, but just didn't realize he was still part of the Patriarchal Culture; told me to wait a few months, that this was common to miscarry the first child, and I would be fine. The nurse gave me one of those very thick pads, a script for an antibiotic, and the bill to pay at that front desk. And home I went, crying the entire way.

And that was it! My Mom came over, but no one else said a word to me. Not even my husband. I was left alone with my own grief and loss.

And I became more of a Voice for Women's Choices and safe and painless abortions and full access to birth control!

My second pregnancy also ended in a miscarriage, but this time I didn't tell the hospital that I had eaten and the same doctor was on call, and did the D&C...I was put out so had no pain! And eating dinner didn't make any damn difference. And once again, I was sent home and no one said anything to me at all except my Mom. It was like had the plague. In fact, I was on call for child abuse reports and my supervisor thought I should be able to get right to work that night and I had to beg other social workers to take my shift. And now my husband blamed me.

My doctor's were going to make me try a third time, but I demanded tests and ultimately found out I had a Luteal Phase Defect and thus would have continued to miscarry without hormonal assistance. Ahh....more affirmation that this was ALL my fault and thus deserving of what happened!

Now, I know that I didn't have an unintended pregnancy. No mine were much planned for and wanted, BUT....even with my own experience I faced what most women face. Painful options, little support and the idea that indeed I could have these two procedures and two children because I had insurance. I was working with toooo many women who were not so lucky.

As a Social Worker, I was "known" to be the Jane at the office. I was the one who "knew" where women could get abortions and I even had two very wealthy women who were willing to pay for the abortions for Women without money or resources. I would negotiate abortion rates with the doctors I volunteered with through Planned Parenthood, would go with girls (lots were teens), and provided counseling for them afterwards so they didn't feel alone.

Let me assure you there is Grief and Loss even for those Women who definitely don't want to be pregnant or have a child. Most of this Grief and Loss is caused by a Culture that continues to demand that zygote/embryo is more important than a Woman! I have worked with hundreds of women, from all walks of life, who are more upset about what their families, their church, their friends will think if any of them ever find out, then upset about exercising their right to have a safe and LEGAL abortion!

I will continue to be a VOICE for the War Against Women! And let me assure you we are in the midst of it now! The backwards movement is Here and the Patriarchal Rape Culture run by the Christian Right want to make sure that Women continue to be second class citizens with no rights especially regarding their own bodies!

A most excellent book was published in 2013: Perilous Times. An Inside Look at Abortion Before-And After-Roe vs Wade by Fran Moreland Johns. This is a must read for all!

Fran says on page 12: "Over and over again, while collecting stories and comments for this book I have heard from physicians, activists and thoughtful, often extraordinary women, 'It's going to happen again. It's already happening.' Denial of access, restrictive and punitive state laws and the lack of physicians willing or able to perform abortions have brought about situations in many states not unlike the days before 1973. Progress in education and contraception, seen by many as key to reducing the need for abortion, is uneven. And sadly, unwanted pregnancy still happens."

When the Catholic church can spearhead a movement to not have birth control insurance coverage and thus now other businesses are following suit such as Hobby Lobby, we are on the way Backwards. When Women Health Clinics around the country are being closed as a result of State anti-abortion laws masked as "safer havens", we are headed Backwards!

And it makes me Angry! It makes me Sad! It makes me Yell Louder much to the chagrin of those who want Women to Shut the Hell up!

Not me and I hope not You!

Blessed be!

1 comment:

  1. What a powerful story. Thank you for sharing it. Womyn don't often talk about personal abortion experiences, and I think it's valuable to do so. Being in my 20s still, I also very much appreciate your crone's perspective, with the knowledge of many years behind what you write.

    What do you think about menstrual extraction? I just read a comment about it on another blog, where it was mentioned as a way to take our reproductive choices into our own hands rather than "begging permission" from the patriarchal medical establishment.