11 July 2007

tough calls, or "so what do you do for a living?"

so a coworker and friend of mine posted something on her journal today and it moved me and made me ashamed, because i don't write in here even a quarter of the things i feel i ought to. it's not like i feel ashamed that she posted more than me or better than me, but that she was brave enough to look at the whole lot of it and push through the fear that it would take hours and years to explain it all from the top and went ahead and said what she wanted to say, and i should do that more often. too often i get home and don't know where i would start, so i don't. but okay.

yesterday i had what was probably the most difficult phone call of my six months at this job. it didn't last very long at all, less than ten minutes probably, and yet at the end of it i felt like something inside me was exhausted and broken and i had to go sit on the floor of the sonography room and bawl. and i'm not even the one with the problems.

this woman was barely keeping it together even when i first said hello. she shakily asked me how much an abortion would cost, and when i asked her how many weeks pregnant she was she told me "today makes nineteen weeks" and something in her voice was breaking. when i told her the cost she cried outright and told me, eventually, that she had no idea what to do. i feel really weird going into the details now that i'm trying to do so, but as she cried and tried to talk, the gist of her situation became clearer. she had been pregnant with fraternal twins, but her relationship situation is "kind of abusive", and he hit her in the stomach and she bled. she miscarried, lost one of the two. there was no doubt at all to me that she had wanted to carry to term and was now grieving. she wanted to keep the remaining pregnancy but "he doesn't want to have it anymore" and that's why she was calling us.

so far i'd never been in a situation where i thought that what i said would undoubtedly make or break a woman's decision. in general i feel that my role is to provide the clearest, most accurate information i can so that people can input that data into their established decision-making process and come up with the output, a decision. of course that's not strictly or always the case, but for the most part women have a pretty good sense of what they want to do, or at least they've already decided that "if x then y, but if u then v". i can't tell anyone to have an abortion or not to have an abortion; they know their lives much better than i do. but this particular woman needed something outside of those parameters. and this is where the misunderstanding of what we do is really salient. if our job were to "sell" abortion, as so many antis allege, i would have told her that in her situation of course an abortion made sense and jumped right into scheduling an appointment. and on the other hand, if i worked at a crisis pregnancy center, my job would have been to tell her that even if she was being abused her baby surely still wanted to be born, or to tell her to go home and pray for the best and choose adoption if things got too bad down the line. but our job is to provide women with information and support to make decisions for themselves. she wanted to deliver twins but her violent boyfriend made her lose one and asked her to get rid of the other? she has two major problems, not one. the first is getting rid of that boyfriend; the second is caring for her health and then deciding whether she can and wants to carry to term. an abortion would only have addressed one of those issues, as well as possibly aggravated her emotional state.

the rest of our conversation was about referrals to domestic violence resources in case she feels she needs them; about getting medical care, which she needs whether she decides to have an abortion or not; about finding money and a supportive environment, which she also needs whether she decides to have an abortion or not; and finally about her family, who are far away and don't know what's going on, but who she thought might be supportive if she called them. i can't remember how many times she told me "thank you", but it made my heart ache every time. i felt so pathetic for being on the verge of tears myself when this woman was going through so much and still trying, to the point of desperation, to satisfy others and spare them inconvenience. of course i hope everything gets better for her -- she said she'd call us back if there was anything else she needed -- but i'll probably never know.

did you know that murder is the most common cause of death among pregnant women? whereas among the general population (of all women "of childbearing age") it is only the 4th most common cause. and a recent analysis of the numbers in maryland (federal reporting is still fairly new) concluded that a pregnant women was twice as likely to be murdered as a non-pregnant woman. i challenge you to find an explanation for this that won't anger and depress you even as you tell it to me.

i'd like to share some of what my friend wrote but i'm going to check with her first. if she'd rather not then i'll try and contextualize some of what's been going on at work myself, but she really did a great job already. i don't know what else to add right now. goodnight.

02 July 2007


what did i say about bandwagons?

from my fair home state of louisiana, 27 june 2007:

A bill to enact a state ban on a specific abortion procedure won final legislative approval Tuesday when the House passed it 104-0. The same bill cleared the Senate on Monday 36-0 and now heads to Gov. Kathleen Blanco for her review.

The measure, House Bill 614, would make it a state crime for physicians to perform what critics call partial birth abortions. ...Under the bill, physicians who perform the operation could be imprisoned for up to 10 years, fined up to $100,000 or both.

On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law that banned the procedure. Rep. Gary Beard, R-Baton Rouge and sponsor of the bill, said earlier that the state needs its own ban so that it does not have to rely on federal prosecutors to pursue doctors who violate the law.


love those fucking unanimous votes. an entire state completely taken in by medical misinformation and misogyny. also, i thought it was interesting that they passed a state version because they didn't t trust federal prosecutors to be zealous enough for their liking, basically. and finally, i want to note for the record that this is yet another law that criminalizes the performing of an abortion but not the seeking of one -- the rationale being, surely, that even though we live in a society of thinly-veiled misogyny it's still not popular to actually throw women in actual jail -- but if the public truly thought abortion was murder, they'd want the seekers of abortion to be prosecuted as vigorously as parents who pay hit men to take out their born children (i saw it on law and order!).

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