September 9, 2021
So much has been said during the past week about the new Texas abortion law, SB 8, which essentially decimates a woman’s right to have an abortion in that state beyond six weeks of pregnancy. I am outraged by the situation, but I wondered what I could possibly add to what has already been said. I need to share my personal experience:
I provide support for patients who are having abortions at my local Planned Parenthood health center. I hold their hands and dry their tears. I tell them what they can expect. I tell them, “No, you are not a bad mother for taking care of the children that you already have.” “No, you are not a bad person for wanting to finish your education, for wanting to be older, for wanting to be younger, for wanting to be more financially secure, for wanting to feel more emotionally stable, for wanting to escape an abusive relationship.”
And then, there are completely different conversations for those patients and their partners who desperately, completely, heartbreakingly want this child but have been told at 20 or so weeks that there is something horribly wrong, that their child will not be able to survive outside the womb or will live a life filled with pain. Again, I hold hands and dry their tears. I also reassure them they are doing what parents do: making the best decision possible, under horrible circumstances, for their child.
In early March, 2020, I said goodbye to the clinic’s staff as I left for a week’s vacation. On March 13, 2020 I received an email saying that volunteers would no longer be allowed in the clinic while everyone tried to figure out what this coronavirus was all about. I mourned my lost purpose. I mourned that I only said goodbye for a week, not for an indefinite period of time.
I mourned for three weeks until I thought: I’ll bet our protestors aren’t going to allow something like a little pandemic to get in the way of shaming patients and visitors to our health center. I was right. Within a week I was standing on the front lines, wearing a bright pink vest emblazoned with “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” on the front and “Volunteer” on the back, helping patients drive past the shouting, poster-waving protestors.
Last Wednesday, September 1st, was to be my celebratory return to providing patient support. Fully vaxxed, new rules in place, I was ready!
I was aware that Texas Law SB 8 was to go into effect that day, but I would not allow myself to think that the U.S. Supreme Court would turn down the emergency request to pause implementation, even with a conservative majority. Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for almost 50 years! Two generations have grown up knowing abortions are legal. The idea of deputizing anyone, everyone…. It is patently absurd and deplorable!
I did return on September 1st and again on September 2nd , feeling a bit less celebratory. I held hands. I dried tears. I listened to stories and consoled and validated choices made. I also looked at our white board filled with patient names and gestational ages, and realized that, if we were in Texas, the overwhelming majority of our patients would not have been seen.
Six weeks! Most people do not realize that this means six weeks since the start of one’s last menstrual period. A heart has not formed and therefore there can be no heartbeat. While true, this really is beside the point..
Laws against abortion are not about babies. They are not about protecting women and keeping them safe. This law allows one set of so-called religious principles and beliefs to apply to all. This is about control – physical, psychological and economic. If the Texas law is allowed to stand, a woman who is raped is victimized at least twice, once by the rapist and again by those who would force her to continue the pregnancy. A person who chooses to abort but is forced to continue the pregnancy is not the person in control. This is not supported by the majority of Americans, and it must stop. Actual, living, real-life peoples’ lives depend on this being stopped. Just like the women and men that I meet.
P.S. And in the “you can’t make this up” department, breaking news: Mexico’s Supreme Court just voted to decriminalize abortion. While certainly not perfect, (i.e. legalized), we are talking about a country with one of the largest Catholic populations in the world moving in the right direction. More than 80% of Mexicans are Catholic. That is in contrast to many states in the U.S., most notably Texas, passing laws to further restrict women and their supposedly constitutional right to control their own reproductive health choices.