Guest post by Crystal Balls
Every client is brought to the clinic by choices she made or was denied.
I got married and had kids very young – my twins were born when I was 19 years old and 17 months later I was pregnant again. The second pregnancy gave me the resolve I needed to escape from my 32 year old husband, and I left him soon after I found out. Like many states, KY denies divorces to pregnant women, so I was to remain legally married until after the birth of my son.
With two babies in tow and expecting my third, I moved in with my parents and enrolled in a welfare program that helped single mothers go to college. I aspired to provide a stable life for my children, so I asked my doctor to do a tubal ligation once my son was born. I knew I couldn’t handle a fourth child. I wanted to get educated, get a career, get off welfare, and get my own house. I was trying to be responsible.
Because I was so young, the physician denied my request. Sterilization in the spring of my reproductive years, he explained, left too many opportunities for regret. I countered that my spring had been as productive as I could tolerate and I was facing three decades of managing my fertility on a pass/fail basis. Pregnancy had taken a toll on my health and I didn’t want to subject my body to another one. He said I would never find a physician to perform the procedure on a woman my age, especially a woman on Medicaid. He was right.
My birth control failed ten years later and I got pregnant. A lot had changed in that decade. I had graduated from college, bought a house, and was working full time as a registered nurse. I had friends. My kids and I were living our lives with all the stability our hearts could muster. The spring of my reproductive years was certainly over—at the age of 31, summer was closing in on autumn. Despite my improved circumstances, or perhaps because of them, I hadn’t changed my mind: I didn’t want a fourth child, and I couldn’t endure another sickly pregnancy.
My two best friends shielded me from the antis screaming other options at me. Abortion wasn’t my first choice of birth control. My first choice had been refused by a medical community that would rather empower me to produce a fourth child on the taxpayer’s dime, just like my divorce had been delayed by a legal community that felt entitled to make me stay married. I was too preoccupied with the challenges of daily life to notice then, but eventually I recognized the barriers that surrounded my divorce, my tubal ligation, and my abortion as institutional attempts to control the fates of pregnant women. To this day, at the age of 48 and in the winter of my reproductive life, that realization inspires me to spend one Saturday a month at EMW.
Like I said, people are brought to the clinic by choices they made or were denied.