What Does Desperation Look Like? ~ guest post by Heather M

The recent headline cases of women who have miscarried or resorted to self-abortion attempts to end an unwanted pregnancy (Purvi Patel , Kenlissa Jones and Anna Yocca) have had many people saying ” How could they?” Some from an anti-abortion stance that seems to value the life of a fetus over the woman carrying it. Others from a perspective of the fact that abortion is still legal and has been legal nationwide since 1973, Why would anyone take such risks when they could just go to a doctor?

Easy. Legal does not mean accessible, or affordable.

This is my story and I am going to smash some stereotypes many associate with a self-abortion attempt. First, I am a white, US-born female, raised in a middle class Catholic family with two parents present. I was raised in the North Eastern US. I finished high school. I was living on my own and supporting myself with a full-time job. I was in a committed relationship and was using birth control the month I became pregnant.

The year was 1990. I was 20 years old. I was working with racehorses as a caretender, a job with long hours (sixty to seventy hours, seven days a week), tons of responsibility and a great deal of personal satisfaction. I was making my bills every month, rent,  utilities, but did not have much money left over for anything else. To make a big or unexpected purchase I either put it off or worked nights in addition to my regular job, as hard and long as I could, to earn what was needed.

Sometime in early March of that year my period was late and I had been sick and struggling under my work demands. After waiting a few more long scary days, I went and bought three different brands of home pregnancy tests from three different stores. I wanted to make sure I did not get an error due to a bad test.

I read the directions over and over as I did not want to waste one by using it wrong. As I took them, one after another showed a positive result: two dots, two lines, a pink window. All horrifying results to me. I did everything right. How did this happen to me? I used the Today sponge and spermicide. I went out and bought another two tests and took them again the next morning; same results. No denying it now. That’s why I had been feeling so sick

I knew immediately that I did not want to be pregnant. I was not going to be having a baby in the fall of that year. Somehow I was going to figure this out. I had already made my decision when I had used birth control and this was like an invader in my own body; alien like and causing me to be physically ill, draining me and robbing me of my ability to provide for myself.

I was living in a state that had multiple clinics available. I picked up the phonebook and started dialing trying to figure out how much an abortion was going to cost, how far I would have to drive and how hard I was going to have to work to raise the money. Then get the procedure done without missing any time from work or I would be fired. I had found two clinics that were about 40 miles away but the procedure cost $400  cash or credit card. I did not have a credit card so I figured up how many weeks working days and  nights it would take me to save the money. Five weeks was my estimate. After that I may be too far along for those clinics and the price, distance and difficulty would rise.

In the meantime I had a plan. One of the racehorse mares I was taking care of was on a medicine to suppress her heat cycles. Without it she was impossible to manage let alone train and race. I had been instructed to let one of the men in the barn dose her everyday as it was dangerous for women to come in contact with that drug. I went to work that morning and quietly read and reread the cautions and warnings in big bold letters on the packaging. MAY CAUSE MISCARRIAGE!  WOMEN OF CHILDBEARING AGE DO NOT HANDLE WITHOUT GLOVES AND USE EXTREME CAUTION NOT TO COME IN CONTACT WITH IT.

I began quietly taking some of the horse’s medication every day hoping to induce a miscarriage that the label warned in big bold letters about. I weighed about 155 lbs and was making sure I took enough for a 1500 lb horse. This I hoped would work. In the meantime, always planning that if the medicine failed I was going to go ahead with the abortion.

I worked for almost four weeks my usual sixty to seventy hours, seven days a week and started taking night work at the racetracks three nights a week to earn extra money quickly. Those days became 20 to 22 hour marathon work stints two and sometimes three days in a row. Sick with morning sickness. Sick with taking medicine for equines in doses over a dozen times what I weighed. Sick from lack of sleep. Still I kept on. I was not under any circumstances going to remain pregnant one minute longer than I had to. Whatever came first, the miscarriage or enough money saved for the abortion I was going to keep working towards it.

Finally, the end of the first weeK of April I  had saved the $400. I called to set up my appointment. I wanted the latest one available in the day as soon as I possibly could. Why you ask did I not want one first thing in the morning?  Because I had to work. I set up for as late as I could one morning. I was told don’t eat anything after midnight. That morning I was at the barn by 330 am so I could rush through my work by mid-morning and I paid one of my coworkers to take care of my afternoon responsibilities. I told them I had an emergency that came up. I did not confide in anyone except my boyfriend, and even then I did not tell him I was trying to induce a miscarriage.  He was fully supportive, but as cash strapped as I was. He helped some, but my pride and my sense of responsibility kept me from asking for more than I knew he could give.

At the appointment I was given forms to fill out, everything was explained in detail and I was asked repeatedly if this was something I really wanted to do. I could take another few days and think it over now that I had been given information about the procedure. “NO,” I fairly screamed, ‘for a month I have been saving and working like mad to gather the money together. I would have had it done four weeks ago if I could have afforded it!!”

With everything that I had put my body trying to rid myself of this unwanted invader that had taken over my life in such a drastic way, the abortion itself was almost anticlimactic. The thing that stands out the most was the warm thick socks they put on my feet. They said the metal stirrups were cold and the walk to the recovery room was on cold tile and they did not want me to feel chilled. I felt cared for and like I could for the first time in weeks let someone else worry for me. A few hours later I was ready to go and called my boyfriend to come pick me up.

The next morning at 7 am I was back at work, moving a bit slow and taking care to not let cramps keep me from being able to get my work done. it was the first time in over six weeks I had not wanted to throw up everytime I wheeled a full wheelbarrow out to dump it. I clung to the horses to steady myself every now and then, but by now they had become accustomed to it. I had been horribly sick for weeks, but not letting on to anyone human at least.

So, almost 26 years later why am I now telling this story?  Because those women are me: every last one of them. Pregnant and not wanting to be. Desperate and willing to try anything to rid our bodies of this unwanted entity. I was fortunate that I lived in a state with access to multiple clinics. I was able to get an appointment within days of calling. I had the ability to eventually earn the money needed for the abortion, even if at  great personal cost of health to myself. I am one of the thousands of women who will try to self-abort. Some succeed and no one will ever know. Others finally save up enough somehow for an abortion. Others yet are like the cases in Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee where things go very wrong for them.

I was lucky. But make no mistake, I would have been desperate enough to do anything even if it meant I died as a result. Do I have any regrets? Only one. That I did not speak up sooner so many others would know they are not alone. I understand. I am you  You are not alone.

 

 

Rape, Abortion and “Frozen” -by KY Born (TW for Rape, Stalking, Violence)

TRIGGER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS DESCRIPTIONS OF RAPE, STALKING AND VIOLENCE. PLEASE DON’T READ THIS IF IT WILL BE UPSETTING FOR YOU.

First, let me just say this right up front: I am madly in love with the movie “Frozen”, especially the song “Let It Go.”  What does this have to do with abortion, you may ask? Anybody who has read any of my posts knows that I tend to meander and take a long time to get to the point. This is going to be one of those times. If you have something better to do, or just think I’m overreacting, then I would suggest you move on. If not, well here it is. The whole story. The rape, the abortion and the reason I am letting go to tell it on this blog.

Before antis or anybody else goes, “What?’, and says “OMG! YOU AREN’T PRO-CHOICE BECAUSE YOU ONLY ADVOCATE FOR ABORTION IN CASES OF RAPE!!”, please chill out and read the rest. I am telling my story only. Everyone else’s story is their own and I don’t care why those women in the lobby with me, or women in lobbies in clinics all over the country are there. It is none of my business.

Back to “Frozen” now. I always adored Elsa. I loved how she felt like she had this secret she had to keep, this image she had to portray and the joy she felt at not having to do this anymore. This is what I’m feeling now, so when I listen to “Let It Go” I’m certainly not referring to the power to freeze stuff, but I am referring to the ability to stop trying to be the person people expect me to be and hiding something that was not my fault like some shameful secret. You see, Elsa did not ask to be born with her powers any more than I asked to be raped and become pregnant.

So while this movie has nothing to do with rape or abortion, the idea of having to keep secrets, be perfect and be ashamed of things not your fault you can’t cope with rings long and loud with me.

I won’t bore you with the entire song, just most of it. While I have posted a trigger warning at the beginning, I will say again that if you are a rape victim who is triggered you may want to skip this post because I am letting it all go.

So when I listen to this song, I hear Elsa sing “the wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.”  She isn’t talking about what I was thinking years ago right after it happened and my “legitimate rape” got me knocked up, but she has the same feelings and thoughts. Do I tell? Do I ask for help? Do I report this rape? How will this change the way people think of me because I had a few consensual sexual encounters with this man? Will my father kill him? So I do what good girls do, I keep it all inside. Our justice system, while improving, is not particularly kind to rape victims. Everyone has a right to a good defense. I just wasn’t in a position to have my entire private life shoved out in a public trial, so I didn’t report.

Elsa sings “don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel.” I know exactly what this animated character is feeling. I wore a turtleneck to work to cover up the bruises on my neck. I never told anybody about the nights I sat in the Wal-Mart parking lot weeping for an hour. I was afraid to get out of my car because my rapist was still stalking me. I lived in the same apartment for three more years because I refused to be defeated. Smart? Probably not, but I am a stubborn creature and in spite of the stalking it was my way of fighting back.

After what seemed like 100 years of night terrors, they finally stopped. I got therapy. It helped, to some degree to let part of it go. So it is true that “it’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small and the fear that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.”  I’m not afraid to go out by myself at night. I’m not afraid to be home alone at night. I’m not afraid to go to Kroger at 3 AM because I have insomnia and know it will be empty. I let the fear go. I don’t have to fake it anymore. The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all. OK. Mostly they don’t.

Now let’s skip ahead. I have so much more I could say about rape and stalking, but that is for another time. Even though only one can’t get pregnant by “legitimate rape” because our women’s bodies shut the whole thing down, I did. I don’t have regular periods, but I knew it within two weeks because I puked morning, noon and night. Every single time I puked I relived the rape.

I knew what I was going to do immediately. Abortion. Even though I had family support and it is likely my rapist/stalker would have married me and would have wanted the child, my decision was made. I told no one. The nearest clinic was over an hour away in another state. I immediately called Planned Parenthood and scheduled an abortion that couldn’t be done for 4 more weeks because this particular clinic did not offer medication abortion yet. I didn’t even know my blood type so I had to make an extra trip. Luckily, I was a workaholic with a huge pile of PTO time.

Once I had made the trip to the clinic for blood typing, there was another hurdle. I needed someone to drive me after the procedure even though I was only having local anesthesia. I realized I could pay a homeless man to sign for me as my driver, because of my decision to tell no one who knew me.

Don’t get me wrong, I have always been pro-choice, but when you are a sheltered girl from small-town Kentucky who moves to a slightly bigger town to go to college and then stays there, but has to go to the Big City get “that thing” done, it is still scary.

I still blamed myself for opening the door the night he banged on it for 15 minutes thinking I didn’t want to disturb my neighbors. I had to be a good girl. I had to not disturb anybody with my personal problems. I opened the door hoping he would be quiet. Oh, he got quiet and so did I. It is hard to scream when a man twice your size has his hand around your throat. I blamed myself for years. I have finally stopped. I finally let it go.

The end of my story comes with the abortion. I’ll spare you the details of knowing I was pregnant. Why I took the test? I’m still not sure. My periods are and have always been irregular unless I was on hormonal birth control, which gave me pregnancy symptoms. Keep in mind before you decide against any form of hormonal birth control, I am a rare special snowflake when it comes to medication side effects. Mostly, women go about their daily lives with no problems. Sigh. Envy.

Anyway, I being the good girl who kept her two consensual sexual partners a secret, as well as her rape, also kept her fear of being pregnant a secret. However, you can bet your ass the day my erratic period SHOULD usually but didn’t appear I ran down to the store and got a pregnancy test. That faint pink line that changed my life. I went to get more tests. All faint pink lines. That and puking hit reality home. There was nothing to do but make that appointment. The decision was actually made before I ever took the test.

So here I am, letting it go.

I’ll tell you there were about 12 of us in the waiting room. One woman was teary. A few were stoic. A few leaned on the man with them. Why were they there? None of my business. To tell the truth, I wasn’t feeling very chatty. I kept my nose in a book, eagerly awaiting my name to be called for a procedure I had heard was awful, terrible and painful with no anesthesia. I felt alone, but somehow my aloneness gave me power. I knew when this was over I could “walk away and slam the door.”

Me, being me, had made sure to be the first to check in and the first up at bat. I’m not sure how I managed to walk down that hall, undress or get in the stirrups. I suppose we all do what we have to do. One of the things I had to do for myself, not because the law mandated it, was see the ultrasound. Don’t listen to what the antis tell you. The clinic WILL let you see your ultrasound if you ask. Seeing my own little sea monkey in there actually gave me peace of mind.

I won’t say the procedure was something I would do for shits and giggles. I will say it was over in about five minutes and I received excellent care with no complications at all. I don’t know where my homeless faux driver went, but after a few minutes in recovery I went to my car to begin the drive home. Think what you want of me, but halfway home I realized I was hungry. I pulled off the exit midway home and ate four cheeseburgers and a large order of fries from the McDonald’s drive-through on the way home.

No puking. It was my first step to letting go.

I’ll be honest, I still have trouble reading these antis who say giving birth to a rape baby “heals” the woman. Maybe it does for some women. It wouldn’t have for me. Honestly, those four weeks waiting were horrid not because I knew I was on abortion countdown, but because I knew the spawn of that man was inside me. If any lurking antis have a comment about “death penalty for crimes of the father”, all I can say is shove it. There was no baby. There was a woman who desperately needed an abortion. There was a woman who had night terrors. There was a woman who held elderly patients’ hands as they died and worked with abused children long after this happened.

If that abortion hadn’t happened, that woman would not be here. If I had to walk through an awful gauntlet it would have broken me into pieces. I would not be the woman who has helped more people than CPCs, abortion protesters and blowhards like Jill Stanek, Lila Rose and the whole of AHA.

I have helped more people than they ever will. I don’t care what they think of me or if I pop up on their Google alerts. They are profiting from abortion as well and they are the hypocrites and the Pharisees Jesus preached about. They pray and preach loudly, but make money off the same industry they condemn. If it should cease to exist, so would their livelihood. Hypocrites, every one. Praying loudly on street corners or the modern version, the internet, so everyone can see how pious and merciful they are. Yup, we “pro-aborts” read the Bible as well and I still consider myself a Christian. A Jesus Christian. Not the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus anti so-called Christian protesters worship, but the dude who said to “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” I doubt Jill Stanek, Lila Rose or the vast network of “groups not a group” AHA who seem to be making big money off of their opposition to abortion are what Christianity is about.

So here I am. Letting it go. If you are a rape victim, I’m sorry if I triggered you. If you are not a rape victim, don’t take this as a sign that I think abortion is only acceptable in those cases.

You know when abortion is acceptable? When the woman gestating the pregnancy decides she doesn’t want to be pregnant. Period. End of story. This is just my story and every woman who goes down that sidewalk has another story that is none of my business.

I once read an anti-post that said a woman claimed she didn’t think about the rape but remembered the abortion every day. She needs therapy. I can tell you the year, day, hour and minute I was raped. I couldn’t tell you the day I had an abortion. I didn’t need a widdle-bitty baby to cuddle and heal me. I needed an abortion.

So here I am. Letting it go.

I had an abortion. I didn’t check the “rape/incest” box because I didn’t want it to flag any need for further discussion of the issue. I made an appointment for an abortion and I was going to get one.

I don’t regret it nor do the hundreds of lives I have made better. That could never have happened if I had been broken into pieces by “peaceful sidewalk counseling.”

I didn’t need a baby. I didn’t need a non-medical ultrasound. I didn’t need to report this to the police to validate my experience. I didn’t need others to tell me what to do.

What did I need?

To let it go.

There are a lot of women and girls with more and less traumatic experiences who need to let it go on their terms. If they come to you, don’t judge. It isn’t your journey.

But this? This grammatically incorrect post is me letting go. If you are a woman who is feeling guilt about rape and/or abortion I encourage you to join me in letting it go. It took me three months to write this post but for the first time in many years I feel free.

So should every rape victim and every person who has an abortion.

 

 

Waiting for McCullen v Coakley ~ Co-Authored by Oubli

We write about the antis all of the time on our blog. We photograph them, take videos of them and recite things they say to clients. The post this week by fml got a lot of comments and views, which is always very appreciated. We love active discussions with our readers.

The videos in the article of Reboot captured the atmosphere of the sidewalk perfectly. It is chaos. It is full of people shoving and shouting to harass and shame clients going for a legal medical procedure. I have said many times, that if you were going to a dentist’s office and protesters showed up to demonstrate they were against fillings because they thought they were a communication device to the devil, those protesters would not be tolerated by the community. But because the medical procedure being accessed at EMW is abortion, it is tolerated by society as being the antis’ right to free speech. Just another political demonstration of their views.

It is not a harmless demonstration. It is not a way to help anyone. The Report of the  APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion* “found that the greater the number of antiabortion picketers and the more aggressive the picketing that women encountered when entering an abortion clinic (as coded by observers), and the more the women reported feeling upset by the demonstrators, the more depressed affect they reported right after their abortion.” In other words, the antis outside the clinic cause more harm to the patient than the actual procedure. States and individual cities have recognized the harm and potential for violence by enacting buffer and/or bubble zone laws to separate the antis from close proximity to patients, escorts, staff and the clinics themselves.

Frequently, we are asked in comments about why we don’t have a buffer zone. We would love one, but there has never been a political climate in Louisville to be able to get the votes for implementing a buffer zone here. There are several reasons why this is our reality. We have studied the risks and benefits of launching a campaign to give the citizens of Louisville and residents of Kentucky a safety zone around the abortion clinics in the state, but for now we are waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of McCullen v Coakley. This will be decided during their current session. This case could overturn all existing buffer laws; a frightening prospect.

Oubli is a valued reader, a frequent commenter and has authored articles on our blog. Oubli sent this information and the additional resource information below, to emphasize  the importance of this case to all of the existing and proposed buffer zones in the United States.

We need to keep an eye on McCullen v. Coakley because it will determine the constitutionality of clinic buffer zones.

This clinic is the flash point for the case.**

Planned Parenthood's clinic in Boston, MA. The yellow line on the sidewalk and street marks the 35-feet buffer zone.

Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Boston, MA. The yellow line on the sidewalk and street marks the 35-feet buffer zone.

Planned Parenthood's Springfield, MA clinic has white arcs painted on the street to represent the buffer zone.

Planned Parenthood’s Springfield, MA clinic has white arcs painted on the street to represent the buffer zone.

I think that buffer zones do not violate free speech. My analogy would be the equally distasteful but protected freedom of speech right to protest military funerals. Yes, they can protest but as long as their protest was far enough away from the grievers as to not cause distress.

I would really like to pause for a minute and ask you to scroll back up to the photos with their lovely white and yellow lines.

We desperately need this type of space at our clinic. Go back and watch the videos from Wednesday’s post, Saturday on the Sidewalk. On the first video, those white tennis shoes you see were worn by me. In the second video you can see how much shoving, pushing and up close and personal Reboot was to the escorts and the client. Personally, I would prefer to not be as up close and personal with someone screaming in my face. Any escort who has been on the sidewalk in Louisville one time would vote instantly for any buffer zone we could get. The current situation has a high potential for violence and does nothing except cause harm to the clients and their companions.

In the meantime, we wait for the decision in this case that could turn back the clock 20 years or pave the way to a safer experience for all abortion clinics around the country.

Borrowing a slogan from the Kentucky Road Rally for Reproductive Rights: “Kentucky families deserve better!”

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*American Psychological Association (APA) study. pg 84

Additional reading:

**Mike Blog: Law in Plain English McCullen v. Coakley (photographs source)

Policy Mic: McCullen v Coakley is Heading to the Supreme Court Again

Alliance Alert, Law Review: Balancing Public Safety and Freedom of Speech Outside Reproductive Healthcare Facilities-McCullen v Coakley

Cooperative Research: Profile: Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act

National Abortion Federation: Legal Remedies to Address Clinic Violence and Harassment. A Handbook for NAF Members.(Pdf)

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REMINDER:
We are standing up for reproductive rights on November 2. Are you coming with us? Can you contribute $5 or more to help make it happen?

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/KyRoadRally

Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/158610191007342/

Website: http://kyroadrally.org/

A Nuanced Approach

In the conflict surrounding the right to access abortion as part of reproductive health, we and the antis tend to stand at opposite ends of the spectrum ~ whatever the spectrum is.   You know, they say “never,” we say “Anytime.”  If they say “Murder,” we say  “Health care…”  and of course we’re right, I’m not saying we’re wrong, but…

The ever-widening gap in our thinking is probably not so helpful.  I don’t want to end up like the antis on the sidewalk.

The other day, a companion tried to explain to Mary that the client almost died during the birth of their last child, that the baby had barely survived, that the doctors said she couldn’t survive another pregnancy.   Mary’s response was “Have you thought about adoption??”

Seriously.  The risk of being an extremist is that you lose touch with reality and can’t hear anything except what you want to hear.

So when the antis rant at the clients, “Don’t do it~ you’ll be sorry ~ you’ll regret it the rest of your life ~ you’ll never get over it…”  I say, “Most women experience relief and happiness after abortion.”

Notice I say, “most” because that’s not everyone’s experience.  Some women do experience regret and sadness and may or may not carry that sadness for a long time.  Some of them end up on the anti side of the sidewalk, trying to deal with their own pain by telling their story over and over.  They don’t actually wear sackcloth and ashes, but the principle is the same.

As a therapist (yeah, mental health) I am more interested in the people who don’t do so well than I am in the ones who are happy and relieved.  And that’s what today’s post was going to be about.

Only I didn’t finish the reading I need to do for it yet.  Much less finish writing it.

Yeah.

So this is an advertisement for coming features.  Sorry.  Stay tuned.