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Monday, January 23, 2012

192

Ask (Another) Abortion Provider: Roe vs. Wade, 39th Anniversary Commemorative Edition

Nearly 40 years ago, abortion was legalized in the United States. To mark the occasion, Lola McClure, a registered nurse, interviewed Dr. Nancy Stanwood, an obstetrician/gynecologist, abortion provider, mother, and board member with the Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

Hello Dr. Stanwood, it’s wonderful to meet you today! I knew I would like you instantly when I saw that you were wearing a zebra print shirt under your lab coat; I thought, “Dr. Nancy Stanwood is cool.” I guess that I’ll start there: why is the only 100% true stereotype in medicine that people who work in reproductive health are the coolest super-smart people who have excellent senses of humor and are always clinically current and up to date on evidence?

[Laughs] That’s a great question. I think there are a couple different pieces to that. I think those of us who feel prompted to help women in this way, and feel capable of doing this work and handling the controversy that comes with it, have a certain baseline balance and sense of humor. I think the second thing you asked — being up to date on evidence — I think all people are hopefully out there to be excellent doctors, no matter what we do, but I know with myself that I was raised with the five-P rule: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

Whoa.

That’s why I’m in family planning! To plan. Because I think planning is good and healthy.

Being prepared, doing the right thing, and doing it well are what matter. I think a lot of us [abortion providers] sense that extra need to do it twice as well as everybody else. It’s like those women in the '70s and '80s: to be able to do everything the boys can do but twice as fast.

There still persists to this day almost 40 years after Roe this perception that any doctor who would do abortions on a regular basis — not the casual, four patients once a year, but those who make it a part of their integrated practice — that they must be quacks or bad doctors. There’s this stigma of the abortionist that — two generations later — still looms large. We feel like we need to prove all that much more that we're caring, thoughtful, educated physicians who think carefully about what we do for our patients, how we counsel them, how we understand the incredible delicacy of this issue, and how we recognize the privilege it is to help women in this way. So I think that’s primary; but we’re also cool to begin with. [But] there is this presumption of guilty-until-proved-innocent in anything that we do, which is unfortunate.

That’s part of why the stigma persists for women who have abortions, which is why some women don’t talk about it, which is how people can say “I don’t know anybody who’s had an abortion.” It’s like 20 years ago, nobody thought they had gay friends — well, yes you do, they’re just not out. Because of the stigma — it’s that whole thing all over again, silence equals death. The quieter it is, the less people recognize that it's normal, that lots of people do this, that it's an integrated part of medicine.

It’s so hard for anybody to be out no matter what their position is — it’s hard for people to say that they had an abortion and to tell their friends. And it’s hard for providers to come out, because there’s that — let’s call it what it is! — threat of terrorism.

Domestic terrorism, yes.

Even on an interpersonal level, you don’t want to be “impolite” or bring up a “weird” subject. But then you think, what could be more normal? I feel like it’s a radical act to just speak plainly about it.

There’s the question of how your work factors into your life, especially with pro-life friends and coworkers. How has the bigger “us versus them” manifested for you personally? How do you navigate what you do versus the fact that you have to, you know, live your life?

Day by day I think: what is the venue? What are the upsides and downsides to talking about my work? Certainly, you know, I have colleagues and acquaintances who know what I do. But in the work sphere I carry the title, I do the work, and I don’t necessarily have to keep outing myself with people. It’s who I am and what I do at work. It’s more in the social sphere … you’re out meeting with some friends and you just want to have cocktails and eat some good food. So you don’t want to — invest the energy in your advocacy work in your downtime. But there are times when it feels like the right, necessary thing to do, especially if conversation is going in the direction of “pro life, pro choice” and people are saying crazy stuff. Wrong stuff! I feel obliged to speak up — but in my downtime, I don’t necessarily seek that conflict.

Any moments that stick out to you?

One thing that comes to mind was early — I was in residency and had just started moonlighting at Planned Parenthood. I was out with some friends, and the person sitting next to me asks, "oh, what do you do?" "I’m a doctor." "Oh, what kind of doctor?" "I’m a gyn." The next question he asked me: "do you do abortions?" I’m like, "yes!" And he was clearly quite bothered by that. We didn’t get into the philosophical discussion of why, but apparently he felt that he needed to know that. It was early on for me, but it showed me: “Oh! If you mention this during cocktails, weird things can happen.”

My partner’s grandmother is the nicest lady, and this past Christmas we were preparing food and she said, “So. You know, the laws, they’re terrible. It’s going to be illegal again soon. It’s so bad. What can we do? How does someone help?” My answer for myself was — I threw myself into [being a nurse] but not everybody is going to be able to do direct service work. So I smiled and kind of ... didn’t really have an answer. I had nothing to say to this helpful grandma! So, help: what should we do!?

I think the first thing is to be an informed citizen. Because this is a very polarized and hot-button topic, there's so much misinformation and propaganda out there that's not accurate medically. Find sources of information that are reliable and fact-based — I’ll give a shout out to the Guttmacher Institute, they're a non-partisan public health research group that specifically looks at pregnancy, contraception, reproduction, and abortion to let us know what’s really happening. Let’s not just deal with propaganda, let’s look at a public health view of what’s really happening in people’s lives. So that’s first and foremost, to be informed and try to pass through the miasma cloud of misinformation and outright lies that are out there.

Second, find some local thing to do! You know, "live globally, act locally" is a very good strategy. There are a lot of opportunities to donate money, donate time, talk with like-minded people, build a group of local activists. Doesn’t need to be something grandiose that needs to change the world. There’s a quote from JFK that said “One person can make a difference, and every person should try.”

Sometimes people feel overwhelmed by the issue — “oh, I can’t fix that” — no, you can’t fix it, but you can be a small, incremental part of the solution. Be informed and then take some thoughtful action.

I read recently something to the tune of, “Roe was so important, but rich women could always go to Puerto Rico or England and get a safe abortion.” I absolutely see this happening again, especially since the first reason people seem to have is often a financial: “I can’t afford to have a baby right now” or “If I had a baby I wouldn't be able to support it.” And that’s reproductive justice, right? Framing this so people can have the children that they want, not just not-have the children they don’t want. I’m curious about what you think about that — how even though abortion is “legal,” the distribution of access is so much along class lines.

Just to be a little historical here, it was that burden of morbidity, mortality, disease, and death that fell on the poor who couldn’t get a safe abortion illegally that led to the activism in the medical community to decriminalize abortion. I think theoretically, 39 years later, part of what’s happened is that not only can rich women get an abortion more easily, but they can get birth control more easily as well. So what I’ve seen is the proportion [of women] who are poor having abortions is increased. That disparity exists in access to reproductive healthcare in general, too. The most effective methods of contraception, like IUDS and implants, are unfortunately more expensive, and those can be out of reach. [This is the truth for] a lot of women in our country, and you reap what you sow … because those women have fewer resources to care for an unexpected potential child, they are then more boxed in. The circumstances of their lives unfortunately predict what they feel like they have to do.

So then I think recognizing the increasing disparity is very important, and recognizing that when those women are not able to get what they need through safe channels, some of them do unsafe things. Fortunately, it’s still relatively rare in the US, but there are reports of self-induced abortion and of women going to clinicians who aren't well trained, and it’s harkening back to the pre-Roe era. The fundamental issue, again, is that making abortion less available doesn’t stop it from happening, it just means that more women suffer and die. It’s that simple. And that, unfortunately, is not a part of the public consciousness around abortion anymore, because it’s been safe and legal and accessible for the majority of women for the past 39 years. In that way, we can’t necessarily use that argument anymore, because people don’t necessarily remember “Oh yeah, I remember when Aunt Millie died, it was all hush-hush and 10 years later I found out she had an unsafe abortion. That’s why my cousins grew up with my brother and sister.” Not that that’s my story, but things like that — that story happened in that era. I don’t think that discussion hits anybody at the visceral level anymore, but it's still important to make the point.

I agree! My own grandmother is first on the waiting list for when they make marrying Catholic priests legal — she’s right there. She wants one. One of the most Catholic people I’ve ever met in my whole life. She was the oldest of many, many children, and because of that, she had to give up her full scholarship to college to stay home and take care of her little siblings. She told me that it ruined her life. So she’s very Catholic, but she’s also, “Give them all birth control! I love what you do! They should have abortions!” You see it, you see what happens, and there’s that conversion reaction.

I think that what might replace that visceral reaction in the age of legal abortion is speaking very plainly about your own experiences. And what you said! Or JFK said: you have to try. It’s almost easier to make change happen with the issue of abortion rather than other issues, because there’s still so, so much silence around it as an experience that actually happens to people; that if you just talk about it, you’re doing so much good already.

Along those lines, it’s sometimes sadly easy to help my patients become grateful.

Women come in expecting to be judged, treated impolitely, and degraded, and if you show them even the slightest bit of normal human courtesy — not even going to the point of affirming your trust in them, and your belief that they're doing the best they can — it’s so easy to make them grateful. Because sadly, they expect to be disrespected. They expect to be treated shamefully.

Or they’re being punished. Or like they should act like they’re going to a funeral.

Part of the way I envision it when we talk about “when does it feel safe, or good, or worthwhile to speak out and step out of the silence, or the closet” — the times when I do that, one of the things I envision is that all of my patients are standing behind me. I have this big group of patients standing behind me and they want me to share what I know, because they can’t. And it’s that much more important, for their sake, that I let people know the truth, that aside from what we talked about, we doctors who do abortions are not just “abortionists,” that we're thoughtful, caring, compassionate people who have chosen this work because we want to, not because we want to do anything or else or that we’re in it for the quick buck. That we have made a conscious, moral, ethical decision that this is important. I think the flipside there—

Pause for high five. [high five]

I think the flipside there is there’s this narrative of women who have abortions that goes along with the welfare-queen narrative of the '80s. The idea that these are fallen women, women who allowed their sexuality to run rampant. This incredibly negative, demeaning perception that also has a lot of sexism, racism, classism in it — it’s all the isms tied in together. For me to share the stories of my patients and portray them accurately, to let people know that’s not who we’re talking about here — we’re talking about your mother, sister, daughter. People you know who are thoughtful, careful, compassionate, and doing the best that they can with what they have. It’s that idea of: how can we get our society to trust women, and to realize that this is something that women know best, and that needs to remain private, in the sphere of the doctor-patient relationship?

Was abortion what took you to Ob/Gyn, or was it something you found in residency along the way?

I would say that my feminist awakening came when I was a resident. I had been a passive feminist, passively pro-choice … raised in a relatively liberal family, where I was taught that girls were as good as boys, that girls can do anything they want, and that having access to abortions is important. I went into Ob/Gyn to go into Ob/Gyn and kind of figured … of course I’ll do abortions! Don’t all of us? And … there was some naivete to it.

And I really had my feminist awakening just with my patients — that’s part of why they call it practicing medicine, because your patients teach you. I was awed and at times terrified by what women had to go through in childbirth and the dangers that could occur. Like many laypeople, gradually, as your medical training occurred, you realized, “Oh! Not all pregnancies go well. Not all pregnancies are safe, and even things that look safe can suddenly become emergency situations.” I think I was just incredibly impressed by the fortitude of women in the obstetrical world, and then it started extending to [abortion].

I remember when I was in residency, I had a patient come to me for her first prenatal visit. Nobody had discussed options counseling with her before. So I naively went in there and took this full prenatal history and then she said, “You know, I actually kind of want to have an abortion.” I went, “Oh! Okay! Let me figure this out for you.” That’s not where my brain was going, you know? I hadn't had any experience with options counseling before, so I’m sure I didn’t give her my best, but I gradually began to realize that wow, not every Ob/Gyn does this. And this is really important. She shouldn't have to go through that emergency c-section. If a woman doesn’t feel ready to have the child of her abuser, she shouldn’t have to. If a woman doesn’t feel prepared for the rigors and responsibilities and joys of motherhood, she shouldn’t have to do that if she’s not ready. I think it was that commitment to how important motherhood is, and that it should be voluntary as opposed to drafted. I think that military analogy is kind of apt.

I think it’s perfect!

It's similar to some of the language from the early 20th century. Margaret Sanger, one of her campaigns was “voluntary motherhood” — that’s why she’s talking about birth control and decriminalizing education about birth control. It’s the same thing: I think motherhood should be voluntary. It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love, and that’s what I came to see in the trenches as a resident — that it’s so important to do motherhood well, and to feel ready to do it. And women know when they’re ready. And I trust them to know that. And I recognize that a woman is the only one who CAN know that for her own life. Other people can tell her what to do, and have all kinds of assumptions and preconceptions about what her life is “really like,” but I think that’s immoral. And I use that term provocatively because I think, unfortunately, the idea of providing abortion or women having abortions has all been laden with this idea that it’s the “immoral” thing to do. I think it’s immoral to tell a woman to stay pregnant when she’s not ready.

How about that having an abortion is not “taking responsibility for the pregnancy?”

Right! And that the actual responsible choice is to wait until you’re ready. I see my patients as being very thoughtful, deliberative, and responsible in what they do in their lives. I want to support them in that.

I heard [pediatrician and family-planning specialist] Rachael Phelps give a talk once, and she said something that really stuck with me: she said that no matter where you are in this issue, pro life or pro choice, whatever, everyone wants all children to be born wanted. We all want a baby to be born to a person who wants to become a parent and have that child. We all have different options that we consider and that other people consider, but that’s what it comes down to. And she’s a pediatrician, not an Ob/Gyn, who felt called to become a provider because she saw how unplanned parenthood was damaging to the families in her practice.

Again, I think it’s the idea that abortion is about motherhood — people think that they’re polar opposite things, but they’re not. More than half of women who have abortions are already mothers. They know what it takes to become a mother. Which is why they sometimes say, no, not now.

For myself — I’m a Unitarian Universalist, and one of the ministers became a friend of mine. We ran the Reproductive Rights and Social Justice task force at the church. She came to see me about three weeks after my daughter was born and I was on maternity leave. She came as a friend and a minister, reflecting on the amazingness and hardness of it, and she asked me, “How does it feel for you, doing what you do providing abortions for women and your dedication to that idea of helping women, how does it feel to be a mom now?” “Oh my god, all the more dedication to it, because nobody should have to do what I did unless they’re ready.” Parts of it are really, really hard and scary, and this is from an obstetrician who has been delivering babies for 16 years! To say, “that was really hard and should only be chosen” and you wonder why some people have PTSD after delivering. Certainly for me the transition to becoming a mother was that much more affirming of my work and my advocacy for my patients.

Did you see how in 2011 they enacted 135 provisions that restricted abortion — that graph that goes like that. [draws air squiggly line with finger, then points straight up]

I’ve seen the same graph.

One of the things that seem to be moving is policing practice — the “demand” side instead of the supply side, laws like waiting periods. I’m thinking about the Texas ultrasound law, or something like reading scripts to patients with medically inaccurate lies in them. I’d like to talk about that — it’s very fascinating to me because I can’t imagine working in a clinic in Texas right now.

Restrictions that are placed on medical practice within abortion care — and only in abortion care, singled out and stigmatized within medicine — are because there’s this presumption that we’re not doing it well, that’s part of it, and there’s the harassment factor to scare physicians away or make it harder to do their job.

Specifically to the requirement that a woman would need to see ultrasound images before having an abortion — I think I can sort of understand what the anti-choice side thinks they’re doing. They think that women don’t understand, and that it’s going to change their minds. But in my experience, that’s just not the case. Women know why they feel the need to have an abortion, and seeing an ultrasound image doesn’t change the facts of their lives. They don’t feel ready for a baby, and having an ultrasound doesn’t suddenly make them ready. Again, it comes back to that respect for the responsibility of motherhood and the wish to do it well. It’s misguided to say that being shown an ultrasound will change your whole life. No! It won’t! In many cases this is a very difficult choice, let alone for people who wanted the pregnancy but now have to terminate.

And I think that it’s important to see that even if abortion were no longer safe and legal, women would still do it. Which is why thinking about the anniversary of Roe v. Wade … my entire medical career has been after Roe. I have to think back to the things that my mentors taught me in residency — the old graybeards who were almost all men, but who became ardent feminists when they saw what was happening to women, and who advocated for the decriminalization of abortion. In medicine, if something is an intern’s task, it means it’s kind of — repetitive, not particularly important, kind of menial. And what interns end up doing is sometimes telling of how things are considered to be important in medicine. I had an old graybeard attending in residency who told a story from his residency, pre-Roe, in an inner-city hospital in Detroit. The intern every morning had to mix up the IV pressors for the women who would come in septic after an abortion, and they would use these pressors to avoid dying. The ward where they put them — gallows humor, you have to deal somehow — they called the septic tank. And that’s what he saw as a trainee. He saw women incredibly sick and incredibly maimed, dying, and dead. All because of their determination and recognition of “I am not ready to be a mother. I cannot do this.” Women will take really  frightening risks when they don’t have access to safe care.

Let’s say, thought experiment. Let’s say Roe v. Wade got overturned. There’d be 1.5 million women who had been seeking abortions who can’t have a safe one. Someone will have an unsafe one and will die or be damaged for life; some women will have the child and not be capable of taking care of it. And we know that women who have unplanned pregnancies who go on to deliver have a higher risk of complications in pregnancy, high rate of pre-term birth, a higher rate of the children having behavioral difficulty, poor achievement, cycles of poverty, domestic violence. And the whole idea that somehow adoption can solve it all is just not how the American public thinks. Only 1% of women with an unplanned pregnancy go forward with adoption in the US — very, very small. And I hear it from my patients for all different reasons: they never could do it, the interesting thing they say is that they don’t trust anybody else to raise their child. Will the child be loved? Will the child be well cared for? Again, it gets to the idea that they understand how important motherhood is — I don’t necessarily see out there the American public ready to adopt 1 million babies. So just from a practical point of view, if you do a thought experiment of making it illegal or ridiculously more restricted than it is now, more women will die, more families will suffer, and that’s not good. That is not a moral good.

It’s scaring people.

It’s to scare people, to tell them lies, it’s a version of domestic, psychological terrorism. It’s not in any way, shape, or form medically necessary to mandate these things. It’s apparently politically necessary and politically expedient. But it doesn’t help the issue. I think the other piece that I’ve been neglecting on the Roe anniversary is the whole “Where are we with birth control? Where are we with comprehensive sex education?” issue. Not so great. Half of all pregnancies are “oops” — it’s been that way for a really, really, embarrassingly long time. It’s all too much “blame the victim” — “oh, she didn’t take her pills” — but maybe it’s just that pills aren’t the right thing. Why blame women for the fact that methods most of them are presented with don’t fit into their lives? So, it’s that incredibly sad situation of creating the victims and then blaming them for their situation. We don’t put our money where our mouth is when we talk about women and children first. We're looking at restricting funding to WIC, restricting funding to early childhood programs, and, I mean, this is not helpful. We need to support families, we need to help people rise up out of poverty, and then they won’t feel like they have to have an abortion because they can’t afford another baby. And the whole sex-education issue — we just had a whole generation come of age in the era of abstinence-only education. And people who don’t feel empowered to have responsible sex lives are still going to have sex lives, they just won’t be as safe, because they haven’t been equipped with the knowledge and access to contraception.

Have you had any patients recently that stick out in your mind?

I had a patient recently — and I think this gets to the issue of second-trimester abortion, which is of course is much more of a hot-button topic and has been used for the anti-choice side both out of proportion statistically for what it is and out of misunderstanding its complex nature. There’s what I call the triad of delay. It’s a natural question: “why did she wait? Why wasn’t she there at six weeks rather than 18?” Maybe she had irregular periods, she didn’t have Mother Nature’s early warning system. All kinds of reasons. Maybe she was raped — there's another level of denial that goes with that. There's also the decision-making process. Women assess all their responsibilities and resources, and ask — do I have enough to be a good mom and have a baby? For some people they do that really fast, and for other people it takes longer. Conversations about stress in a relationship, changes in employment status. Those decisions take longer. And then there’s the access to care — that gets into that issue of disparities. Poor women have to make the arrangements: time off work, time off school, childcare, travel. If you have a waiting period, you have to travel twice and it’s that much more expense. Those factors can all delay a woman.

And we know that statistically women who show up in the second trimester are younger, poorer, and have lower education, typically, then women in the first trimester. They are a more vulnerable population who need that much more care, counseling, consideration, and compassion, so that it’s really unfortunate that that whole aspect of it is being demonized when actually those are the people who need our help and thoughtful compassion the most.

The patients who suffer most from the bureaucracy that’s been imposed on them.

Yes, I was thinking about a recent patient — since you're asking about the stories that stand out in my mind — I had a patient who had an unplanned pregnancy, and she thought she and her partner could make it work. She was getting prenatal care, but at 20 weeks she found out that he was married, had children with his wife, and also had children with another woman. She had to totally re-evaluate her life plans. She had two children from a previous relationship who were a bit older, and she had been in a partnership to raise them, and now she was looking at, “Do I have this baby while I’m with this big fat liar? Do I have this baby alone?” So that she found out late that she need to reconsider her ability to have another child. And she needed a long time to think about it correctly … and she had complete support from her family. I am, again, day by day, impressed by the genuine concern and thoughtful deliberation of patients referring to this issue, and I was so impressed by her careful thought process and that of her family and support people. So she did; she did decide to have an abortion. It was later.

I can’t even imagine that kind of being blindsided. I’ll finish with my funny protester story?

Okay.

It was a procedure day at this clinic, so there were a ton of protesters outside. Suddenly, a woman — this stately matron in a power suit — comes up to the group of protesters and yells, “EVERYBODY GET OUT OF MY WAY!! I HAVE A YEAST INFECTION!!” and busts through them, pushing everyone aside, to get to the clinic entrance. Took any of the power out of the protesters. It was magnificent.

Thank you for that story.

Previously: Ask an Abortion Provider.

Lola Pellegrino is a registered nurse. Here is her tumblr.

Photo via Jess Silk.



192 Comments / Post A Comment

atipofthehat

OPP, ha! I remember that song.

I also remember the U.S. OUT OF MY UTERUS sign.

olivia

Wow, what a fantastic interview! And I love the yeast infection lady SO MUCH.

Katie Heaney

It is really, really great to see this here. Thank you to you both!

blee

Thank you so much for reminding me why I went to grad school to study access to reproductive health care. I've been feeling so unmotivated for most of the time I've been in school, and this paragraph just relit the fire in me:

"I think theoretically, 39 years later, part of what’s happened is that not only can rich women get an abortion more easily, but they can get birth control more easily as well. So what I’ve seen is the proportion [of women] who are poor having abortions is increased. That disparity exists in access to reproductive healthcare in general, too. The most effective methods of contraception, like IUDS and implants, are unfortunately more expensive, and those can be out of reach. [This is the truth for] a lot of women in our country, and you reap what you sow … because those women have fewer resources to care for an unexpected potential child, they are then more boxed in. The circumstances of their lives unfortunately predict what they feel like they have to do."

redheaded&crazy

@blee it's always bizarre to me how the logic of this doesn't click with anti-choicers who want to cut social services, cut planned parenthood, restrict access to health care.

what do you think is going to happen to these people?! will all these poor single mothers just disappear into the ether?

Alixana

@redheadedandcrazy They think they'll be forced to marry someone - anyone! - to provide for them, and stay home with the babies, and we can all return to 1950, when everything was wonderful and women Knew Their Places!

miwome

@Alixana Ah yes, back to Midcentury Whiteland! Quick, to the Classmobile!

EpWs

@miwome It runs on societal prejudice and repression, don't forget to fill up before you go!

Ophelia

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Did you hear? They now make a flex-fuel with Righteous Indignation added in.

miwome

@Ophelia The best part is, all these fuels are made from renewable resources. Save nature for your pretty, unaborted children to play in!

EpWs

@miwome Thank heavens for that. *Rolls up windows in the Classmobile, lights up a cigarette and mixes up a cocktail.* Buckle up, kids!

miwome

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher What's that you say? Fido suffocated? Kids, you know, sometimes...*hic*...sometimes our pets don't live as long as we do. He's in a better place, now.

Ophelia

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher I'm imagining a twisted set of children's books about The Classmobile - like the Magic Schoolbus, but horrifying.

Alixana

@miwome Pretty sure Fido is strapped to the roof of the car in this scenario.

Ophelia

@Alixana Mitt, is that you?

miwome

@Alixana Touché.

applestoapples

"The fundamental issue, again, is that making abortion less available doesn’t stop it from happening, it just means that more women suffer and die. It’s that simple."

Truth. I wonder if this is a thing that those who are anti-abortion but proudly claim to be "pro-life" have ever taken a moment to really consider.

Thank you for your work, Dr. Stanwood (and thanks for the interview, Lola).

Faintly Macabre

@applestoapples In my (admittedly limited) experience, they haven't, but they don't really care, because the women who die shouldn't be seeking abortions, either.

Alixana

@applestoapples Well, if they really truly believe abortion is murder, then it makes sense, right? We don't legalize murder just because it would be safer and less dangerous for murderers if we did.

Of course, if it's really truly murder, then how long should 1 out of 3 women spend in jail? And then the antis say "oh, there shouldn't be punishment for the women, it's the evvilll doctors who are making them kill their babies" and the core of this - the idea that women don't have moral agency - is revealed.

EpWs

@applestoapples Yes. This. This is a big part of my argument when I'm arguing with pro-lifers (when the usual points of "It's her damn body and who are you to tell her what she can or cannot do with it?" don't work).

Nicole mentioned something really insightful in the last abortion thread (My version is not nearly as eloquent as hers):
We don't compel the dead to give up their organs--lifesaving, vital organs that will absolutely save another human being--but we compel women to put their health and lives at risk to carry a fetus to term?

applestoapples

The thing is, I just want those kind of anti-abortionists to drop the "pro-life" schtick and stop trying to pretend that their agenda is not really driven by some kind of retributive bloodthirst.
When certain people take it upon themselves to bomb abortion clinics and murder doctors because they think unforgivable acts are being perpetuated, that's decidedly NOT valuing the sanctity of life. And even if someone is anti-abortion and thinks those acts are wrong, they're only getting a taste of their own medicine by being lumped in with murderous psychos.

Alixana

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Because sex. If you didn't want to carry a baby to term, you shouldn't have opened your knees!

(No idea why I am feeling compelled to be the Speaker for the Antis today).

redheaded&crazy

@applestoapples yeah I seriously refuse to call these people pro-life. I am pro life. I am also pro choice. They are not mutually exclusive terms, and to frame the conflict that way only gives power to anti-choicers.

EpWs

@Alixana Ah, yes, because sex. I forget about these things.
@redheadedandcrazy "I am pro life. I am also pro choice. They are not mutually exclusive terms, and to frame the conflict that way only gives power to anti-choicers." Yes! They are the anti-choice. So well said.

EternalFootwoman

@Alixana "Of course, if it's really truly murder, then how long should 1 out of 3 women spend in jail? And then the antis say "oh, there shouldn't be punishment for the women, it's the evvilll doctors who are making them kill their babies" and the core of this - the idea that women don't have moral agency - is revealed." Precisely. Precisely! The more I think about the convoluted path between what most anti-choicers say and what they actually, at the core, believe, the more flabbergasted I become and the more I hate people.

Faintly Macabre

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher I remember that! That was a brilliant point. I think the next time someone starts in about abortion with me, I'm going to demand to see if they've put Organ Donor on their driver's license. And if they do, ask if they nag everyone they know about that.

TN
TN

@applestoapples somewhat optimistic personal anecdote time! When I was in law school, I had befriended a very, very religious guy. He was pretty liberal generally, but his religious beliefs informed his views on abortion. I have several arguments in my arsenal as to why I think abortion should stay legal, but the one I used with him is that outlawing it won't make it go away, it will just make it more unsafe and disproportionately target a population that's already disadvantaged. We had a really calm, thoughtful discussion and I think that point actually made him reconsider his position.

applestoapples

@TN Success! That at least gives me some hope.

Craftastrophies

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher I like to refer to them as 'forced pregnancy advocates'.

thebestjasmine

@applestoapples They do sometimes think about that. And their response is that they care more about the life of the baby than the mother (I have gotten this exact response!).

Craftastrophies

@thebestjasmine And when the baby grows up and needs an abortion because of a life threatening pregnancy?

Sigh.

Faintly Macabre

I love this and the first Ask An Abortion Provider. Philly's wreck of a newspaper recently published a useless point-counterpoint about abortion, in which the anti-abortion writer said that they offer women more choice--the choice to become the mothers they were born to be. (They also thought sex should only be in marriage and for procreation, ugh.) Even though, as said above, most/many women seeking abortions are married or at least have had a wanted child before. I want to go paste this in every copy of Sunday's paper.

blee

@Faintly Macabre Do you happen to have a link?

EpWs

@Faintly Macabre Yes, I would really like to read this too. Link please!

Faintly Macabre

@blee I guess I should not be surprised that while the pro-choice column (written by the region's head of PP) is online, the totally insane column isn't. Argh! I have the paper in my lap and am next to a scanner, so I'll try to zip it onto flickr.

blee

@Faintly Macabre I love our region's head of PP! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, I really appreciate it.

Faintly Macabre

@blee Here you are! No problem--I just wish the Inquirer site spent less time curating Lisa Scottoline and Rick Santorum's op-ed portals and more time making the rest of the site useful. (And maybe less full of racist bile? But that's a stretch.)

iceberg

@Faintly Macabre AAAAAHHHHH GROSS! Thank you for posting, that is insane.

EpWs

@Faintly Macabre brb, off throwing up at "sexual embrace."
edit: Ooooh, now I'm all riled up. Christine Friedrich, the pro-choice movement gives ladies choices too. The choice to have sex and ENJOY it without worrying about getting knocked up. The choice to not put my life on hold or on halt because of a baby I don't want. The choice to have a baby--or not--when and if I want to, and not before. The choice to not endanger my life with a pregnancy I don't want. That's why we call this the "pro-choice" movement. DEAL WITH IT.

Ophelia

@iceberg I couldn't actually read the whole thing.

Faintly Macabre

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Yeah, that bit was probably what boggled my mind the most. The rest was drivel but went hand-in-hand with enforced-abstinence viewpoints. But that prohibiting abortion offers more choice? Does she believe that having a baby is currently illegal?

sympathyforthebasementcat

@Faintly Macabre I like how the question marky woman in the illustration is approximately 40 months pregnant.

The Lady of Shalott

@Faintly Macabre According to that horrible thing, the chemicals in your body after you have sex are your body's way of saying to each other "I give all of myself to you forever."

Holy shit, forever? I HAVE SOME PEOPLE TO TRACK DOWN, BRB.

EpWs

@The Lady of Shalott You'd also best get to cloning yourself, because "ALL OF YOURSELF"

blee

@Faintly Macabre thank you! ughhhhhh Generation Life protests at the abortion clinic where I (sometimes, very very very rarely) volunteer as an escort and they are the worst.

Slapfight

"I think it’s immoral to tell a woman to stay pregnant when she’s not ready."
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

atipofthehat

@Slapfight

Also, though this is neither here nor there, if you want to make abortion or being gay or marriage equality illegal, right-wingers, YOU ARE NOT LIBERTARIANS.

EpWs

@atipofthehat TRUTH TRUTH TRUTH

redheaded&crazy

@atipofthehat YES another serious logic fail. I hate this "small government except when it comes to people's personal lives" bullshit.

melis

@redheadedandcrazy "I want my government to be so small that it can fit inside a vagina. Specifically your vagina. Which it will then close forever."

redheaded&crazy

@melis I love it when you talk dirty to me

anachronistique

@redheadedandcrazy Small enough to fit inside your uterus!

gtrachel

The most well-spoken assessment of the situation I've ever encountered. Thank you for putting this on the site.

ru_ri

Thanks so much for this great interview, and thank you both for the incredibly important work that you do. It's tough out there, but this made me feel a bit more hopeful.

EpWs

I want to go Hug An Abortion Provider!

Faintly Macabre

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Ooh, I don't know, aren't they all covered in blood and the remains of defenseles, innocent children? And they might lure you into believing abortion is wonderful!

EpWs

@Faintly Macabre I will hug them anyway. They smell like freedom and daisies.

tortietabbie

I love the pause for the high five! And I'm so glad that the hypocrisy of screaming about saving the innocent, defenseless little babies while slashing early childhood programs left and right was brought up, too. The whole platform is anti-woman, anti-poor and anti-baby, when you come right down to it.

dtowngirl

@tortietabbie Yes, it's this hypocrisy that drives me insane. The anti-choicers want all babies to be born, but don't really care what happens to them once they are born. Shouldn't it be just as important to care for children once they're in the world? How about access to healthcare, food, affordable housing, good schools, etc?

EpWs

@dtowngirl "All babies want to get borned!"

snuffleupagus

@dtowngirl This is always what's driven me nuts. There's no effort to break the cycle of poverty and lack of information that often leads to unplanned pregnancy. I think the protesters' time would be much better spent in an inner-city school tutoring the kids they forced an ill-prepared teenage mom to have. Or offering after-school childcare while mom goes to work her second (or third) job. Or footing the bill for the prenatal services and the hospital visits and the baby clothes and the college fund. Trying to force a child on a woman that is not physically, emotionally, or financially ready to have one (or another one) and then walking away as soon as the baby is born is the worst kind of hypocrisy.

Ophelia

@snuffleupagus That's because there's a horrible undercurrent of the idea that the poor are to blame for their poverty - if they were only BETTER people, they wouldn't be in this mess. And that goes double for women who have (gasp!) sex.

This typically hidden in jargon-y language like, "We believe in equal opportunity, not equal outcomes," or "everyone has a responsibility to society to [insert contribution here]."

Don't get me STARTED on what Jesus would say to that, and I'm an athiest!

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher God appreciates your miracle!

ilikemints

@snuffleupagus When you're the kind of person who believes in the anti-choice movement, you think that the poor deserve to be poor because of some personal moral failing. And if a woman who is also poor becomes pregnant, then you recognize that the hazards of being so and the strain of being a parent, you believe being a mother as a just punishment for the crimes of being a poor woman, not to mention additional punishment for being a racial minority. And you also believe that it's fully within her power to pull on her bootstraps to remedy her situation, and if she doesn't, more proof of her absolute moral failure, because silly ideas like cycles of poverty, classism, racism, sexism, lack of proper education and healthcare, and compassion for fellow human beings are all just excuses for stupid, sinful women who deserve everything they get.

snuffleupagus

@Ophelia, @ilikemints
You're absolutely right, both of you. It depresses me that people think this way -- how can you possibly believe someone WANTS to be poor, to have everyday life be a struggle to cobble together the next rent check? Gah!

Faintly Macabre

@snuffleupagus My mother helped with a program through Philly's PP to teach better sex-ed in Philly high schools and provide one-on-one support for kids who wanted it. She said it was unbelievable how little these teenagers knew about sexual health and reproduction, and how much they were already doing. But then the powers-that-be diverted that funding to other PP programs, so that program basically disappeared.

Craftastrophies

@tortietabbie It makes me think of the quote, 'give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Cut funding for fishing classes, you're going to be handing out a lot more fish.'

Cause and effect, people. Cause and effect. You don't fund sex ed, birth control, early childhood things, then people are going to need more abortions. If you REALLY CARE about reducing the number of abortions, you need to work on making there be fewer unwanted pregnancies.

Also, I was surprised by the comment about implants being expensive. How much are they in the US? When I had mine, here in Australia, it cost $7, and they put it in for free. Which was great for my poor uni student self, as it was cheaper than the pill (which would not have been right for me anyway). I guess it's subsidised here?

ilikemints

@Craftastrophies Without insurance, from this source, "For patients not covered by insurance, an IUD typically costs between $175 and $600 for the device, insertion and a follow-up appointment. Sometimes an appointment for a pelvic exam, where you discuss whether the IUD is right for you, is required before the insertion appointment can be made. This can cost an additional $35 to $200 -- for a total of $210 to $800."

I'd say that's about right. If a person has insurance, they'd be expected to pay a much smaller copay, depending how good their coverage is.

Craftastrophies

@ilikemints My friend had an IUD put in here, and I know it was less than $200.

As for the implanon, PP tells me it's $400-800. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT.

tortietabbie

@Craftastrophies Mine was free, thanks to a program that gives them out to uninsured sluts like me. But, ugh...my only hope now is that I have decent insure in 2014, when it's time to replace it! Or else move to Australia, find some hot dude to marry me, and become a citizen (I just watched McLeod's Daughters, so I basically know all about Australia now)? Do you have a brother? :)

Craftastrophies

@tortietabbie I do not. I have a male cousin, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to marry him. In fact, my acquaintance has a dearth of marriageable males, but I'll keep an eye out for you :P

Fwiw, I had mine in for longer than I ought, because I was in China when the 3 years rolled around, and then I was in a drought so just didn't really think about it for another year or so - I probably had mine in for about 4.5 years. It was still doing its thing with my hormones, and I wasn't having periods, etc. I don't think I'd be using it as primary birth control after it was due to be replaced, but it's certainly not the end of the world if you creep over the date a little.

queenofbithynia

This is great, and I mean this as a comment rather than a criticism, but I raise an eyebrow somewhat at the widespread use of the language of 'readiness' and preparation since so many women who have abortions were actually ready to be mothers a long time ago -- they already are, they already have one or several kids. Mothers have abortions, not just mothers-in-waiting. Obviously Dr. Stanwood knows this better than I do, and I loved the interview, I just feel like it can't be repeated too often.

Also, the March for Life (so-called) is in D.C. today. Today is my day for giving baleful glares to dicks with placards.

EternalFootwoman

@queenofbithynia I think it is safe to say that having one child doesn't mean you're ready to have all the children. A woman who is already a mother and who already knows the challenges and requirements and difficulties of being a mother is possibly more capable than a woman with no children to say whether or not she is ready or prepared to have children.

null

@queenofbithynia She does bring up the fact that more than half of women who have abortions are already mothers, but it definitely does not hurt to repeat it. I would like to point out though that just because I was already a mother when I had an abortion does not mean that I was any more ready or prepared to take on another... your comment seems to suggest otherwise.

(D'oh. I took too long to submit my comment, sorry for being redundant!)

parallel-lines

I am so excited this is becoming a regular feature, and thank you so much for being brave and doing what you do.

The Hons

This post reminded me to take my birth control.

LeafySeaDragon

@The Hons bc are really awful, when i think of how many close calls i had while taking them. taking a tiny pill at the exact same time every day sounds easy, but it's really not, or at least it wasn't for me. men need to be less afraid to get vascetomies!

LeafySeaDragon

i reposted this where my family can see it, a little afraid of blowback but greatly impressed with the compassion and eloquence of the lady interveiwed. the idea that being prochoice is being pro-motherhood is such a hard concept for a lot of people to grasp.

melis

"Oh, the ultrasound didn't convince you to call off the abortion? Very well. What about this child's drawing of what your fetus might someday look like if she were being carried by a wide-eyed, knobble-kneed baby deer wearing a sailor suit? No, they're both wearing sailor suits. Are you sure you still want one? Reeeeeeally sure?"

melis

"How about this? It's a computer-rendered graphic of what it might look like if you had your baby, and your baby looked like Shirley Temple, and she wore shoes made out of gumdrops and a hat made out of licorice sticks and her best friend was Uncle Wiggily and every time she opened her mouth a perfect diamond fell from her lips. I'll bet you'd like to carry this pregnancy to term now, wouldn't you?"

melis

"Still nothing? You're a tough nut to crack. What if we offered you a lifetime supply of Papa John's pizza, three free tickets to any matinee of your choice at an AMC theater, and this Yorkie puppy that will fall asleep curled up next to your baby every single night? Eh? Ehhh??"

EpWs

@melis "What about this rendering of a handsome, responsible man who will provide for you whilst you stay home with this agreeable, happy, large-eyed and small-nosed infant? And a year's supply of Rice-a-Roni?"

melis

"Ah, you drive a hard bargain, missus. There's a woman, I said to myself, I said when I say you, there's a woman what knows what she wants and no mistake. Very well, ma'am, I say very well, and I offer you a second baby made entirely of jammies."

melis

@melis Why this elaborate scenario starring a manipulative health-care technician suddenly devolved into a turn-of-the-century Cockney carnival barker will remain a mystery for the ages.

Lola P.

@melis like like like like like like

Lola P.

@melis there seems to be an issue where i'm not allowed to hit the little grey hands to add numbers in proportion to how i feel about the accompanying comment--it appears to be a mere one per! editor please fix this, HAIRPIN BROKEN

EpWs

@melis A baby made entirely of jammies? Or jam? ("Call off your abortion in the next ten minutes and receive a free second baby at no extra charge! Just pay shipping and handling, plus the cost of raising the wee one for the next eighteen years. But your husband can cover that, surely. Remember, ladies, call off your abortion now! This fantastic offer won't last long!")

Ophelia

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher If you call now, not only will we TRIPLE your order, you'll be eligible for financing with a 0% APR for fifteen months!

EpWs

@Ophelia "If you find a lower price ANYWHERE, we'll throw in a FOURTH baby absoLUTELY free! WE WILL NOT BE UNDERSOLD."

miwome

@melis By the end, I was imagining him as Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon A Time? Like this, more or less.

atipofthehat

@melis

IN FUTURE, YOU MUST VIEW AN ULTRASOUND OF YOUR COMMENT BEFORE POSTING

Ophelia

@atipofthehat OOooh! I can see its teeny-tiny punctuation marks and HTML coding already!

ilikemints

@atipofthehat Think of all the thumbs up your comment could have if only you'd hit post!

EpWs

@atipofthehat No one ever regrets posting! Every post is wanted, and every post is a miracle! Accept the responsibility and the joy of being the poster you were created to be! Also, posting is the natural result of reading The Hairpin's comments, so step up and deal with it.

Ophelia

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher If you didn't want to post, why are you even reading the comments? Hmmmmm?

area@twitter

@melis I love you all. But especially melis.

As an aside, this is one reason that Tim Tebow* commercial for Focus on the Family riled me up; it was "hey! Don't have an abortion, and your child will grow up to be a professional athlete! Who takes care of you and buys you houses, and you'll never have to worry about money again!"

*I promise I will shut up about Tebow after this

EpWs

@area@twitter I AM NOT DONE YELLING ABOUT TEBOW

PistolPackinMama

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher We mustn't forget those poor, unfortunate comments that are ERADICATED after they have been posted. By irresponsible COMMENTERS who type before they think!

I... I... need to go pray for all the lost comments that were the result of careless comment sluts now.

laurel

^^^ Funniest thread ever?

HeyThatsMyBike

@area@twitter I am late to this, but the part that made me most angry about that ad was that she says, "I chose to keep the baby."
Exactly. You were given a choice.

area@twitter

@HeyThatsMyBike EXACTLY

Katie Scarlett

Thank you! This was so amazing!

These women's health articles --starting with the first Ask an Abortion Provider -- really get me all riled up in a way that very few other things do. I feel like they're slowly lighting a fire beneath me and someday, when I can be a lil more calm and less openly weepy, I wanna do good work like these ladies.

Diana

@Katie Scarlett

After graduating with not one but two! worthless degrees and the prospect of a lot of meaningless work in front of me, I'm honestly feeling like I should scrap it all, go back to school, get a nursing license, and become an abortion provider.

acid burn

@Diana That's what I'm doing! Only one semi-useless degree but the rest of it is me. I'm bookmarking this article, so that whenever I'm feeling really discouraged about memorizing anatomy terms or writing application essays or whatever, I can come back and read this. Because THIS IS WHY.

Anji

This interview was fantastic! And timely in a personal sense, because I just learned today that my dad's sister - who is an RN - spent the first few years of her nursing career working in an abortion clinic, and her husband (an OB/GYN) continues to perform abortions even now. They're firmly pro-choice because they've been there. They've seen what being forced into having a child that isn't wanted can do to a woman's psyche, not to mention how awful it is for the child. Auntie also went on a hilarious rant about "those evil anti-abortion fuckers who parked their car plastered with goddamn 'choose life' stickers - how fucking stupid is that anyway, why are you putting your entire life in stickers on your car - in front of MY HOUSE." I wouldn't be surprised if she took a razor blade to it if they do that again.

I love it when my family is unexpectedly awesome.

EpWs

@Anji Your aunt sounds fantastic, I want to have lunch with her.

Anji

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Sure! If you don't mind never getting to actually say anything. ;-)

Diana

There is never a day that goes by that I don't remember that I'm in this closet. There is never a day that goes by that I'm not unspeakably grateful for the reasons that brought me here, and there is never a day that goes by that I'm not furious that this closet exists. 1.5 million ladies walked in this same closet with me in 2010. 1.5 million more ladies squeezed themselves in last year. 1.5 million ladies will barrel in this year. In Obama's first term alone, 6 million women or so will have been forced into this closet. How many of us can this closet possibly fit before the hinges collapse and we all come tumbling out? What will happen when we do?

Mingus_Thurber

@Diana Hi! My name is Jo, and I had an abortion twenty-one years ago. Best decision I've ever made; it made everything in my life since then possible. Including working in women's health and at an abortion clinic!

Nicole Cliffe

@Diana Can I sit with you two? Can some of my female relatives?

Diana

@Mingus_Thurber

Can you tell me more about how you got started working in women's health? What was your background etc? It's what I really want to do but I'm so confused about how to transition into it, how do I get a first job or an internship or what have you?

Mingus_Thurber

@Diana It's actually kind of funny. I had an abortion at nearly-22, then went off and did a whole lot of other stuff for about six years. Then I applied for, and got, a job at the local Planned Parenthood.

I'm not sure how easy it would be now to just answer an ad in the paper and start working for PP or any other like-minded folks; this was in 1998. Anyway, I had a pretty good self-taught background already, and they trained me on the basic stuff like, say, how the pill works and how IUDs function and various STDs. Before long I was lecturing to biology and psych classes at the local colleges and giving talks to fraternities and sororities (my favorite part of the job--comedy sex ed!).

Then I started nursing school. I couldn't continue to work at PP while doing that; I needed something part-time. The local abortion clinic, where I had had my abortion done, heard I was free and hired me as an aftercare para-professional and counselor.

In other words, it was all word-of-mouth, on-the-job training. Keep your eyes and ears open and go in to places and ask. Be sure you have a lot of personal and job references, though, as people are MUCH more cautious now about folks who just apply.

Oooooh! If you're in college, see if your campus has a women's issues group. You can get great leads through them.

Lola P.

@Diana @mingus_thurber this was beautiful; thank you. i'll share my story but y'all already know it

Lola P.

@Lola McClure oh man trying to be all smooth and i messed up the link

ilikemints

Maybe it's Lack of Reading Comprehension Monday or something, but can anyone explain this bit for me? "The intern every morning had to mix up the IV pressors for the women who would come in septic after an abortion".

EpWs

@ilikemints I THINK it's talking about how women coming in with infections and such after illegal abortions was so common that making IV kits to counteract the infections and such was an everyday task.

Mingus_Thurber

@ilikemints That's right. They'd mix up the IV antibiotics in the morning so as not to delay treatment for the women who'd come in later in the day.

ilikemints

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Okay. It was the "mix up" part that was confusing me. I didn't think of the "concoct" definition and went straight to "confusion or rearranging", and couldn't grasp why that wasn't a terribly unethical or routine thing to do.

Thanks for clearing that up!

Also, I love Lola for giving us these articles and The Hairpin for providing a platform for us to read and discuss them.

miwome

@ilikemints Agree with TEW and M_T, try reading it this way: The intern every morning had to mix up the IV pressors for the women who would come in, septic, after an abortion.

Mingus_Thurber

@miwome OH, SHIT. I missed the "pressors" part of the quote and my brain went straight to IV antibiotics.

IV "pressors" are (that's medical slang) drugs that you use to keep a patient's blood pressure up so that their kidneys and heart and brain and so forth stay perfused with blood, even if they're septic and have no blood pressure. One of the most hard-core, Levophed, has the nickname "leave-'em-dead" because it causes the body to, in effect, reroute blood from things like the intestines to make sure the brain/kidneys/etc get enough. I've seen people's fingers rot off after a few doses of Levophed--and that's more'n likely what they'd have been using, as it's one of the older ones.

Yeah. Reading "pressors" and knowing what "pressors" are makes it that much more frightening, even though I was already scared.

miwome

@Mingus_Thurber Now I'm extra scared too.

Craftastrophies

@Mingus_Thurber And here is the thing. Most of those women would have known that they would probably end up septic and in hospital. They would have all known someone who had died that way - as the article says, you wouldn't hear about it now, but the peer group would all know. And they did it anyway. Think about how bad you would have to need something before you would opt in to septic blood and fingers rotting off. Terrifying.

joie

*standing ovation*

This was so timely and wonderful, as I was just reading the first Ask An Abortion Provider over the weekend and musing over how great it was. I have so much respect and gratitude for those who dedicate their lives to this work, and am inspired to dig deeper into it myself.

snuffleupagus

@heyits I totally read the beginning of your comment as "standing ovulation." Which is also somewhat appropos.

km1312

This piece, Dr. Stanwood (where does she practice? Can she be my gyno?), Lola's continued presence on this site, and -last but certainly not least - that photo, are all just wonderful. Thanks, everyone.

citizen knope

Thank you for the work that you do! This was an excellent interview.

iceberg

@citizen knope Seconded. Thank you for actually caring for women!

mpdg

The first article I read on The Hairpin was the original Ask An Abortion Provider because Feministing linked to it.

I love this because the two women express all that I believe about reproductive rights but so much more eloquently that I could.

Ophelia

I want to make 8 T-shirts that say, "Pro-Mother, Pro-Baby, Pro-Choice" so I can wear them every day and still have time for laundry.

Moshii@twitter

When I was 19 I found out I was pregnant. It took me about two months to realise it though. I was horribly in denial and totally sure that my period was just being a douche. My GP had told me that I had polycystic ovaries syndrome (true) and that I probably couldn't have children (not true) so it was nice to believe that it was just late. (To answer your question, our method failed, but I'm frankly of the thought that I shouldn't need to make excuses for my pregnancy.)
I'm really lucky in that the NHS offer free abortion, counselling, and contraception. I went into Marie Stopes lovely clinic, had it done, hugged the nurses that did it for me. The only sucky parts were when my GP's nurse told me off for wasting NHS money by not getting the morning-after. (If only I could have made a snappy comeback about how much more taxpayer's dosh I'd waste if I'd had that baby.) I'm now thankfully on the implant, which costs so little and saves so much that I don't know why it's not free all over the world.
The other girls waiting with me chatted about how there were no protesters outside and how totally normal it was. One girl was about 15, spoke very little English and refused pain medications. We don't know why. All we could do was drink our tea and eat our biscuits and read gossip mags and be glad that that little room was soundproofed.
About a year later I felt the need to talk about it. I made a post in my blog, an absolutely massive post that talked about my choice and why I made it and how if anyone didn't like it they were totally allowed to excuse themselves from my life. To my surprise, everyone rallied around me. Some of my girlfriends messaged me privately to thank me, since they'd had experiences and were too scared to talk about it. Now I am the first to offer advice to anyone who needs it. Like my friends never judged me, I couldn't judge someone else whether they wanted to keep a baby or not. Knowing someone else has been through the same experience as you is important, and that is all I offer.
Pro-choice shouldn't be controversial. It's choosing to get rid of a bunch of cells or taking care of it till it's 18. Supporting it shouldn't be taboo. Making an active choice in it either way shouldn't be taboo. And talking about it shouldn't be taboo.

gobblegirl

@Moshii@twitter Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

tea tray in the sky.

@gobblegirl Wow, good for you, really.

I had an abortion when I was 17, in my second trimester. The only reason I didn't go in earlier was because the woman I usually saw for birth control at the anonymous free clinic told me, after I'd missed a period, "Were you taking your pill? You were? Then you can't be pregnant." "But can't I have a pregnancy test just to be sure?" "Seriously, if you were on birth control, you're not pregnant. That's how birth control works." I was young and naive and so WANTED to trust her, that it wasn't until my next missed period that I bought my own at-home test. It's such a shame that all clinic workers aren't as awesome as the ladies doing this interview.

laurel

I had an abortion at 22. I knew I was pregnant pretty much the moment it happened (hey, my diaphragm is all sideways!); took a home pregnancy test a few days later, yup, little plus sign; confirmed at PP; had an abortion. It hurt a little (not nearly as much as bad menstrual cramps) and I was nauseous for a few minutes after. I went home, had a nap and a sandwich and felt fine the next morning.

This was a much better path for me (and, incidentally, you the taxpayer/community member) than raising a child I didn't want and was in no way prepared to care for. Bearing unwanted children seems like a fundamental wrong to me. Children and women deserve better.

MissMushkila

In my senior year of college I took an honors seminar course that required us to interview a family member about a popular culture memory and how their political outlook changed over time - and then we presented to the class. It was fascinating, and I chose to interview my last remaining grandparent.

When it came to political issues, my grandma talked about how she was a nurse before roe v. wade and afterward, and how drastically it altered her worldview in favor of choice. She mostly discussed the women she saw coming in, but I have to believe her own experience at that time of being married to a Catholic man with whom she had SEVEN CHILDREN only for him to have the marriage annulled, leaving her to raise 7 kids on her own on her nursing income in the late 60s, was a major factor. Even considering all that though I was surprised to hear her talk about it so vehemently.

Hella

@MissMushkila I am really impressed by your grandma, and kind of amazed at the sheer brazenness of a man with seven children getting his marriage annulled.

laurel

@MissMushkila "married to a Catholic man with whom she had SEVEN CHILDREN only for him to have the marriage annulled" What fuckery is this?

theguvnah

I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr Stanwood and let me say she is as awesome in person as she comes across here.

Great interview!

Mingus_Thurber

You guys, you guys. I have got to tell you this: as an Old, one of the few people on here who probably has memories that date to before abortion was legal. . .something like this article brings such memories back.

The doctor I worked for had had an illegal abortion back in the late 1960s and was then fitted with a Dalkon Shield. She ended up infertile and became, as a result, both an adoptive mother and an abortion provider.

My mother was denied a D&C in 1968, when she miscarried before getting pregnant with me. Although she was bleeding out in the ER, none of the doctors would do what needed to be done, for fear of being implicated in assisting with an unlawful abortion. My dad, who could've pushed for the care Mom needed, was out of town at the time. Mom got dangerously anemic before an OB/GYN who was just out of school agreed to do a D&C to stop the bleeding.

A year later, he delivered me. Mom told me that she felt, when she met him (she didn't say how) that her life would be as important to him as any baby's. I never knew what she had meant until I found, twenty-eight years later. . .

. . .an ancient card file in the Planned P-hood where I worked. There, under "PROCEDURE", was my mother's doctor's name. Back before abortion was legal, he would do safe, sterile, illegal abortions in the local hospital (maybe he paid off the sheriff?) for less than $200. The card had a set of instructions on it for any woman who needed help: the number to call, the time of day to arrive, the name to give the nurse at the desk, all of that.

In a neat example of The Circle of Life, I took care of him during his last week of life as a hospital nurse. You can bet I did all I could to make him comfortable.

I had patients at PP who had had hysterectomies following failed/septic illegal abortions, and patients who had had kids after lucky illegal abortions. My grandmother talked about women she knew who'd died during childbirth or after abortions, in the days before antibiotics were even thought of.

What amazes me is that there's such a depth of history here, and that I, as a 42-year-old, can trace back *one generation* to find that the incredibly positive, reaffirming, safe, gentle procedure that gave me my life back was dirty, terrifying, and illegal.

melis

@Mingus_Thurber Gosh.

EpWs

@Mingus_Thurber WOW.

Mingus_Thurber

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to be one of those blind old ladies in a chair, thumping her cane on the floor as she sits by the fire, telling her great-great-great-cousin-children "Don't forget. Don't *ever* forget."

laurel

@Mingus_Thurber I nominate the first post in this thread as Hairpin Comment of the Year.

EpWs

@laurel Seconded!

Lola P.

@Mingus_Thurber you fucking rule!

Craftastrophies

@Mingus_Thurber It's raining on my face. That is an amazing story.

Lily Rowan

@Mingus_Thurber That's an incredible story. (I mean amazing, not not-credible.) Thank you.

PistolPackinMama

@Mingus_Thurber <3 this, you, your mother, and the doc.

Mingus_Thurber

@Mingus_Thurber Awww. You are all so sweet. Thanks.

Slapfight

@Mingus_Thurber You just made me cry. This is amazing.

Anji

@Mingus_Thurber This was incredible. I'm not even ashamed to be crying at work.

laurel

You guys, my sexuality ran rampant again. *sigh* I guess it's my fault, 'cause I let it.

Mingus_Thurber

@laurel I find that several strands of barbed wire and a leash is enough to keep my sexuality in check.

laurel

@Mingus_Thurber Maybe one of those shock collars? So that it has the appearance of freedom, up to a point?

Ophelia

@Mingus_Thurber Or a burqa.

EpWs

@laurel Well you know what they say--a tired sexuality is a good sexuality. (Does that make any sense in this context? I don't know.)

laurel

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher You're right. I'll go run mine around at the park for few minutes. Maybe throw the ball for it.

EpWs

@laurel I've found the best way to tire out your sexuality is to exercise it. At least an hour a day.

Craftastrophies

I love Lola talking about her and her partner's grandmothers! They'd get along great with mine. A while back, my Irish Catholic grandma got a bit tipsy and told me 'I really enjoyed the sex I had. I wish I could have had more, but I had too many children already'. And then she looked sad.

I feel so lucky that I basically get to have the kind of life and choices that my (amazing, independent, kick arse) grandma wanted. And I am so sad and angry that she didn't get it herself, that so many women still don't, and that so many people are trying to take that away from us.

Blondsak

Thank you so much for this interview. I am living proof of what the future could be like for countless women if abortion somehow becomes illegal again.

Four years ago, when I was 19, I performed an abortion on myself. I grew up in small-town North Dakota, where abortion is an absolute sin and there are few, if any, options available to young women. I was a sophomore at a small Lutheran college at the time, and the guy was my age and just as scared of being pregnant as I was. However, neither of us had any money, a car to go anywhere, or even anyone we could tell who would have helped us pay for an abortion. Even though the guy promised to ask his parents for the cash by lying about the reason, I was already 9 weeks (or so I could best tell) along by the time I figured it out and terrified that if I waited I would end up having to have the baby. So, out of pure desperation, I looked online at articles about fashioning your own abortion device and took action.

To this day it's one of the dumbest choices I've ever made, but I was just so terrified of anyone finding out that I was beyond being worried about my own health. I'll spare the gory details, but... it was the most horrific experience of my life. Not in that I regret it, but it should never have happened the way it did.

Two days afterward, the guy (who was very sad/angry/scared that I had performed it on myself and only told him after the fact - he never would have let me do such a thing if he had known) helped pay for me to visit a discrete doctor who checked everything out and told me I was lucky, as everything looked like it was healing the way it should. My story even has a semi-happy ending, in that the guy became my boyfriend and we are now living together in DC and quite happy. But, not every woman's story ends so well.

The more people who are educated on the topic, the better chance we have of abortion being a preserved AND respected legal option in all of the U.S. It came too late for me, but it shouldn't have to be too late for anyone else.

parla

@Gussie Fink-Nottle OH. MY. GOODNESS. You are very lucky that you were okay!

ilikemints

@Gussie Fink-Nottle Thank you for being so brave and telling us this story.

EpWs

@Gussie Fink-Nottle Oh, honey, that is terrifying. I'm so glad you're okay and here to tell your story.

Moshii@twitter

@Gussie Fink-Nottle I am so upset that you didn't have the rights and options that women have fought for since forever. That is not right and highlights why we need to make this thing a valid and legal choice for everyone. I am so glad you came out of it relatively unscathed and with someone who loves you. I wish I could hug you.

tortietabbie

@Gussie Fink-Nottle Oh my goodness. I am so glad that your story ended happily!

ms. alex

This is the absolute best. My day started out pretty shitty because John Boehner was on the radio giving a speech about pro-life this and pro-life that and blah blah bullshit, and it really pissed me off. I'm glad I had this to read to counteract the awfulness.

meohmy

Thank you so much for this. I had my abortion when I was 19. After that, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college. Today, I work for pay in a non-profit that helps other low-income women go to college and devote my free time to building an abortion fund in my town. I'm also 8 weeks along in a pregnancy I plan not to terminate. I truly believe that having an abortion changed my life and helped me become the person (and parent) I want to be. I've spent my life for the last 6 years working for the kind of world where women don't have to face the same barriers to access I did; thank you for devoting yours to helping other folks make that choice.

EpWs

@meohmy You are awesome! I want to high five you all the time! (And congrats about your pregnancy and upcoming Dragon Baby!)

tortietabbie

@meohmy You rock!!!! And congratulations. :) I heard this horrifying Santorum tidbit last night about how, if one of HIS daughters found herself unexpectedly pregnant and not wanting to be, he would have to make her see that having an abortion would change her life forever. Yeah, no shit Rick - MAYBE FOR THE BETTER! Ugh. Hate that guy.

EpWs

@tortietabbie Having an abortion would change her life forever? As opposed to the mild bump in the road that is a baby?

tortietabbie

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Seriously. The mind boggles.

nomorecheese

This article was poorly organized/edited. I'm glad to be reading it, but it's not polished.

melis

I too would like to complain about this free service with which we're being provided.

melis

This interview is so informal, almost as though it were an unedited transcript of two people having a conversation. Can you please reprint this in libretto form?

melis

Also, I would like a foot rub.

melis

I would like this foot rub to be in iambic pentameter.

nomorecheese

@melis if I may respond - I am a musician, and if I gave a free concert, I would never expect it of people not to feel free to criticize it.

melis

@nomorecheese Oh, so could you put this in libretto form then? I would like it to be printed on vellum, wrapped inside of a dead cat, wrapped inside of a whisper, but I want it to also transcend time and space. Thanking you in advance,

"I am a musician"

Natkat

I have always wanted to be the voice for women who get talked out of an abortion and regret it. I did and it has really messed up my life and the"baby" , now 22, is a mess and can't get her life together. People don't appreciate the fact that parenthood isn't for 18 years. It is for the rest ofyour life. There is a really good chance that I will spend the rest of my life giving financial support to this child I didn't want. Granted I love her but who did I have this baby for? Both our lives are ruined and for what? She has enough problems without me saying publically that I regret not having an abortion. In no way are we ever allowed to say that.

Gwenfrewi

Have I got this right?

"Only 1% of women with an unplanned pregnancy go forward with adoption in the US — very, very small. And I hear it from my patients for all different reasons: they never could do it, the interesting thing they say is that they don’t trust anybody else to raise their child. Will the child be loved? Will the child be well cared for?"

These patients would rather abort the child than have somebody else raise it, because somebody else might not love it and care for it?

nomorecheese

@Gwenfrewi There is a huge, huge difference between aborting a pregnancy and carrying it to term. Huge, whether you plan to raise it yourself or not.

girlandtonic

@Gwenfrew Yes, these patients would rather have a relatively minor procedure that puts them out of commission for a few days (in most cases) than put themselves through 9 months of HUGE physical changes and challenges, leading to a rather major medical procedure, followed by possible years (decades!) of wondering what became of their child/stress over whether they should meet them/ etc etc.

Gwenfrewi

nomorecheese & girlandtonic - That is not the reason which these patients have given for choosing to terminate their pregnancies, - though it may very well be their real reason.

The reason they have given is that they don't trust anyone else to love and care for their child. That's what the article reports.

dennishobson

It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks madeira palsticatL

1963248500@twitter

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1963248500@twitter

It’s so hard for anybody to be out no matter what their position is — it’s hard for people to say that they had an abortion and to tell their friends. And it’s hard for providers to come out, because there’s that — let’s call it what it is! — threat of terrorism. ibcbet 168

saeedajmal

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