Tierra Encantada

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

I've been wanting to write about an experience I had on this most recent anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but being such a highly controversial subject, I wanted to give it time and care.

I happened to have an appointment with my primary care physician on 1/22/2008, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My PCP also happens to be the only doctor (at least that I know of) in the city who performs abortions. I am used to seeing a protestor or two out on the highway with signs depicting mangled, bloody babies, far too well formed to represent aborted fetuses, and as gross and unrealistic as it is, I believe in the freedom of speech. On this day, there were far more protestors that usual. What initally drew my attention was the number of cars parked on the side of the road. I thought perhaps there had been a traffic accident. It was only when I stopped in the turning lane to pull into the complex that I realized they were protestors.

The parking lot happened to be packed and had to park a good distance away. I had to carefully trek my way up to the row of offices to avoid slipping on the ice. As I walked up the steps to get to the sidewalk lining the front of the various offices I was approached by a man and woman. They said hello and I reciprocated trying to be friendly. The woman then followed behind, even before I was at my PCPs office to tell me that they would be there to talk to me when I came back out about options and that they only wanted what was best for me and my family. Needless to say I was filled with shock, horror and anger all at the same time and walked away and only turned around once I was at the door and feebly managed to say, "She's my PCP, why do you people bug?" Here I am to get my blood pressure checked and I was sure it had just gone through the roof.

I think the first swell of emotion came from the fact that those two people made a judgement and an assumption about me that was not true. First, I'm not pregnant or even sexually active for that matter. Second, I am not sure that I personally could ever have an abortion - I don't think any woman really knows what she would or wouldn't do until she is faced with that decision.

The second swell of emotion came from their ignorance. This doctor is a PCP who happens to offer a service that no one else is willing to provide, at least openly, in an area that is already short of medical professionals of all sorts. She runs a good practice, I get excellent medical care and never have to wait long as they do not overscheduled patients like most doctors do. I have recommended her practice to several people with the warning that she does provide abortion services in the event they have a problem with that. The people I have referred have been nothing but happy with the level of care her office has provided them. Most people walking into that office are regular patients, they are not there to have an abortion.

The third swell of emotion came from the fact this woman said she wanted what was best for me and my family. You already know I am suspicious of people and I can't help but feel like people who spend their time trying to intimidate others are lying when they say they want what is best for someone. Often the biggest opponents of abortion are also the same people that support the death penalty and the war in Iraq, then oppose universal health care, welfare and social services. On so many obvious levels there is contradiction and hypocrisy there.

If I give these people the benefit of the doubt and they really do care and want what is best for someone, how can they really help? They aren't going to help anyone support a child for 18 years or change the person's life situations that cause them to consider abortion in the first place are they? They can't play God and make a deformed or unviable fetus healthy, can they? If they are so full of compassion, can they just be content to comfort you in situations where abortion is the best option for you and your family?

As hard as I try, I cannot see abortion in terms of being only a moral issue; it is also a medical issue, an emotional issue, a financial issue, a safety issue, a health and well being issue, a major life determining issue. Personally, I cannot have so little compassion for the human condition to think that it is a clear cut matter. People that protest in front of doctor's offices and abortion clinics have no clue what each person facing that decision is dealing with.

When I did see the LNP, she commented that my blood pressure was quite low, I told her I was surprised considering the experience I had right before walking in the office. We talked some about why people makes the decision to have an abortion and the fact that the protestors don't know what people are facing. Some people are carrying babies that have severe defects or deformities, sometimes the mother's health is in danger, some are victims of rape or incest, some are in abusive relationships, some cannot financially or emotionally support a child or another child, some miscarry and require a D&C or D&E. There are so many reasons. I can only imagine that it must be one of the most difficut decisions a woman has to make and ultimately they are guided by their conscience and desire to make the best decision they can in their circumstances.

It is inconceivable to me that some people could be so cruel, so inhumane, as to want to force a woman to attempt to carry to term a baby that would be born with severe defects or deformities or to carry the fetus until it inevitably died inside of her, to expect that a victim of rape or incest to carry a product of that crime to term only to be a constant reminder of the hell they are already suffering through and will always be affected by. If a woman doesn't want to bring a child into a negative environment or cannot physically, financially and/or emotionally raise a child to the best of their abilities and cannot bare the thought of giving up a child to strangers, she does so with the deepest amount of care and consideration both for the child and for herself. It is not a completely selfish act.

For those that see abortion as solely a moral issue, I wonder: what they are personally doing for the living - for the babies that are born into enviroments of violence, poverty, substance abuse, situations where a parent or parents do not have the time, money and/or emotional capacity to care for them, those that are abused or neglected, those that are in the foster care system or sitting in orphanges, those born with developmental disabilites, those who are sick and have parents that are having a hard time emotionally, physically and financially caring for them? What are they doing to bring soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan, what are they doing to support universal health care intiatives and social services, to feed the hungry and house the homeless, employ the jobless? That is not to say the unborn don't need a voice, but there are plenty of living that need someone to help save them, too.

Oddly, being approached in such a manner, evoked a reaction that surprised me. Now more than ever, I am convinced that abortion needs to remain a safe, legal medical procedure that can be freely accessed by any female. That control over reproduct decisions needs to lie firmly with the woman who is directly affected by the decision. It's not an issue that can be legislated based on religious morality when it is clearly an issue with far more considerations that are not black and white and clearly the true burden, both in body and conscience, is solely that of the woman electing to have the procedure performed. Ultimately, we cannot live the decisions that someone else makes for themselves. For any woman facing such a decision, my only advice could ever be, make the decision you are willing to live with every day, for truly, none of the rest of us has to live with it in our hearts and minds. We cannot really know what is right for someone else because we do not walk in their shoes.

We can hope that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies by supporting preventative programs that provide complete information and access to birth control including the morning after pill, pray that every fetus is healthy and that more women can find it in themselves to see adoption as an alternative because there are so many childless couples that would be thrilled to have a baby, pray that fewer men would sexually assault women and encourage a society where sexual assault was not acceptable. We can push for a society and government that are more child friendly in terms of social services, maternity/parterninty leave laws, health care benefits and accepting of single parents. We can pray for ourselves, that we may have more compassion and understanding for those that must face that decision, and are more generous and compassionate with all of the living.


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