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Tale Of An Unwanted Pregnancy

Tale Of An Unwanted Pregnancy image Tale Of An Unwanted Pregnancy image
Parent Issue
Day
14
Month
February
Year
1975
OCR Text

"Please check one or more of the following," said the instructions. "I am seeking this abortion because of: 1 ) financial difficulty; 2) not ready for children; 3) unstable relationship with father; 4) medical complications..." I thought there should have been another category, "do not know dentity of father." Even though this was an optional part of the form, I dutifully checked one, two and three as I sat in the abortion clinic waiting room. Six weeks pregnant, I would soon hand over $150 in cash to become one of 900,000 American women exercising our right to a legal abortion in 1974. According to recent statistics, abortion is the second most common surgical procedure done in this country and probably the safest. Twenty out of every 100, 000 women die in childbirth, while only 5.2 of every 100,000 die from complications from abortions. It's estimated that half of that 5.2 are victims of Ilegal or self-induced abortions. Some people just don't have $150.00 when the time comes. It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment when I realized, "yes, l'm pregnant." So what if my period was late? It's been late bef ore. But the f irst day I couldn't button my pants and the f irst time I feit sick in the morning, then I knew. I knew before the pregnancy test registered positive. The tests can't teil you anything until forty days after the f irst day of your last period (two weeks after your missed period was due). If you think you're pregnant and, unlike all the novels, it isn't exactly the happiest moment in your life, the best bet is to get some competent, professional advice from a sympathetic source. There are approximately 25 clinics in S.E. Michigan, but only four are recommended by a panel of women's groups, clergy and doctors. In Ann Arbor cali the Women's Crisis Center or the Free People's Clinic. They can teil you where to go for a free or low-cost pregnancy test and explain ,your options if it turns out you are pregnant. Each woman's pregnancy occurs under different circumstances which affect who you want to confide in. Of course, the best situation is to have the father be concerned, helpful and, above all, financially responsible. But if that's not the case, believe me, you are not alone. Good friends to talk with and to accompany you if you do decide to have the abortion are just as important. Since abortion is becoming such an accepted part of life you may f ind that many friends and associates have already made their clinic pilgramage. After my abortion a friend asked me, "Didn't you ever consider having a baby and raising t?" "No," I answered, surprised at the question, even though I shouldn't have been. Finding herself pregnant and in similar circumstances to mine, she had never considered abortion as an alternative. Instead she ended up joining the already swollen ranks of the AOC mothers. "It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment 1 realized, "Yes lm pregnant." So what if my period was late? It's been late before. But the first day I oouldn't button my pants, then I knew." $ince I was under 12 weeks pregnant I was able to go to an outpatent abortion clinic using the vacuüm aspiration method. The Supreme Court decisión declaring abortion a constitutional right indicated that current medical methodology had made abortion so safe in the first trimester (12 weeks) that states had no interest in restricting abortion in this period, except to require t be performed by a lícensed physician. Since second trimester abortions are not as safe, states may impose additional restrictions on them to assure the safety of the woman (such as requiring a second trimester abortion be performed in a hospital). Most women enter the clinic waiting room shyly, hesitant in the unfamiliar surroundings. At first everyone keeps to themselves, some sitting with husbands or boyfriends, but most appearing to be there alone. Later, the commonality of experiencing an abortion gets most people talking. My greatest fear was that of the process itself. Fear of the unknown. I wouldn't admit t, but that meant fear of pain. While I couldn't teil anyone that vacuüm aspiration is a pain-free experience, the abortion itself takes only minutes and recovery another 15 minutes. The after-effects of having a tooth pulled are much worse. So I sat in the waiting room, filling out my medical history and signing my permission for the operation. The Standard fee for vacuüm aspiration is $150, cash. Too many clinics have been burned to take checks or promises. Sometimes they will extend you credit, but that must be arranged for ahead of time. The clinic personnel seemed brisk and efficiënt, the general attitude being that the impending abortion is no big thing. Once my history was f il led out I was sent down the hall for a urine sample and then into the lab. Blood pressure, temperature, pregnancy test, RH factor test, and pulse were all done quickly by a woman with long red f ingernails. Somehow that startled me. I had expected the women at the clinic to be ardent feminists. But basically they are performing a service in their professional capacity. All the personnel are women, until you get into the operating room. The doctors are men, with few exceptions, which shouldn't surprise anyone. Then came the medication. A darvon and a valium. The other women in the room appeared nervous and jittery, but soon we began to talk, loosened up by the drugs. One woman already had f ive children and was unable to afford another. She and her husband usually used a diaphram. but hadn't one evening. So here she was. She was thinking of getting her tubes tied, but since that meant a $500.00 operation, she really wished he would get a vasectomy. Whether he would agree was another question. Our other roommate was 17, posing as 18 for the record. She wasn't sure of how many weeks she was pregnant. Twelve, she thought. "Did her parents know she was pregnant?" "No," she answered. She and her boyfriend had navigated the whole trip themselves. $ome women complain they are in the clinic for hours, but my visit seemed short. Soon the counselor came in, my chart in hand. Somehow I feit older and wiser than she, looking like a fresh-faced college gradúate. Turns out she was, with a degree in psychology. But even in my self-assuredness I feit relieved she was around. As she explained the abortion process we talked about future birth control, and I feit less like another cow on the assembly line and more like an individual person. Then events started moving f ast. Into a room for a change into a hospital gown, slippers and hair net. A slight wait in another room, then the counselor handed me over to a nurse and then, believe it or not, it's almost over. All the nurses, counselors and doctors keep up a constant chatter, as they would in the dentist's office. The doctors must do at least four or five patients per hour and the pace is brisk and cheerful. The most important job of the patiënt is to stay relaxed. Up I went onto the table and into the stirrups for a quick pelvic exam. An old pro at pelvics, I endured with patience as the doctor explained the process. They want you to know what they're doing since ignorance breeds fear and fear will make you tense. Vacuüm aspiration, f irst developed in China, is a simple operation. A tube is inserted in the uterus to gently suction out the fetal and placental tissue. Recovery is swift and bleeding is minimal. "When was the first day of your last period?" asked the doctor. If you are more than 12 weeks pregnant and even if you are borderline the clinic may refuse to perform vacuüm aspiration. The fetus is too large at that point for the operation to be safe. An experienced doctor can teil how many weeks you're pregnant by looking at the size of your uterus and the size of the cervix opening. I was def initely way under 1 2 weeks. So in goes a speculum to hold the walls of the vagina apart a'nd they are swabbed down with an antiseptic. "You're going to feel a sharp pain as we administer the local anesthetic behind your cervix," said the nurse. Some women told me this was the most paiñful part, but I hardly feit it. Then the cervical canal is widened to continued on page 14 "My greatest fear was that of the process itself . I wouldn't admit it, but that meant fear of pain. While I couldn't teil anyone that vacuüm aspiration is a pain-free experience, the abortion itseif takes only minutes and recovery another 15 minutes. The after-effects of having a tooth pulled are much worse." Tale Of An Unwanted Pregnancy continued from page 13 permit the introduction of the surgical instruments. The doctor inserts a hollow . tube called the vacurette into the uterus, connected by transparent plastic tubing to a collection bottle. The suction apparatiis is powered by a small motor. At this point it starts humming and the nurse says, "It's almost over now." And she's right. The fetal and placental tissue passes down the tube and into the collection bottle. Of course I can't see any of this, since l'm flat on my back. When the uterus is empty the doctor feels a slight tug on the vacurette. From the time the motor went on it félt like my uterus was a bowl being scraped clean with a wooden spoon. That part wasn't too painfuJ, but afterwards I feit cramps, like those at the worst moments of a menstrual period. Off I went to the recovery room hearing the doctor cheerily say, "Have a nice lunch now.'' "Yeah, sure," I thought, grimacing. But in 15 minutes the cramps were gone and I was ravenously hungry. The nurse checked my bleeding, blood pressure and pulse. Then I was released with a supply of birth control pills, tetracycline to ward off possible infection and written instructions. No tampons, only sanitary napkins, no baths, only showers and no intercourse for two weeks since the cervix is enlarged and open to infection. When granting permission for the operation, I signed a clause promising to be checked by a doctor 10 to 1 7 days after the abortion. As I was leaving, my 17-year-old friend was sitting in the waiting room. "You weren't long," she commented. "How was it for you?" I asked. "l'm over the limit. The doctor says l'm 14 weeks pregnant," she said. "I have to go to a hospital in Lansing and pay S500.00 for a D & C. And I have to teil my parents." A D & C, or Dilation and Curettage, was the abortion method most widely used before vacuüm aspiration. It s the dilation of . the cervix and the scraping of the uterus with a sharp instrument. A local anesthetic may be used and the patiënt may be kept overnight in the hospital. After a woman is 16 weeks pregnant the saline injection or "Intra-amniotic pertonic saline" method is used. It is the induction of a mini-labor and and delivery. A needie is inserted through the abdominal and uterine walls into the amniotic cavity to draw out some fluid. An equal amount of 20% salt solution is injected. The saline solution kills the fetus. Uterine contractions usually begin within 8 hours and become harder and closer until the fetus is expelled, usually within three days. The risks of saline injection, although greater than those of vacuüm aspiration, are still lower than those for continued pregnancy. But saline runs around $500.00 and entails a stay in the hospital, so it's best to decide upon an abortion early when it's the cheapest and the least hassle. I'm glad I became pregnant in 1974 and not before. If this were 1969 I may have ended up like another friend of mine, shelling out f ve hundred dollars for a blind foldedjourney to a Detroit apartment for an anestheticless D & C. Early abortion reform laws permitted abortion only if the mother's health was in danger, if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest or if the infant would be born with an incapacitating physical disability. These so-called "reform" laws were passed af ter the dilemma of Mrs. Robert Finkbine became a national tragedy. She had taken thalidomide, an anti-somnia drug which had caused 10,000 malformed births in Europe during the early sixties. Her public search for an abortion eventually led her out of the United States, making millions realize the cruelty of our abortion laws. tf this was 1970 I could have flown to New York wheré abortions were declared legal up to 26 weeks. The state legislature tried to repeal that law in 1971, but Rockefeller vetoed that effort. To this day he is hated by all Right to Life groups. When I got my abortion I just took it for granted that the service was available. But when I started to research the abortion question for thisarticle I realized how long and diff icult the fight had been to obtain abortion as a legal right. Since January 22, 1973 abortion has been a constitutional right for all women in the United States, but the sight of 25,000 Right to Lifers marching across my TV screen on the second anniversary of the Supreme Court decisión was a grim reminder that some peopie would do anything to take that right away. An extremely sophisticated and well-organized group, the R ight to Lifers wear plastic roses to all abortion hearings on Capítol Hill. In January, 1974, the first anniversary of the Supreme Court decisión, each Senator or Congressman was sent red roses, supposedly to represent the fetuses killed in the year since the Supreme Court decisión. Jacob Javits, a pro-abortion Senator, received 1,000 roses alone. It's nteresting to note that even before the court's decisión sources like the Reader's Digest estimated the number of i Ilegal abortions in the U.S. at one million per year. Since there were 900,000 performed legally in 1974, you might say the court's decisión is doing more for the health of women than t's doing to promote the cause of abortion. The hope of anti-abortion forces is a constitutional amendment declaring abortion to be the murder of a human being and therefore against the law under any circum stances. Chances of this passing are slight, since it would take a majority vote in both the House and Senate and ratif ication by each state to become law. Meanwhile, zealously clutching their roses, Right to Lifers put pressure on their Congresspeople at the gut level. Murderer can be a chilling word if you are the one accused. Me, l'm just glad I didn't have to bear and raise a child I didn't want and could not provide for emotionally or f inancially. It's not about religión or morality for me. tt's about the freedom to determine my own life and that's how I think it is for more women these days. "If this was 1969 I may have ended up like another friend of mine, shelling out five hundred dollars for a blindfolded journey to a Detroit apartment for an anestheticless D&C"