Friday, January 16, 2009

A Woman's Choice

She's 20 years old and has been feeling tired, with an upset stomach so she decided to see a doctor. When the medical assistant found out the date of her last menstrual period, she did a pregnancy test. It was positive. I walked in the clinic room to give her the news. She was a very beautiful African American young woman with many fancy light brown braids down her back. I sat down to tell her and when I did, she didn't express much emotion. I asked her what she wanted to do. She began talking to me, never looking at me, as though I was sitting at another place in the room. "I already had an abortion and it was a horrible experience. There's no way I'm going to have another one". I asked her to tell me what happened. She told the wall across from her that it hurt and she didn't think they took very good care of her. I told her I could give her names of very good places that would make sure it didn't hurt and would take good care of her.

She began to tell me about her dreams of going to college in the fall. She wants to be a medical assistant but now doesn't know if she can do it. She started telling me in a young, whiny voice how tired she is and wants a note to let her employer know why she keeps putting her head down on the desk. I was struck by the immaturity of this, the need for a note from her doctor, like she's still in high school and needs an excuse because she has the flu. She's about to cross that bridge to adulthood too soon, I thought.

I asked her if the father will be involved. She doesn't think so. I told her she will have to put her life on hold. I told her if she thinks she's tired now just wait for the baby. I told her that having a baby is a beautiful thing when someone is ready but if she's not ready, then this isn't the right time. I felt angry inside that she didn't think about using birth control. I realized how much I didn't want her to have this baby. I saw in front of me, yet another young woman in poverty have so little chance to change her life. I saw another African American baby growing up without a father. I saw the cycle of poverty going on for another generation. And I saw myself being judgmental of her decision.

I left the room and came back in with some phone numbers for her to call if she changes her mind. It was then she told me she doesn't feel good, morally, about having another abortion. Then it hit me. I'm pro-choice and that means I believe it is HER choice to make, not mine. It's important this woman make the decision that will make her feel like she did something right. It's her belief system that has ruled her decision; a belief that she feels at her core. But as I sit here, I am thinking about the future of this mother and baby, stuck in poverty, stuck in a prison so difficult to escape.


Anonymous said...

This is such a tricky, complex dilemma, Molly. I'm sure I would feel similarly conflicted if I was in your position. On the one hand you want to help this girl make good decisions and live up to her potential in life. On the other hand you want to respect this choice she's made.

For me, choice can be respected only when the person making the choice is fully educated about their options and if fully cogent at the time they're making the decision. i think this girl is right to be wary of having another abortion. But she's taken it too far. In her immature, exhausted mental state she's convinced herself that a lifetime as a mother will be less painful than a medical procedure.

I guess I'm saying that you CAN be pro-choice and also think that this girl is not making the right choice. Like you said in your post, having a baby can be beautiful but only when you're ready! I consider myself pro-choice, yes, but mostly pro-family planning. It's not always about choice-- its about knowledge planning.

Keep us in the loop if you hear any more about this patient!

Molly The Dog said...

Wow! That was a great comment, mlbee14. You said so much of what I was thinking during the visit. I WAS thinking she was so short-sighted regarding the medical procedure vs. life long motherhood. And then she told me it didn't feel "morally right" to have another abortion. It's hard for me to argue someone's decision about their body based on their morals. Ultimately, it's her body and her decision to make. But, I absolutely think she's like so many young mothers, too immature to make a sound life long decision.

Premium T. said...

It's about "knowledge planning" in the best of circumstances, with adequate education, and access to that education. All too often that is lacking, as if evidenced here. This is a recurring tragedy in our society.

Molly The Dog said...

Thank you for your comment, Premium T. You are absolutely right. I think in order for someone to have "knowledge planning", they have to think they have a future. Too many people I see who are living in poverty, don't see a way out. They weren't taught the skills and haven't experienced anything other than poverty.

Anonymous said...

Premium T., I totally agree! How can we expect teen pregnancy rates to go down unless we TEACH about how to avoid it?

I went to a very "hip" alternative middle and high school, and they BARELY touched the subjects of sex, violence, etc. It was appalling. Thankfully the school encouraged us to speak our minds, so we approached the head of the school about our lack of sex education.

And I was one of the luckier teenagers in this country! At least when I spoke out my school added a program.

It makes me sick to think that it would cost SO little (in the grand scheme of things) to the American government to fund sex ed programs in every school, in every middle and high school grade, FOREVER.

Maybe after 7 years of cleaning up, Obama will be able to spend a moment on this issue!

On a side note, I am SO excited about the 20th! I get teary just thinking about it. Haha, I guess no one will be surprised if I cry :)

JoshT said...

Molly, I don't think there is anything wrong with judging her for her decision to keep the baby. The right to choose does not excuse irresponsible behavior. For her to have and raise a child with little hope of the ability to emotionally and monetarily provide for him or her is a detriment to society. It will be society that will likely bear the burden for this child, through tax-funded welfare programs, the possibility of crime and incarceration committed by the child, and so on.
Yes, this women has the right to choose, but clearly she did not want to have a child nor should she, and therefore should have been practicing safe-er sex. Your judgment and attempts to provide a way to have an abortion are well-placed.

Molly The Dog said...

Josh and mlbee4, thank you for your comment. I absolutely agree with you. NOT teaching about sex education contributes to people being on welfare. Still, you can't force someone to have an abortion. I think women in poverty don't know there can be a better life for them. They have never experienced something different and may not even know someone personally who ISN'T in poverty. And where was the guy in all this? He's just going around not using condoms and getting women pregnant.

K. said...

Hmm...As I'm unlikely to be poor, black, female, 21, and pregnant any time soon, I'll refrain from judgment.