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.