Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I can’t stop thinking about a patient – I’ll call her Ellie – who came to our clinic for an abortion yesterday. She drove eight hours, some of which was through the snow, and was on time for her 9am appointment. She was 16 weeks pregnant and brought her older sister with her as support. They seemed close, and I found myself smiling as I walked down the hallway, catching a glimpse of them holding hands, talking warmly with another (I have a soft-spot for rock-solid, non-judgmental support people). Ellie was in her early twenties and in university. She and her sister seemed very content and were kind – even witty – to all the staff.
During our counseling session, I learned that Ellie’s pregnancy was a result of rape. As she shared with me how she was raped and what happened, she did not cry. She did not appear victimized. She did not wince. Because she knew the guy that raped her, and because she had used illicit drugs at “the” party, she didn’t go to a hospital after being assaulted. Ellie explained that she’s an avid runner, so her periods are not regular; it was quite normal for her to go three to four months without a period, so when she didn’t have her menstrual cycle after the rape, it didn’t even occur to her that she could be pregnant. Last week, when she realized she could no longer fit her bra, she worried she could be pregnant.
After the positive pregnancy test, she reported the rape; but the detective – a woman, no less! – told her she was a liar and just wanted to “get back” at the man who raped her. This detective then told her she was closing the case and added, “You’re making a big mistake, Ellie. I don’t agree with what you’re doing and you should really think about it.” I couldn’t contain my astonishment and let out a little gasp. Still, Ellie didn’t flinch and seemed just as resolute as before. After I told her I was grateful she at least had her sister with her for support, she confessed to me that she wouldn’t know what to do without her; Ellie shared that her very own mother refused to support her abortion decision and told her she’s committing a “mortal sin” and will go to hell, even though she was raped. Her mother has stopped talking to her altogether and spends most of her time at church, lighting candles. Then Ellie cried.
Honestly, I don’t get it. I just seriously don’t get it. I mean, I “understand” some people think abortion is “wrong.” I just cannot – and never will – however, wrap my head around the extremism of those who still oppose abortion in the case of rape! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I just don’t get it! And what mother could ever turn their back on their own child in such a time of need? Seriously, I think the mother is the one committing a mortal sin. Don’t even get me started on the detective and how wrong that whole situation is!
Anyway. I keep thinking about Ellie. And I hope she’s feeling her sister’s love (times ten million). And I hope she felt our love and compassion. And I hope it will be enough.