Last week, after talking with a patient about coping and depression, I implored her, "Please call me at the clinic if you need to. I'm happy to listen if you need someone." She hesitated and responded, "REALLY? I won't bother you?" "I promise, you will not bother me," I assured her. This week, after receiving the confirmation of her unplanned pregnancy, I asked a patient, "What's going through your head right now? What do you need?" She sighed and said, "I need to go to McDonald's. That's what I need. I'll think about the rest later. Where's the closest McDonald's?"
Women are, either by nature or by nurture (or both), self-sacrificing people. Like the patient I had last week, we don't want to inconvenience anyone. We've all seen the Weight Watchers ads that tell us to "do something for [our]selves," because we're so busy caring for others, we never do that. And Weight Watchers suggests that we remedy that by making sure we take up no extra space, thus inconveniencing no one. (And there's my plug for Fat Acceptance.) It's completely against nature, not to mention against Weight Watchers to just want to go and eat a cheeseburger in an effort to be--GASP--selfish.
My McDonald's aficionado of a patient was an anomaly because I've gotten so accustomed to hearing women saying, "I can't have another child right now, and I don't really want one, either. But my daughter would just love a sibling, so I feel like I'm being really selfish." I hear, "I guess I could ask the sperm donor [that's what they call 'em, and it's brilliant] for some cash to help pay, but I don't want to inconvenience him," never mind the fact that he has inconvenienced her with an unintended pregnancy that he won't deal with either way. Women fret, "I talk to my mom about everything, but I can't tell her about this. She already has too much to worry about," not thinking that a daughter in crisis might be the most important thing to worry about. I've seen women who say, "I'm going to have local anesthesia only because my best friend has to go to work and I'd feel bad asking her to drive me to my abortion," even though a best friend probably wouldn't think twice. Even when the patient is feeling so alone and helpless, the first concern is that she will make someone else uncomfortable or obligated or even responsible.
Maybe a lot of those responses stem from what women hear from anti-choicers: That women who have abortions are selfish monsters. They internalize it and they will do anything they can to prove that they are the furthest thing from selfish and needy. When I counsel them, I suggest that everything they've told me about why they can't be pregnant right now indicates that they're anything but selfish. They are so selfless that they will work through whatever feelings might surround an abortion to ensure that they will not bring someone into the world under the wrong circumstances. And sometimes, I just want to tell them that if this is selfishness, then be selfish. I'm pro-choice, pro-abortion, and pro-'selfishness'.