Sunday, January 24, 2010
Parents and Abortion
I talk to parents all the time. Usually moms. And I’ve been thinking about how they must feel, what they may experience as their child decides to have an abortion. Sometimes they just need to vent: they’re angry their daughter is pregnant; angry she didn’t tell them sooner; confused because they’re pregnant at the same time (maybe even same gestation) as their daughter who wants an abortion; devastated their daughter was raped. Sometimes, parents’ values and beliefs about abortion change in the face of their child’s pregnancy. I’ve heard dads and moms say they didn’t agree with abortion, but…their daughter was so young and had so much going for her and they wanted to protect her and they thought a pregnancy would ruin her life. So. Their minds changed. Their hearts changed.
Did any of you see Thursday’s episode of ABC‘s “Private Practice?” The 15 year old daughter, Maya, of two doctors, was pregnant. One of the parents was very anti-abortion, but was adamant her daughter have an abortion. At one point, she screamed, “Do I believe I’m going to hell for forcing my daughter to have an abortion? Yes! Do I regret it? NO!” Though some of how this parent handled the situation annoyed me to no end (I thought it was narcissistic and over-the-top), I had to ask myself how I would feel. How would I feel if my daughter was pregnant? How would I react if she didn’t want an abortion?
I’m a parent. I have a daughter. I’m fiercely pro-choice and am grateful that my daughter will have the right to choose whether she continues a pregnancy or not in the future; but, if my daughter came home at age 14, 15, 18 even and said she was pregnant, how would I respond? How would I want my daughter to be treated when she called a clinic to make an abortion appointment? How would I want the person to talk to her? What would I want from the person who took my call? I would want them to take time with me, with her. To listen to us cry. To let me rant. To tell me they’re sorry and it must be hard. If my daughter had no clue how far along she was, I would want them to bend over backwards to help her find out, even if it meant going out of their way to stay at work a little longer, just to give her an ultrasound, so she could sleep that night, instead of waiting one more god forsaken day. I would want staff who were not burned out.
On the day of her abortion, I would want her to be treated gently and kindly. Like she was the only patient. I’d want to be with her - if she wanted - during the abortion. I would want desperately to hold her hand, kiss her forehead, help her breathe, and tell her it would be okay. I would be a hot mess if I had to wait in a room, far from her, not allowed to be with her during her procedure. I would want the staff to smile. To be warm and reassuring. I’d want them to acknowledge me, too, as part of the story. I would want them to acknowledge that I, too, might need support. And maybe all that I’d need would be a pair of knowing eyes, looking at me, nodding as though they understood.
I just think we can do more sometimes. More for the moms. More for the dads. More for the boyfriends and friends and aunts and uncles and cousins. Sisters and brothers. Look at them, knowingly. Listen to them. Yes, it’s all about the patient, the woman.
It’s about all the people in her life, too.