The most heartbreaking case isn't the 12 year old who was raped by her stepfather. It's not the woman who is pregnant with a very much wanted pregnancy, thanks to donor insemination, and who now has to terminate because of severe anomalies. It's not the woman who thought she was 14 weeks pregnant, but her ultrasound showed 29. I can handle those. I can handle those because I'm a helper and a fixer and if my clinic is known for anything, it's helping and fixing. But the most heartbreaking case is the woman who takes pains to reassure me, to reassure my manager, to reassure my co-worker, to reassure the doctor, that she isn't a murderer.
A couple of weeks ago, I counseled one of these women. She had told me about her dissolving marriage and her plans to return to school, she had beamed while talking about her four children at home. She had expressed sadness about having this abortion, and we talked about coping and God as a forgiving presence and compassion and the spirit of the pregnancy and I said the words, "You're still a good person." At the end of the session, she volunteered another fact that didn't fit on her medical history: "I'm not a murderer." And my heart broke.
In a world that spares no opportunity to tell women that we can't be trusted, that our bodies are not our own, and that we are monsters for wanting to have a choice, the clinic should be a safe haven. Selfishly, I live my life talking about abortion loudly and exuberantly because even though I haven't had one, I want the world to see that abortion has a face and a presence aside from the crazy people with the signs and pamphlets and plastic fetii. I study the philosophy and culture of choice so that I can inoculate clients against the myths and the anger from the world. (That inoculation sentiment is courtesy of a wonderful woman I can't link to as credit because I don't want her to the target of hate emails.)
And in spite of all the efforts of the pro-choice advocates and allies, the clinic staff, the women (and men) who tell their abortion stories, even I can't be trusted not to judge a woman. I don't want her to justify her choice to me, and I don't want her to tell me she's not a terrible person. I want her to have a safe abortion in a nurturing environment with people who trust her and for her to trust herself. She's not the enemy and neither am I.