Thursday, August 12, 2010
Sisterhood of the traveling mesh underpants*
"Tell your abortion story!" we implore you. "Erase the stigma!" "I'm here to listen." In nearly every counseling session with a client, I slip in the statistic that one in three American women will have a least one abortion in her lifetime. I sometimes add that it's a huge sisterhood, but one that no one talks about.
Most women don't end up walking around proudly with an I had an abortion T-shirt, but as clinic staff, I have been fortunate enough to encounter more than a couple of women who are OK with telling their truths.
I've seen clients months post-abortion at pro-choice activist events. I don't say anything to them other than "Hi" if they catch my eye, because anything more would be a HIPAA violation. But later on, I send them a psychic thank you. While working in the recovery room at the clinic, I've witnessed patients exchanging phone numbers and making plans to get together. I've watched plenty of acquaintances spy each other in the waiting room and then hide behind magazines in a panic, but I've also seen acquaintances connect and old friends reconnect after seeing a familiar face in a frightening place. After learning where I work, people in my life confide about their abortion experiences or their friends' tales, maybe intuiting that I'm a walking safe space, maybe desperate to share something that shouldn't be a secret. You, readers, have trusted us and mentioned your own abortions in our comments section.
Women talk, and women have rich stories to tell. Our job, as pro-choice warriors, is to listen, listen, listen, and believe me, we are all ears. I have seen it.
*At my clinic, we give out little disposable mesh underpants to clients to use if there's a bleeding on the underwear situation.