Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Great Macy's Fourth of July Abortion Sale: Get 'em while you can! (offer valid only in Mississippi until 7/11/2012)

This is actually a breadline, not a bank run or a premodern Black Friday. But when I thought about it, the breadline matched the vibe of the clinic waiting room better than those. People are there -- with their spouse, mom, kid, infant -- because they really need to be. 


Remember my last post, where I was kinda sick and tired of legislators playing doctor (and not in the sexy way) (but also, is playing doctor actually sexy to anyone?), and I was writing about the last abortion clinic in Mississippi being legislated out of existence, and about Rep. Bubba Carpenter, and how he was talking in what I imagine is a too-bad-so-sad wah-wah voice about how the other side talks way too much about "some poor pitiful women" who might risk their health and lives trying to end their pregnancies by any means available, and I think I might have blacked out shortly after that as an internal defense mechanism?

Yeah, I know: oof. But let's talk about Mississippi some more!

So the bill passed and was signed by the governor and its stipulations include that abortion providers must have hospital admitting privileges -- something Bubba Carpenter noted was notoriously difficult for anyone to obtain, not just abortion providers -- and that means that this last clinic in Mississippi, which has not been able to secure admitting privileges, will have to close. But then, since as Bubba Carpenter noted this law is not trying that hard to be constitutional, a judge stayed the new law until a court hearing planned for July 11 -- giving the clinic a reprieve of, uh, about a week.

And here's something that interests me as an abortioneer.
But it has also created a rush of women from across Mississippi wanting to have abortions. The clinic's three doctors normally perform about 40 abortions a week, but received more than 100 calls in one day last week from women trying to schedule appointments. Two of the doctors live out of state and will fly in to perform abortions this week, said Diane Derzis, the clinic owner.

"What women are hearing is, You may not be able to have an abortion soon," she said. "If you're pregnant and you don’t want to be, you’re thinking, 'By God, I've got to get in there fast.'"
Seems kind of weird, doesn't it? Like a run on the banks, as my arm candy quipped. You'd think that the need for abortion care is pretty much static over the course of a year, since pregnancy can occur in any season and any abortion clinic is the potential provider for at least several million people of reproductive capacity. But demand for services really does seem to have a certain flux to it. While I can't remember hearing of a run on the clinics (though I guess it's not hard to understand), I have noticed other ups and downs and maybe patterns.

I've mentioned before that I had many clients who were able to finally secure their abortion care when their tax refund came back -- and even some who specifically filed early in order to make sure they raised enough money before they reached 12 weeks when the fee would start progressively increasing. Those patients were very resourceful and very on top of it. And I sympathized with their certainty that they made little enough to be owed a refund -- my full-time job qualified me for both a tax refund and assistance from an emergency abortion fund should I ever need it.

But demand also seems to drop on holidays, especially big ones. It's hard to seek an appointment while hosting extended family, driving to grandma's, juggling your parents' or grown children's multiple Thanksgivings after a divorce, entertaining your school-aged kids at home, or arguing with your teenager about sharing the family car over winter break. You don't have as much privacy, time, or energy for taking care of yourself. Shit's hectic.

Then, weeks after a holiday, demand bounces back to levels even higher than before. Phones ring off the hook at the emergency abortion fund, they ring all day although you have multiple phone lines and someone answering every line. Same thing happening at the clinic, which is also jam-packed with people -- you have to bring more chairs into the waiting room -- and clients want to know what is the point of making an appointment if you still have to wait all damn day. (The answer is you struggle with turning people away from care, and wish there was such a thing as walk-in care, but in your state there's a law requiring advance appointments so pregnant people can take time to "cool off" and think hard about their impulsive and flighty decisions. As Sarah Silverman says, maybe they're not as hungry as they think they are.)

I say "weeks" after a holiday but we'd often remark that it seemed to be about four to six weeks after a holiday. Kind of joking, because that's how long it takes from fertilization (four) or last normal menstrual period (six) to the earliest point in pregnancy that most clinics are able to offer abortion care. Kind of not joking, because it really happened. At least three years I noticed that after a December-January lull, we'd have the most insane February and March. That's the time of year that I first became an abortioneer, actually. At first I thought that was just how it was -- that we'd have 100 appointments per day forever. (On the plus side, a lot of those were double-bookings or ambivalent patients who ended up going to another clinic for prenatal or abortion care. We didn't actually check that many patients in per day.)

I could surmise that stereotypically hectic and overburdened times (Thanksgiving/Christmas) or stereotypically romantic times (New Year's/Valentine's) or stereotypically hedonistic times (spring break, New Year's again) lead to unintended pregnancy. And surely the delaying of one's own needs during family-heavy holidays would explain part of the resurgence of appointment requests afterward. But I don't really know and I don't think there's any way to find out on a large scale. It'd be interesting, though, to ask individual women to recount the story of what prompted them to seek abortion care when they did, and why. If only such questions weren't so politically loaded, so likely to suggest there's a right and a wrong answer, maybe we'd hear a lot of honest and interesting stories.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, tax season. This otherwise dreadful time of year is like Christmas for abortion patients. And now that you can get your refund via direct deposit, it's easier than ever. I wish everyday were tax day!

    on the other hand, the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is decidedly difficult for ab patients, who often have to use their Christmas gift money to pay for gas for someone to drive them to a clinic. You can hear the heartbreak in their voices when they admit to having returned gifts, or not having bought any at all.

    One man's trash, I suppose.


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.