Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why did she wait so long?

When I'm fundraising for someone, one of the questions I hate the most is, "Why did she wait so long?" I wonder, why does it matter? And what does that mean? It shouldn't matter, and it doesn't matter to me why someone "waited" so long. Although I would like to examine the reasons why someone would "wait".

First, I want to say that many women don't wait. They don't wait to get further along. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Many women I talk to want an abortion as soon as possible. If they can move their appointment up they will. However, there are a myriad of things that come between women and their abortions. Here are just a few.

Money. An abortion in the first trimester can cost on average of $400-$500. To you and I that may not seem that bad. I have a job, maybe you have a job, but not everyone has a job. So many people in this country live in conditions that many of us really cannot imagine. Maybe she can barely take care of herself, her children, her parents, her brothers and sisters, let alone come up with $500 for her abortion. She may not have anyone she can borrow money from. She might pawn everything she can and still not get enough. There is a reason they call it "chasing the price".

Unknown pregnancy. It's not that hard to be pregnant without realizing it. This is coming from someone who's never been pregnant -- but I've talked to enough pregnant women to realize this is the case. How many of us get irregular periods? How many of us are that in tune to our bodies? How many of us have so much stress and drama in our lives that we don't take time to take of ourselves, to think about why we feel sick, rundown, haven't gotten a period in a couple of months? I talk to so many women who swear they are "a couple of months", and then we find out they're in their 2nd trimester -- teenagers and older women alike. We don't always know our own body as well as we think we do.

Complications. You can't foresee them, and they can be so heartbreaking. Some women have complications in their pregnancies - some they cannot overcome. They may be threatening to the health or life of the woman. Maybe their baby will not live more than a few moments, hours, days. Maybe they cannot possibly take care of a child with so many problems that could seriously compromise its life if not treated properly.

Let's not judge. Let's not assume we are "better", that it would "never happen to me". Rather than judge, let's embrace each other, help each other -- donate to a local abortion fund, volunteer at a clinic, help promote comprehensive sex education, and help elect candidates for office that support a woman's right to choose (in actions and not just in positions statements).


  1. I was 17 when I had my abortion. I lived in a state that had parental notification. I couldn't tell my mom I was pregnant because I knew she wouldn't let me have an abortion, and I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted an abortion. I was a couple months away from my 18th birthday.

    I would have waited until I was well into my second trimester if I hadn't seen the ad in the phone book (this was before everyone was online) that said a neighboring state did not have parental notification. So I got the money from my boyfriend and my best guy friend and I skipped school and drove to the neighboring state for my abortion. More than likely, if I hadn't seen that ad I would be a mom right now. And I am grateful that I am not.

    But parental notification is another reason people may wait. I know that you can go to court and get a judge to say you don't need parental notification, but I was scared of doing that, and really having to drive ten hours round trip in one day was much preferable for me than to have to find a ride to the clinic, a ride to the court, and another ride to and from the clinic.

  2. I had been taking birth control pills when I got pregnant for the second time. When my period became spotty, I read the information in the packs of birth control pills, and thought it was a normal side effect. I had no other symptoms (unlike my first, third, and fourth pregnancies, when I knew almost as soon as it happened). When it happened again, I re-read the information, and thought, okay, this is normal. When I finally actually missed a period, and did a pregnancy test, I was 11 weeks pregnant (counting from my last normal period). It took another 3 weeks to get the money together for the abortion - luckily I was working and had friends I could borrow money from.

    At the clinic, the sonogram showed the pregnancy size as 12 weeks - I was very lucky, I didn't need as much money as I'd gathered together, and I could get the procedure done in one day.

    When I started working as a patient facilitator in an abortion clinic, I found that my story was NOT unusual - many women get pregnant because they are not taking their birth control correctly, because they did not receive the proper education on it, because when you are struggling to pay rent, day care, transportation costs, utilities, food, clothing, etc, the cost of a pack of birth control pills is too much. Many women have to wait until they get the money together to pay for the procedure - and every week they wait adds to the cost.

    I remember clearly the case of a 9 year old girl who was pregnant because she was raped by her grandfather. By the time her family got the money together for the procedure, transportation costs (they lived in the Dominican Republic, the clinic was in New York City), etc., she was 23 weeks pregnant. Just another few days, and we would not have been able to do anything.

  3. Thank you both for sharing your stories. Sadly your stories are all too common. I get really frustrated in finding fault. There are many reasons why someone may be further along, and I think we should examine those things rather than make her feel like she did something wrong.

  4. What an important post and valuable comments! Definitely, most for sure, what an incredible epiphany to know that women bleed periodically while pregnant. How life-affirming to recognize: Women who have abortions do use contraception! Conceptive is a magically, scientifically tricky thing.

    Annie - Thank you for sharing your important story. I wish every county had a compassionate abortion-care clinic. Currently, good clinics in select areas will shepherd a *minor* through the legal rings required to obtain consent from a judge when parental consent is not possible because *for now* we do still live in a country where women are granted a fair range of rights.

    Most importantly, I get all caught up in the grossly under-explored correlation between women who have experienced a history of sexual abuse, women with eating disorders, and women who have second trimester abortions and/or surprise deliveries.

  5. Yep, also women who suffer intimate-partner violence are less likely to accurately estimate the number of weeks since their last period. Who knows why for sure - but my personal thought is, physical trauma often goes hand-in-hand with some degree of dissociation from one's body :(

  6. thanks for this post and all the comments. I am a counselor at an abortion clinic and when I started I was shocked by how often stuff like this happens. and the funding is a HUGE part of it. sometimes people just won't confront the fact that they might be pregnant for a LONG time just because the prospect is too financially devastating. abortion funds are essential... but so is comprehensive affordable healthcare.


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.