Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Medical Tourism

I have hosted women from small towns within my own state, women from nearby states, and even a woman from Canada. They come to my large metropolitan city because they are past the legal limit in their state, or there just simply is not a provider trained or willing to perform abortions in the second trimester where they live. For example, the woman from Canada was within the legal limits, but there was not a provider, so her public health insurance PAID for the entire cost of her procedure in OUR country!

I always ask the women if they have been to New York City before. Some of them live only a few hours away and I sort of assumed they had been to NYC on a field trip, family trip, or getaway. However, as far as I can remember, every woman I have hosted said she had never been to NYC until the present trip.

We usually leave the clinic in a cab, which for many of them is the first time in a cab. The cab drivers here are fast and tend to weave a bit, which is not the best environment for an often-queasy woman going through a 2-day abortion. One woman was mesmerized by the TV screen built into the cab that had a map displaying showed our location. The women all stare out the window and ask every block what landmarks we are passing and if we will see famous buildings or people…usually people they know from reality TV or celebrity gossip magazines.

I have had a few women assume they will feel fine the afternoon after their procedure and they tell me they will go shopping, eat at a famous restaurant, or try to get cheap tickets to a Broadway show. I try not to break their hearts, but I am honest that they probably will want to stay off their feet and get some rest. They insist they will be fine and I usually keep my mouth shut.

I think about my first time visiting NYC when I was a small child. We ascended the Statue of Liberty, ate in Chinatown, climbed rocks in Central Park, and saw “Cats” the musical. My memories are so positive, and filled with love from my immediate and extended family. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my first NYC memories consist of hours in a waiting room, sleeping at a stranger’s apartment, and lying in stirrups with unfamiliar medical staff. It pains me to think about how these women experience NYC for the first (and possibly only) time. I don’t think this is how they ever imagined a trip to the Big Apple.

I hope they find their way back to NYC again, in a different circumstance, at a different time. I would love for them to see this city on their own terms and not in a post-anesthesia haze. NYC is symbolic to so many people for so many reasons, and I like to think that the city plays a role in shaping women’s lives. They come here to take charge of their lives and they return home to Rochester, Albany, or even Ontario, as new people (or renewed people).

Alicia Keys sings it best:

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can’t do,
Now you're in New York!!!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York

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