In early 1991, just months after the formation of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I hopped in a car and drove around the Midwest visiting clinics to get educated on the provision of abortion services. One of my first stops was at a clinic in Arkansas.
I had a good initial meeting with the physician (who offered me a joint that he had been keeping in his desk drawer), then I met with the administrator for about two hours to discuss how clinics are run. Very educational. At one point, we started talking about the reasons why women have abortions and I mentioned how I’d love to meet a woman who was going to have an abortion. The administrator responded “well, that shouldn’t be a problem. You need to talk to Gloria.”
I learned that Gloria was in for her 6th abortion. I couldn’t believe it and my initial reaction was that I needed to know why this was happening because, if I was going to represent abortion providers on Capitol Hill, I needed to know how to respond to charges of women “abusing” abortion. The administrator left the room to ask Gloria if she was willing to talk to me and she came back within a minute and said that Gloria would “love” to talk to me.
Gloria was in her mid-thirties. She was what my father would call “a sassy broad.” She was very confident, had a bee-hive hairdo and, from the crusty tone of her voice, a heavy smoker. She was chewing gum as we spoke. Probably worked as a waitress at the local diner. You get the picture..
I told her that I was just hired to fight for abortion rights, which she appreciated, then I told her I needed to know why she was at the clinic for her sixth abortion.
“Well,’ she said, “the first time the condom broke. The next time my boyfriend said he didn’t want to use a condom and threatened to beat me if I insisted on using one. The third time, I had gone on new birth control pills and there was some problem with them, don’t remember the details. The fourth time, I was raped by two truckers outside of the Rusty Skillet café in Little Rock. The fifth time. Geez, I can’t remember what happened the fifth time. Then this time I was just playing Lady’s Luck.”
“What is Lady’s Luck?” I asked.
“Well, I was not on birth control, didn’t want to use a condom so I just kept my fingers crossed and hoped that I had good luck. I actually should have just kept my legs crossed, huh?”
During her story, she kept cracking her gum and when she was done she looked at me coldly and said “Any more questions?”
I asked how she felt at that moment, knowing she’d be going in for anotherabortion in about 30 minutes. She said she felt fine. “I’ve been through this before, I know what to expect.” She was a rock, ready to get on with her life. Then, to my surprise, she asked me if I wanted to go in with her to the surgery room. I said yes.
We walked in and the nurse put her on the table and started prepping her. Then the doctor came in and said a few words to her before he got started. Gloria looked at me and then reached her hand out to me. I grabbed it and she squeezed. I then saw the doctor insert a tube into her and heard a vacuum-like sound. I looked at Gloria and she had tears in her eyes. I asked if she was okay and she said “I am such a loser. I have got to get my act together.” I started to well up myself. The nurse asked if she wanted to proceed and Gloria said “let’s do it” and the process was complete within minutes.
Later, in the recovery room Gloria was her old feisty, gum cracking self, ready to go out to her cold harsh world and kick some ass. She hugged me as she was leaving and said “thanks for being there.”
When she left, the nurse came over to me and said “she cries all the time. We always ask her if she really wants to do this and she always tells us yes.”
Thanks for the education, Gloria, you sassy ole broad….