Sorry I didn’t post last night – minor family emergency…
As a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers years ago, one of the most enjoyable parts of my job was visiting clinics. Every clinic was totally different, each had its own personality. I loved meeting with the staff, talking to them about how they got the job, what issues they dealt with, how they talked about their job to others (I always encouraged them to be totally straight with folks and not just say that they worked “in a medical facility”). I also enjoyed just sitting in the waiting room with the woman and their partners. It was particularly fun when I struck up conversations with them.
One day I was visiting a large clinic in New York City, a clinic that saw several hundred women each week. I sat down in the packed waiting room and at one point, a woman by herself sat next to me. She was wearing a New York Yankees hat so it was easy for me to strike up a conversation with her. Ultimately, I told her what I did for a living and she started asking me about the abortion process. Her name was Leona.
I told her about the paperwork, the minor medical tests, etc., and then I started to talk about the counseling process when she interrupted me.
“Why do I need to get counseled?” she asked.
“Well, they just want to make sure you know about all of your options and they want to do all they can to assure that they will never see you again for an abortion.”
She got all red in the face. “Why the hell do I need to talk about my options? I’m not stupid. I know I got just three options and I thought about each one and I’ve decided that this is the best one. Why do I have to go through that conversation again with some stranger?”
I really had no answer. She was making sense. She then went on to tell me her individual story and how she had discussed her situation with people that she loved and she was absolutely certain that she was making the right decision. She was a sassy, street smart woman who clearly felt insulted that she was going to have to go through counseling.
And therein lies the dilemma.
The anti-abortion folks love to say (very loudly) that women are never told their options, basically suggesting that women are morons who need the oh-so-precious guidance of those 80 year old crusty protestors out front of the clinic. Meanwhile, the pro-choice folks certainly know that women are smart but many of the clinics still insist on providing some form of counseling for women. Now, some believe that they only need to present the very basic information to the woman, like describing the procedure and post operative instructions. But then there are other clinics who, although they certainly trust women to be intelligent, feel that the abortion decision is still a complicated one and that it is best for any woman to talk through their feelings to assure, as much as possible, that they are truly ready for the abortion.
So, it’s amusing when some local anti-abortion folks find out what form of counseling a clinic offers and, if it’s the more “informational” kind,, they start accusing the clinic of just shoving the women through the process to make a quick buck. They should have a chat with Leona.