"I'm so happy."
These are the first words Q said to me yesterday, after having an abortion. I know this is not the only response--and I heard others while I was there--but the person I supported yesterday at the Women's Options Center at SFGH was no less than gleeful.
I'd volunteered through ACCESS to provide ride support to Q, a young woman in East Oakland. She was particularly stressed because she was hiding her pregnancy from her family and her boss was acting abusive toward her, and threatening to take away her hours for requesting the day off. We became friendly very quickly. I agreed to stay with her at the clinic during her abortion.
At the Women's Options Center, Q asked staff if I could be with her during her abortion, and after some time, I was admitted. There were four women--the doctor, nurse, counselor and myself. As luck would have it, the counselor was a friend of mine. The counselor asked Q whether she wanted narration (she didn't) and knew exactly what to explain and how to do so. She helped her relax her lower half and I helped her feel held. I stroked her hair, held her hand, and kept her breathing with me and told her how good she was doing. The nurse and doctor spoke in soft tones as they worked. Q kept thanking me and looking at me with the kind of loving openness you don't see very often. OK, she had some anesthesia, but it felt real. She kept saying, "wow, you guys are so nice."
Abortion doesn't have to suck. It can be like this.
It is enough to make that choice; the rest should be done with what I'm going to call human love.
It exists in everyone, but good working and living conditions are needed to optimize it. We are privileged in the Bay Area to have clinics like the Women's Options Center, where the staff seems genuinely well-taken care of and committed and fabulous, where the doctor was not rushing out the door to fly to another state and where they can accept Medi-cal, and not worry about being forced out of business by laws or economics, and where volunteers can and are willing to spend the time doing this work.
"I'm so proud of myself," Q said, when she met me back in the waiting room. "I did it."
I was elated to witness her empowerment. And, even in its glow, we both recognized that it takes a network of people and conditions to make this happen.
This morning, Q texted me and asked how I was doing. I told her I was happy. I told her I was writing about her.