Disclaimer: This is a very intense blog entry of a very dark subject matter.
It has come to my attention that further to this series of myths and misleading arguments perpetuated by the pro-life movement, Canadian pro-lifers desire the detainment and imprisonment of women, on charges of murder, for complications of pregnancy that take their wanted pregnancies through no fault of their own. This is in addition to criminalizing abortion services for all women — including rape and incest survivors who conceive while being assaulted, and women with ectopic pregnancies (who would die without access to an abortion). Few things that exclusively effect women have left me with as much grief to bear. It is absolutely outrageous that there exists even a single person in this world who would happily slap the cuffs on a woman grieving for the loss of her pregnancy as soon as her underwear is back on. But there isn’t just one. There is an entire movement of people who value the life of a yet-to-be-conceived child more than the women who stand immediately before them. An entire movement of people who would campaign the government to create legislation that essentially criminalizes any pregnancy that bears complications upon the woman who endures it.
When I worked in a particular medical office years ago, for approximately the length of a typical pregnancy (unintentionally), I met a lot of women. Some were still in their first year of high school, pregnant with one of their classmates. Some were happily married college graduates and positively glowing on their way into the exam room. And some were doing everything they could to maintain a façade of courage in the face of a crisis. I have been carrying my memories of all of them with me for all this time. When I found out how pro-lifers would treat them in their time of overwhelming grief and suffering, all of it came flooding back. I was also reminded of women who had come to that practice suffering in silence, whose lives were lost before their time. And then all the women I’ve known in my personal life who have suffered through miscarriages or abortions — including my paternal aunt, who miscarried when she was pregnant with twins. Then I thought of when one of my flatmates committed suicide, and another friend of mine who recently committed suicide. And my murdered iguana. And one of my birds, who died after falling ill with an inoperable abdominal mass. And I thought of my non-existent relationship with my mother.
About the people whose suicides I’ve survived: I had a dream last night that another person I know took their own life, just when everything that could be going good for them is doing just that. When I started to think of all the people I have lost to suicide, I started to realize that this is where the real slippery slope is on the abortion issue. If a woman should be detained for suffering a miscarriage, why was I never taken out of my home in handcuffs and put in a holding cell, for surviving my flatmate? Why was my own mother left to go about her business, which I’m sure included a great deal of mourning and grief, when her college dorm roommate took their own life? When I was in high school and a local high school senior was found in his bedroom, why weren’t his parents arrested?
The answer should be perfectly clear: In this country, we don’t charge people for murder when someone close to them takes their own life.
And this is what a pro-lifer wants to happen to women for spontaneous and missed abortions. Let me tell you something about those experiences, too. I have never seen the same woman since my paternal aunt lost her twins. I barely understood what happened at the time because no one would speak of it, and since then, she’s never been the same. She never became pregnant again. She never had children, and at one point, directly expressed that she sometimes wished I was her child. Without informing her of just how terrible my upbringing was, and how freeing a fantasy it was to entertain thoughts of what might have been if I were born to different parents, I honoured her feelings instead of either answering them with my own pain or casting judgment onto her. I told her I wished that sometimes too. I remember crying, both for my horrendous past and for her lost pregnancy, in that moment.
And then there is the woman whose name I will never forget, because she became pregnant and suffered a missed abortion, all while I was working for her doctor. My job was to do the urinalysis and weigh the patients and keep my mouth shut. But she had been coming into the office for nearly 6 months, and she wanted to know how much she weighed. I told her she was 100.5 lbs, and excitedly remarked “You’re finally over a hundred pounds!” And a few minutes longer than usual after she went into that exam room, the doctor came out first. In a hushed voice, she asked me to arrange an ultrasound for the patient, and said there was no longer a fetal heart rate. I had to do everything in my power to keep my composure as I handed her a photocopy of the requisition, with her appointment time and the procedural preparations required of her circled in red. And she called us the next day to book an emergency appointment, right after she was done with the ultrasound. She was in complete denial that she was carrying a baby with no heartbeat, and she didn’t want the doctor to induce an abortion because she said “But it’ll kill my baby!” It was my job to arrange a second appointment for an ultrasound, to explain to the woman on the other end of the phone that the radiologist needs to convince the patient to seek the recommended medical treatment — someone needed to convince the patient that her baby was dead, and she was at risk too if she didn’t have an abortion.
No one prepared me to deal with anything like this. And to make matters worse, this was the second time this particular patient had lost a pregnancy the same way.
I still don’t know how to begin dealing with these feelings I have, or with the unresolved shit with my mother this is all triggering somewhere deep inside of me, and I’m not even talking about women I’ve known who have accessed a legal abortion. I am grateful that they didn’t have to access the help they needed through illegal measures. If they had, they would likely not be here at all. The last thing I would be able to cope with, is seeing all these women locked up until they could definitively prove that they weren’t guilty of murder. I am just so blown away, I don’t know how to deal.