My story: I was 19 years old, alone, and crying somewhat uncontrollably when my young female doctor came into the clinic examination room where I was sitting. She looked at me and exclaimed: “Congratulations you’re having a baby!”
She started explaining to me about the medical process of having a baby. I can’t really recount all that she said to me because I was not listening. I was still crying, still trying to make some sense of this impossible situation.
Eventually she stopped talking and there was some silence and she started to pack up my chart like the visit was over. I finally squeaked out the question: “I am wondering about my options.”
She looked at me with surprise and asked “You mean like adoption?”. I looked at the floor and contemplated how I could hide a pregnancy from my work and my family. I plotted suddenly leaving the island for the year and no one would have to know… but I was part way through a semester at school and I had a contract that still had six months to finish and…. and… and.
I had to say it. This was the moment. This was my only chance. “What about abortion?”
“ooooooh” she responded, surely feigning surprise. “oh, I don’t know much about abortion. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. Anyone I know who ever got an abortion deeply regretted it after. Also, I had a girlfriend who had an abortion and she could never have children again after…. but then again, that was year’s ago things have probably changed since then.”
I am actually glad she went there. I was struck by it immediately. My emotionally distraught teenage mind was hit with a spike of realization: I think my doctor just lied to me. The medical untruth about not being able to have babies again, I think that was an unethical crazy thing to say.
It was at that moment that I identified her as biased and realized that she was violating my rights. It was that statement that made me feel a wave of righteousness. It was that righteousness that led me onto the very difficult process of getting an abortion at the Morgantaler clinic in Halifax.
I ran into my aunt who was sitting in the waiting room as I left my family doctor that day. I am sure she was wondering why I was leaving the doctor visibly crying. We never spoke about it. That could be the theme of the whole abortion experience. I never spoke about it. In fact the most traumatizing part of having an abortion for me was the lies, secrecy and shame that enveloped the entire event. I have never regretted my decision to have an abortion. I have never told my family or many of my closest friends that it happened. I felt very sad, and even angry, for a few years after about how difficult the entire logistical process was. Mostly, I felt relieved it was over.
I could go on. It has been over a decade now but I can recount every part of the logistical mine-field to you; the money I didn’t have, the person to accompany me that I was too ashamed to ask, the protesters I had to walk past… Perhaps the most shameful thing was the drive back to PEI afterwards. I went against the clinics orders and drove myself home the same night even though it had been made very clear to me that it was forbidden and unsafe to do so. The drive I had organized didn’t work out. I had nowhere private to stay in Halifax. I had a big presentation in school the next day and no explanation for my teacher as to why I wouldn’t be able to give my presentation. All of these things mattered more to my 19 year-old self than my safety.
The story goes on. The follow-up check up that no doctor wanted to perform. The doctor who told me that all doctors are trained to do abortions as well as the follow-up; that they are breaking their professional code of ethics by what they are doing in PEI.
I never made a formal complaint about my doctor. It never occurred to me to do so. I had been through enough. I had used up all of my fight. I was just very thankful I had the access and education I did have. I was lucky to have been involved with a community group that had discussed abortion at a meeting, otherwise I really would not have had a clue, I have no idea how I would have managed.
Anonymous – PEI