Thursday, May 17, 2007

Why I’m Pro-Choice (Part 3 of 3)

It turns out that I didn't have to worry about whether or not that doctor would perform the abortion or not. Because of our dispute over the date at which this pregnancy occurred, he sent me to get an ultrasound. This test, as well as others conducted over the next two days, landed me in the emergency room of the University of Michigan Hospital after it was determined that the pregnancy was ectopic.

While waiting to speak to the surgeons on call before the emergency surgery I was going to have, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to finally have my tubes ties. After all, the doctors were going to be working in that general area, so why wouldn't they be willing to do this for me? So as soon as the doctors arrived and had explained what they planned to do today, I asked about getting a tubal ligation done at the same time. Their answer? "Oh, no, we can't do that. You're making the decision under duress." I was stunned. What the hell does a woman have to do to get some permanent birth control?

So I came back at them that my request was not at all based on any duress and cited the fact that I had been at U of M about a year ago to request the same procedure as proof that this had been a long-standing and well thought out request. When I told them that I was instead sent away with an IUD, these two doctors -- also men -- told me that I had to be mistaken, because they would never put an IUD into a woman who had never had any children. There was that same we're men and doctors so we know more than you tone that the Planned Parenthood doctor had when he asked about my last period. I don't such a comment would have been made in these times, not because men and doctors are better trained to respect their patients as sources of accurate information but because the litigious nature of today's society would quickly target the facility for a major malpractice lawsuit.

Thank god my wonderful, loving mother was there with me. After she talked to the doctors and confirmed that I had stated that I never wanted to have children since I was a child, the finally agreed to tie my tubes during the surgery. 23 years old and it took my Mommy to convince doctors that I knew what I was talking about. Absolutely shameful. But wait, there's still more paternalism in the story. Even after promising me to do the tubal ligation, I awoke after the surgery and was told by the docs that they had used metal clips instead of surgically severing and cauterizing the fallopian tubes. And because I still might change my mind, they only used one clip on each side instead of the recommended two to make it easier to reverse. Their parting words to me were that if I ever missed a period, I should take a pregnancy test because there was still a possibility that I could be pregnant. WTF? I felt utterly defeated knowing that I was still in danger of having to go through all of this again.

After going through a year's worth of hell and interminable battles with doctors to try to ensure I never had to face an unplanned pregnancy, I learned that even without court involvement, women can encounter some enormous barriers to accessing the birth control and abortion services that they have decided are right for them. Had I not been in a loving relationship, had the unquestioning support of my parents, or been able to rely on a close circle of friends for moral support, this process would have broken me emotionally. It was that long year that landed firmly in the camp that believes the government has no business imposing beliefs on a woman that are not her own regarding birth control and reproduction.

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