Late last week, I spent some time going through written comments from patients who had an abortion at our facility. I was deeply moved by their stories and I’d like to share some of those with you.
One of the things that struck me was the difference in circumstances among patients. Some wrote about being there with a boyfriend while others were accompanied by a spouse. One patient talked about herself as a 20-year-old and another gave her age as 42. One woman mentioned her status as a mother, saying: “Having an abortion was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. But it was the best choice for me and my life, as well as my children’s lives.”
There is no ‘type’ of woman who has an abortion. Given the multiple realities expressed by women who use FPA services, it’s clear that stereotypes simply do not apply. One in three women in the United States will have an abortion in her lifetime – one in three. Surprised? I certainly was the first time I heard those numbers. But the statistic came to mind as I read our patients’ words.
In reviewing patient accounts of their FPA visit, I was moved by the emotions that women are experiencing as they walk through our doors. Words commonly used include: embarrassed, scared, sad, unsure and stressed –all those feelings that accompany big life decisions. Even though each woman and her story are unique, many patients expressed similar emotions at the start of their visit.
It’s clear from reading our patients’ reflections that something transformative happens inside the walls of our health care center. Women who received abortion care services describe a positive change in their emotional state when they encounter FPA staff and providers. Here’s how some of our patients describe that change.
“It was scary for me going in and you all made me so relaxed and comfortable. No one made me feel judged.”
“I was really nervous at first but you guys made me feel like everything was going to be ok.”
“Thank you for being supportive and helping me feel brave.”
“This was a very stressful situation and you were very good at putting me at ease. You saved me!”
I could go on with many more similar comments but I’m sure you get the general idea.
Ironically, the protesters outside our gates rarely get a mention when patients describe their abortion experience. One patient writes about them, almost as an aside, “I never felt pressured one way or the other and they (health center staff) treated me with respect and understanding. I was very well cared for and despite the protesters I felt very safe.” Our patients confirm what studies have shown – the most common feeling women experience after an abortion procedure is relief.
For all the rhetoric from anti-choicers about how protests outside of abortion care centers have a transformative effect on people, I’m pretty convinced that the real magic is happening inside our walls. It’s the transformation that happens when women facing a difficult time in their lives are provided with respect, honest information, excellent care and non-judgmental support for whatever decision they make. And that is what our work here at the FPA is all about.