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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I prescribed a healthy dose of reality for both of them.

For sure.

That's what the abortion clinic worker who writes the abortion clinic days blog says about a young couple she saw this week.

I wrote last week about the deficiencies of pre-abortion counseling in abortion clinics. I said that an apparent lack of curiosity about what went wrong when a woman experiences profound emotional distress and relational disruption after abortion is part of the reason that pre-abortion counselors (I don't think we're talking about licensed or supervised counselors here, so I use the word lightly) are not providing adequate pre-abortion counseling.

Reading this clinic worker's version of what went wrong in this case, it seems that a more basic problem is whether clinic workers are psychologically disposed to assume any degree of responsibility when things go wrong.

The clinic worker writes:

I talked to a young woman and her boyfriend recently about an abortion she had a month or two ago. Charmaine (not her real name) was still very affected--depressed, crying, irritable, unable to really get it together.
"Unable to really get it together" sounds a bit disparaging. Charmaine, by the way, is 19. This abortion was not her idea. It was, as we say, an unwanted abortion--at least, unwanted by Charmaine.

Charmaine eventually acknowledged that she could have left the clinic at any time, and that she did not tell the staff that this was not her decision. I told her either would have stopped everything.
It does not seem to occur to our abortion clinic worker that there was anything she could have done differently when Charmaine appeared in the clinic for her pre-abortion counseling to find out exactly what was going on with this pregnancy and proposed abortion. It's all Charmaine's fault, as far as this clinic worker is concerned, and it's very important to this clinic worker that she tell this distraught 19-year-old who had an abortion under pressure that it was her fault. You didn't tell us this wasn't your decision.

This is so neglectful, such a refusal to take any responsibility.

Then when it all fell down like a house of cards, Charmaine didn't know how to speak her own mind and her own heart.
Well, gosh darn that Charmaine. Pregnant, 19, under pressure, scared, and she doesn't know how to speak her own heart and mind! Can you imagine?

What one would want to see in this posting is the clinic worker wrestling with herself, not condemning Charmaine. What one wants to see, but doesn't, is probling self-reflection...is there anything I could have done differently when I saw Charmaine before? I wonder if there are better, more useful questions that I as a pre-abortion counselor could ask to find out what's really going on with the Charmaines that come into my clinic? I wonder if...since I represent myself as a pre-abortion counselor...these young women expect that I will be able to approach them holistically and with great discernment and care before abortion, to help them fully articulate everything that's really going on? Have I succeeded? What am I failing to do in these pre-abortion counseling sessions to help the Charmaines of the world speak their own minds and their own hearts?

You know, in every other area of life, adults who work with older teenage girls know that helping our Charmaines find their own voice is both a privilege and a moral obligation.

And in the medical field--which abortion clinic workers are supposed to be part of--our standards for the degree of responsibility that medical workers have when things go wrong, emotionally, for a patient, is much higher. Doctors patiently screen middle-aged men who want vasectomies, as just one example. Cosmetic surgeons hold conferences and write books about how to make sure that their patients (typically, women who are much older and more likely to know their own hearts and minds) really want and will benefit from cosmetic surgery procedures.

This abortion clinic worker, though, just doesn't get it that she has any responsibility for what went wrong here. Tragically, her failure to get it means that it will not occur to her that there are different ways she could approach the Charmaines who will present themselves at her clinic this week, next week, and the week after, that she could try to find more effective and helpful ways to help frightened pregnant teenagers speak their heart and mind.

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