an After abortion

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Monday, September 13, 2004

A memory was triggered by Emily’s post about Ellen Barkin saying she’d “take her [daughter] kicking and screaming to have an abortion” if she ever became pregnant. Two springs ago, down at the abortion center where I’ve gone to offer help to the women and girls as they go in, we saw what seemed like just such a situation unfold in real life.

A car drove up with a "God Bless America" sticker in the windshield, parking right up against the chainlink fence, the opposite side of which was where Carmen and I stood. The young teen in the passenger seat didn't seem older than 13. She was almost doubled over in her seat sideways, her head buried in her hands, the right side of her face pressed against the seatback, facing away from her mother, crying so uncontrollably and so loudly her whole body shook violently and she was practically screaming.

Her mother looked at us in disgust as they lingered in the car while we spoke pleadingly with them both through the closed windows. We know they could hear us; we were a foot away from the front of the car.

We guessed from body language that the mother was probably making her do this against her will. The girl was literally hysterical, refusing to look at us or her mother. The mother got on a cell phone call, angrily speaking and gesturing about the situation, though we could not hear her words. We supposed she was talking on the phone to the teen's father.

We just kept talking to them both for 10 minutes, saying to the girl, "You don't have to do this. No one can make you. If you go in there, you can tell them that you don't want to do this and that someone is making you do it. There are girls who change their minds every day here and don't have the abortion. There are even girls whose parents made them do it, who then have gone to court about it. Please, let us help you, this isn't the only thing you can do."

To the mother we calmly spoke these words, "Her life isn't over just because she's having a baby. That's your granddaughter in there. You know what's the right thing to do, no matter how hard it seems now, you can do this, you can support her and you will all make it and be happier than you ever dreamed. We have grandmothers and moms come back to us here, bragging about their babies and the good fortune that's come their way since they were born."

As we spoke to the girl, she seemed to be listening, as her sobbing subsided and she straightened a bit, so we could see her face a little. Her body stopped shaking. Carmen showed the mother the photos of a woman being taken out of this same clinic on an ambulance stretcher because of her botched abortion. They are frightening photos. And that same abortionist is still doing abortions there, twice a week.

I told the girl about my regret, and how I wished I could have my baby back, how she someday could feel the same way as I do, if she did this to her baby. To the mother, I pleaded, "If you think she's crying now, she'll be crying like this the rest of her life if she does this. Please, if you really love her, help her keep her baby, your granddaughter. Why do you think we'd be out here in the pouring rain, if we didn't care about all of you?"

We spoke of the heartbeat her baby has right now, and played the
audiotape of the embryonic heart beating, for a few minutes. It sounds just like yours and mine. I showed the mother my other sign that says, "Your baby right now, has a heartbeat, brainwaves, sucks its thumb, and can feel pain. At age 6-8 weeks."

At one point, the mother freshened her lipstick, as though preparing to leave the car and enter the center. She even opened her door slightly, but her daughter sat immobile. We kept pleading with them both. The mother closed the door. Though the windows were closed, we knew they could hear us.

Finally, after a second cell phone call to whomever, the mother backed the car out and they left. They'd never gotten out of the car. The girl still hid her face, but she seemed calm and still. The mother refused Carmen's pregnancy support phone numbers but was so angry that she almost pulled out in the wrong direction on the one-way side of the divided street.

All throughout, curiously, the abortion center’s volunteer escorts stayed far away from the car. I guess that, once they realized the girl was hysterical, and they heard what we said and how it helped her calm down and gain the support she needed from her mother to keep her baby, even they accepted that she didn't want to abort her baby. We prayed for the girl as she went back home, for her mother and perhaps for her angry father.

We don’t know, and probably will never know, if they just found a different abortion center to force the abortion on their daughter. All we could do at that point was pray that that wasn’t the case, and that they would find the help they needed, even if from someone other than my friends.

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