Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Surprise! No Staplers on THIS Ultrasound

It was rainy today, which made people a bit cranky, I think. I was cranky, anyway. Well, just in the early morning. I'm used to my solitary Tuesday routine: getting up early, eating breakfast in the quiet darkness, enjoying the still-slightly-dark, alone-with-my-thoughts walk to the clinic. My partner (whose exams are now finished) came with me this week, which was great, but it totally shattered my quiet routine and put me in a weird funk for the first little while. I am very sensitive to both noise and change. Just so you know.

Anyway, clinic was fine. There weren't many protesters out - I think the Saint John folks decided not to make the drive in this weather. Father Grim and Mr. Mumbles were out in their matching bright yellow rain suits, which definitely makes it worth getting up in the morning. It's so funny to see Father Grim, with his standard glare, in such a cheery outfit.

People were a bit off kilter inside today; nothing major, just a couple grumpies. It's forgivable, really; I would be pretty grumpy if someone was fixing to put a needle in my cervix. *shudder*

One of the patients changed her mind, which has been known to happen from time to time. I don't think she told anyone but me; she just got up after returning from her ultrasound and told me she'd changed her mind, and left. SL came out a few minutes later to call her in for her payment, and I had to tell her the patient had left. Which isn't a big deal - we couldn't care less, really. You don't want to do it, don't do it. What's funny is that since she changed her mind right after the ultrasound, and the ultrasound showed she was carrying twins, it's not that far out there to assume that's why she changed her mind.

I don't think it's the first time that's ever happened. Logically, it makes no sense to me. No matter what your reasons for choosing to end a pregnancy, whether financial, emotional, whatever, surely they would only be compounded by the idea of TWO potential children? Personally speaking, if I were to become pregnant at this stage of my life, assuming I chose to have an abortion (which isn't necessarily what I would choose), my main reason would probably be a lack of stability - mainly financial, but also just life in general. So if I couldn't afford to have one kid, I sure as hell couldn't afford two.

But of course this stuff isn't really logical, otherwise there would be agreement on the abortion debate and we could all put energy into other stuff. As Dr. George Tiller noted, "Abortion is not a cerebral or a reproductive issue. Abortion is a matter of the heart. For until one understands the heart of a woman, nothing else about abortion makes any sense at all."

So I've been struggling to understand the decision on an emotional level, to put myself in the shoes of a woman who goes in thinking she will abort, finds out it's twins, and decides to keep them. What difference does it make, I wonder? Is it harder to end two potential lives than one? Does it make them seem more human? Is it that she really isn't 100% certain of her decision, and this is an easy straw to grasp? It's really impossible to say without knowing the woman in question, and even then, who knows. I would love some face time with women who make that decision, just to see what they were thinking and feeling. I hope the woman today is happy with her decision in the end, and that everything works out for her and the twins.

It makes me think about these laws in the States where they make women having abortions look at the ultrasound. As in, mandatory. As if we can't trust women to know what they want. Lots of women aren't sure about the decision when they go in to a clinic, and they ask to see the ultrasound, and they decide not to abort. That's fine - it's a choice. But when a woman comes in who is 100% sure of the decision, and has no interest whatsoever in looking at the ultrasound, why should she have to? Why do legislators feel the need to hold women's hands every step of the way through a very personal and (for many) agonizing decision? Women aren't stupid, we aren't imbeciles. We can make up our minds for ourselves, and (here's a news flash) when women are pregnant, they KNOW what's in there! They don't think it's a fish, or a stapler. We don't need an ultrasound to tell us.

I think people who ask to see the ultrasound should be allowed to, of course. For some women it's the information they need to show themselves that they can't go through with it. For others, it's a piece of the grieving process. But I think the key to all of this (and really to all of health care) is respect. Just be respectful. Don't make people do shit they don't want to do. Trust women.

My posts have been getting a bit convoluted lately, eh? Sorry about that.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Finally, the Post About Sex Selective Abortion

I want to talk about sex selective abortion. In the anti-choice blogosphere, the issue has become an easy way to condemn abortion, and attempt to make feminists look stupid at the same time. As if by allowing abortion to become legal, this is what we must reap. Well, fuck that. Sex selection is not acceptable. Abortion is. How can that be??

Most of you probably know that both sex selective abortion and infanticide are huge problems in places like India and China, where having a girl means eventually having to pay a dowry, among other (mostly financial) concerns. Of course this has led to a big shortage of women to marry for a whole generation of Chinese men, but we'll let them figure that out. The point is, this isn't just a problem that's happening "over there". In Canada, specifically BC, there have definitely been "birth disparities" (ie an unnaturally high ratio of boys to girls) that, while they have been pinpointed to certain cultural groups, are nevertheless a concern of all of ours.

I saw a terrific presentation on this subject at the NAF conference by a representative of the SOGC. Her main concern was disclosure. While we can all agree that sex selection is unethical, what is the doctor's responsibility in disclosing the sex of the fetus, especially if he/she suspects that it is for sex selective reasons?

Well, according to the SOGC guidelines, if asked, the doctor cannot withold the information. This is becoming old news though, because now there are these special clinics where, at eight or nine weeks into the pregnancy, for a considerable sum of money, you can find out the sex of your baby. There is no doctor needed, and it's completely anonymous. Not to sound like a typical anti-choicer here, but what kind of person runs these clinics? Who would want to profit from something so vile?

Anyway, obviously it's a more complicated societal problem than I'm making it sound. But that's the point, really; it's societal attitudes that are the problem, not disclosure and certainly not abortion. It's the attitudes and beliefs that we have about women that make it okay to use sex selection. Outlawing abortion will not help; it will just lead to more female infanticide, which I hope we can all agree is WAY worse.

For a bit of a convoluted metaphor, think of a machete. You might think machetes are terrible because, like me, you've read all kinds of stuff about the Rwandan genocide and are repulsed by the thought of how many people were hacked to bits using them. On the other hand, while working on a fruit farm in Costa Rica I found the machete to be an extremely useful tool that not only helped the other volunteers and me to cut away unwanted weeds, build lots of things like a compost box and a new outhouse, but also kill deadly things like scorpions that found their way into our bedrooms. Without machetes, we wouldn't have been able to do anything useful at all. So you see, the machete itself is a neutral tool. It's the person who determines to what use it should be put. (I told you it was convoluted).

Abortion is like that, in this instance. It may seem evil because it is helping in the sex selection, but when you use it to help women who genuinely need it, it's good. But the truth is, like the machete, abortion is neither good nor bad.

The problem, as outlined at this presentation I went to, is that science is ahead of both ethics and the law. We can do so many things now that we didn't know would come so fast, and we just haven't had the discussions we need to have about how to ethically use this technology. It's like these crazy 4D ultrasounds or whatever. Imagine being able to see things like the facial features of your future child. For some people this is going to be a really exciting addition to the joy of expecting a baby, but for others there's the possibility of genetic selection, and abortion based not just on diseases and disabilities, but also on what the kid will look like.

Basically, it's a very scary slippery slope and the lawmakers and ethicists and society in general need to get on this FAST. So, you know, Margaret Somerville needs to stop bleating about abortion and teh gayzz and start actually being an ethicist.

On the other hand, I don't think I really want Somerville making the decisions about this stuff.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some Springtime Cheer

I'm late on this again. If it makes people feel any better, there were a million other things I meant to do yesterday that I also didn't get to. The spring weather makes me restless.

Yesterday was a pretty standard day at the clinic, all the usual protesters were out and about. Because we finished relatively early, and I wanted to stick around because there were some things I needed to do, I got the rare pleasure of seeing the protesters hang around after the patients were all inside and the escorts had left. I kind of assumed that they went inside as soon as all the escorts took off; but no, they were still out there, pacing up and down. Even the Holy Ghost, who doesn't carry a sign and whose whole purpose is "sidewalk counselling". Is she trying to get them on the way out?

In other news, as I mentioned briefly before, I'm taking charge of the Fredericton branch of this rally against Bill C-484. It's kind of exhilirating to do this kind of grass-roots organizing because you really never know who is going to come out of the woodwork. I kind of expected to get very little interest, but people have been falling over themselves to help out. It's been awesome, and I'm actually feeling okay about the turnout we're going to get. I'm just hoping for fifty people, and already on the Facebook group there are over sixty confirmed. So that is awesome. I even have speakers!! I feel like a real grown up who organizes things. :P

Bah, I still have so many issues I want to blog about, like sex-selective abortion, this new Bill C-537, and on and on. But I'm not going to now because I don't have my notes with me and because I'm very busy. Well I'm not really very busy, but I feel like I am.

One thing I do just have to mention is that yesterday there was a guy who was bringing his girlfriend, and he didn't want to come in - he just waited in the car - because he was scared of the protesters. Can you imagine? I know I've said this before, but really; if it's ever me coming here, the guy with whom I am in this situation would damn well be coming in with me. It takes two to tango people!! I feel like I should start putting that at the end of my post, like Sue Johanson and her corny condom slogans.

Enjoy the beautiful weather!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Differences of Opinion

Before I talk about today I want to draw your attention to this great article in the Ottawa Citizen about sex-selective abortion. It's a topic that I've been thinking, hearing and reading a lot about lately and I do intend to blog about it soon.

That said, I was back at the clinic and escorting this week for the first time in what seems like a million years. It was great to be back, to catch up with my escorts and all the news regarding their various academic and career pursuits. We definitely had an interesting conversation about relationships, and where you draw the line in terms of ideological differences. As in, could someone like me successfully date a Catholic? And I'm not just talking someone who was raised Catholic but is kind of lapsed; I mean a full on, church-going, rosary-praying type. And it's not the difference in spiritual paths that would bother me so much as the ideological differences and political differences. Abortion is an obvious one. Because I could date someone who was opposed to some other political issue, but abortion could become so personal. As in, if I got pregnant and my decision was an abortion, could he get behind that and respect my choice? Or, in the case that we were discussing, if she decided to be an abortion provider, could he step back and respect that? And so on. It raises all kinds of interesting questions.

It was good to be out now that the weather is getting warmer. The protesters hardly gave us any trouble today. The Holy Ghost slips in to talk to a patient any time we're not paying close enough attention, but she's so ineffective it doesn't really matter.

One funny/irritating thing did happen. One of the other escorts was walking a patient and her partner up the ramp. The partner was drinking a coffee, and the escort, TH, said something along the lines of, oh, I bet you wish you could have a coffee (as the patients are only allowed to drink water). And the partner said, well it's her fault. Or something along those lines. Can you imagine? If I were getting an abortion, the dude involved would be taking me there, keeping his mouth shut, and taking me out for lunch afterwards. I mean really, it takes two to tango, there, smarty-pants.

I thought I might do some shameless cross-promotion here and mention that I am organizing a protest on May 3rd against Bill C-484, in solidarity with the protest taking place in Ottawa the same day. For details, you can email me or check out the Facebook event.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Few Ideas for the Protesters

I have lots of stuff I want to write about all the things I learned this weekend, but I'll have to do that a bit later when I've gathered my thoughts on all of it. I hope you all had a chance to listen to the CBC story on Monday. I want to write this blog and direct it towards both the protesters, and any other assholes who feel the need to email me (or comment here) and be patronizing and/or judgemental about my decision to do what I do.

Being an escort is, believe it or not, not about abortion. Being an escort is something we would do for any person accessing any medical service who was feeling threatened and harrassed. Many of our escorts, I'm sure, have moral issues or questions about abortion that they are struggling with. So when people criticize our decision to "get involved with abortion", they really have no idea what they are talking about. The need and desire to protect these women from harm exists separately from one's moral view on abortion.

I don't care if you are anti-abortion. That is fine. I understand and respect that viewpoint, even if I don't share it. You can write all the letters to the paper you want about it, you can have a big anti-abortion party and congratulate yourself on all the precious babies you save, that's fine, I don't give a shit. However, your rights end where they start to infringe on mine. Your right to free speech ends where you start to infringe on someone else's right to access legal medical services without being harrassed.

This is a democracy (supposedly, but I won't get into that). There are SO MANY WAYS you can have your voice heard without hurting others. If you want to change the law, there are many avenues you can pursue. NONE of these avenues involve standing outside the clinic with a sign and glaring at vulnerable people as they try to enter. That makes you a creep and a jackass, not a valuable citizen of the democracy.

Pro-choicers used these aforementioned democratic avenues to lobby long and hard for a change in abortion law. They succeeded in having Canada's abortion law struck down not by acting threatening and glaring at strangers, but through activism and through the courts. That is how you make change in this country.

Against legalized abortion? Tell it to the editorial page, tell it to your elected representative, tell it to the courts. But don't take it out on the women exercising their LEGAL right to choose. Because I have news for you: they have the right not to give a flying fuck what you think.

I don't know how wise it is for me to be giving out advice to the protesters, but I know they won't take it anyway so I guess it doesn't matter. I just want them to know that standing out there impotently with their ridiculous signs doesn't change anything. It has never changed the mind of any woman going into the clinic. It only makes their side look crazier than they really are - therefore eroding their chances at being taken seriously should they actually try to pursue democratic action.

In conclusion: you may think I'm young, and I am; but I think you are stupid. And I can always get older.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Trials of Air Travel

Oh, Air Canada. You trickster, you.

So I was supposed to be at the clinic this week, and then write a hilarious and wonderful blog (as always) for your enjoyment. Unfortunately, it took a whole day longer than it should have to get back here from New York. I'm not going to get into details, suffice it to say there were problems and/or delays on every single leg of the journey, including legs that were added because of said problems and delays. So I missed clinic. Which sucks, because I am going to be missing it next week as well.

I thought I would blog in the interim though, just to let you all know that I am still alive and well. While in New York I saw the Bodies Exhibition at the South Street Seaport, and I highly recommend it (there are other exhibits with similar names and themse that travel around, so see if you can catch it near you). It was a very educational look at how our bodies work, and what all the gooey insides look like.

I mention this because it was one of the few times I was away that I thought about work - there was a display of babies and fetuses that was really cool and informative. There were fetuses in every week of development. It made me understand a bit more about why people get upset about abortion, and why some doctors (including our own) decide to limit themselves to sixteen weeks and under. But on the other hand, it sure made those stupid explode-y fetus pictures look ridiculous. I mean, the thing does NOT look human. If there hadn't been labels, I would have thought it was a collection of various sized peanuts floating in jars. Anyway it was cool to see up close and personal, and gave me lots to think about.

Also, the Maritime Noon story about me (well, partly) is going to be on either Monday or Tuesday. I won't be here those days so you'll all have to figure it out for yourselves. But don't worry about me (I'm sure you were!), my lovely mother will tape it for me, I'm sure.

Looks like the snow is melting! Yay!

***Edited to add: My interview is going to definitely be on Maritime Noon (on CBC) this coming Monday, April 7th.***