The Woman in the Waiting Room
I keep hearing people talk about abortion as if it’s nothing more than an unsavory word. It creates a bitter taste in people’s mouths, so they choose not to talk about it. Stiffening and cringing instead, they straddle the fence. As if it’s actually up for discussion.
As hard as the topic of abortion is for everyone, pardon while I redirect the attention to the one who is actually having the abortion.
The random, faceless woman who, despite her convictions or assurances, is sitting in a room at a woman’s clinic waiting for her name to be called.
She’s rehashing every decision that brought her to that waiting room. She’s feeling cursed and a little foolish. She’s wishing it was already over — probably wishing she was anyone but herself at that moment.
She probably had to stand in line and speak to a receptionist who referenced the entire ordeal as a “procedure.” She was asked to fill out paperwork, sign on dotted lines and pay hundreds of dollars. She was then exiled to a lifeless, soundless waiting room.
She may feel like a murderer or a sinner or a coward.
Perhaps she had to walk past angry protesters. Someone probably begged for her baby, told her she would go to hell, that she was killing a human life.
Stating that abortion is the process of ending a life completely ignores the life that was saved.
The ethical concepts that draw you to the conclusion that every effort should be exhausted in order to save a life are really just for you to feel secure in your own goodness. They’re not for her. They’re not for the one who is actually experiencing something unspeakable.
Quibbling about whether or not abortion is changing the moral fabric of our society negates the fact that our bodies don’t belong to society. Nor do the lives of our unborn offspring. They belong to us.
Because we all know that the same woman who chooses an abortion could be just a decision away from being that woman you see at the grocery store, trying to count her WIC coupons, hushing a crying baby in a stroller. And you’ll sit there, watching and wondering why people who can’t handle having children have them in the first place.
Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and opinions.
But opinions don’t change the world. Choices change the world.
Opinions don’t comfort the woman sitting, waiting, anticipating something that will change her forever. That space belongs to her, not us.
Abortion is about a woman who is experiencing a tragedy. It doesn’t matter if she’s there because of her own carelessness with a one-night stand, or because she was assaulted, or because she simply changed her mind — what matters is that in that room, and in that moment of her life, she is alone with her decision, with the process and with the result.
She’s probably tapping her toes against a linoleum floor. Maybe she’s wondering if “the procedure” will hurt, if she’ll feel anything, if she’ll see anything she isn’t prepared to see. There are probably other women waiting in the room as well. They likely all have the same stale, colorless expressions. Million-mile stares, moist palms, dry mouths, pools of water in their eyes threatening to spill out.
She may at some point reconsider. Scan through the documents in her purse for a refund policy. Do they give refunds for abortions?
Or she may feel sick. Not because of the medication or the shame or the anticipation — but because what’s inside her represents a heart wrenching experience. If she were raped or abandoned or beaten, she may feel nothing but hatred for that thing inside of her and for the fact that she has to endure a “procedure” in order to remove herself from the narrative of “victim.”
Pro-choice, pro-life, anti-abortion, traditionalist, liberal — these are words. Nouns. They mean nothing to a woman sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room. They don’t save her; they can’t extricate her from that half hour in which she’s alone with her thoughts.
People don’t suffer from the decisions of one woman. She suffers.
At some point afterwards a nurse will hand her a piece of paper with aftercare instructions. She’ll be advised about how she will feel for the rest of the day.
She’ll be broken up into pieces she probably can’t identify.
She’ll feel slightly damaged for awhile, or possibly forever.
The intensity will pass eventually. The memory will become opaque. She’ll live a life, possibly with more conviction. Possibly with more confidence and a greater understanding of what life is actually made up of. Choices.
Choices we all make — right or wrong — to save our own lives.