1984 was a strange year. That combination of youth and semi-bipolar that causes one to volunteer on an ambulance for 100 hours a week, plus the not-infrequent paying job. Between that and childbirth, some years later, I still need the occasional nap.
It’s an interesting combination, working on an ambulance and in an abortion clinic. Some co-volunteers were Catholic. Some were women with experience in this avenue of life. None were without an opinion, though no one turned against me. I didn’t perform procedures, after all, I just accounted for the results. As now, they were called ‘products of conception’, or POC.
I worked in a small, almost closet-like space between two procedure-rooms. One is struck by nothing so much as the sheer speed with which these procedures take place, and the ‘results’ come into this space. So fast that you almost don’t know what you’re doing, which is likely just as well. They eventually said that a previous employee came back, so they were letting me go. I always thought they were being nice about canning me, because I couldn’t keep up. I wasn’t exactly disappointed.
I remember that, up to six weeks, you had to account for two distinct masses. From six to 12, you accounted for parts. This clinic did abortions up to 12 weeks. I don’t know the details or legalities around that, I just remember the freak-out when a 16-week fetus came in, the techniques for measuring gestation having not been what they are now. I don’t remember other aspects of this particular very much, which is also just as well.
The recent news about Planned Parenthood brings this all back to mind. Having worked in emergency medicine, it’s tough for me to judge the way people talk about what they do. We’ve all made inappropriate comments at inappropriate moments, and youth is a time of insensitivity. On the other hand, everything that I experienced at that clinic was low-key, respectful, and nothing like some of the exchanges seen on these videos. I can recall a meeting where procedures were discussed, and the various tweaks that were considered, to make it more comfortable for the patients. The main thing I recall was an ethical concern that if you made the procedure too “comfortable”, it might result in women doing it more often. Try to imagine the screeching “war on women” rejoinder, if you broached that subject today. You might as well be Todd Akin. I’m hardly that, but I recognize that women are just as human as men, and just as likely to take the path of least resistance.
I’m not entirely sure what the point is, and you certainly don’t need me to tell you what to think about Planned Parenthood. I think abortion should be legal for the first 12 weeks, no questions. I think the birth control and morning-after pills should be over-the-counter, with a pharmacist consult. My sense is that this change would not be good for Planned Parenthood. I line up with neither extreme, yet what I believe in is actually possible, in a world where people accept that they won’t get all of what they want. Too bad that’s not the world in which we live.