Today is the day. I know because I receive automatic notifications of admissions to the public hospital. I knew anyway because I was reminded. Reminded to send a new referral prior to this date because the original didn’t have the required wording. Required wording – by law, or by the local service? I don’t know and neither did the coordinator on the other end of the phone. The omission was unintentional anyhow. But I was to amend to the precise wording, “I recommend termination of pregnancy due to psychological reasons”.
The teenage girl came in with her mum and boyfriend about a month earlier. The atmosphere in the room was tense as she went off to collect a urine sample. Mum was hysterical. The boyfriend stood behind mum (not enough chairs), occasionally brushing his fringe and slowly flicking his blonde shoulder-length hair to the side, before staring down at the floor again. He looked kind of stunned.
“Well, what did you think would happen?!” Mum snapped. They’d been together for a few months. Neither had a job. We discussed their options. Arranged tests and referrals.
That week another girl of the same age was in a similar situation. This was her second unexpected pregnancy, and she didn’t want to go through another termination. In the following week she went back and forth between wanting to go ahead with the pregnancy, and not wanting to. Her pregnancy was already quite far along and she needed to make up her mind. The latest was that she’d felt pressured by her boyfriend and his family to have an abortion, but he’s come around now. Is this a better outcome, or worse?
Pro-choice for the woman – how quickly that can become the-only-choice, if termination is seen by everyone around her as the only acceptable outcome. Including the health professional who is quick to put in writing, as I did, that termination is recommend for psychological reasons. How complete is the patient’s or their doctor’s knowledge about what benefits this individual in the long-term? Is what we want at the time always good for us? What if I don’t recommend? I suppose any colleague could refer her instead. What good, or harm, would come out of that?
Then there’s unexpected miscarriages. One woman had the slightest spotting, just once. Scans came back with an intrauterine pregnancy, but no fetal heart rate. Non viable pregnancy. This was the second time this year and she was devastated. Why does that even happen (not a medical why)? What happens to the fetus? Life ending so early, from something outside human control, is tragic. Equally so, is the deliberate act of ending a new life that could have continued.
There are reasons and there are circumstances. I acknowledge that I don’t know what they all are or what it is like to be in my patient’s shoes. Though I hope to make choices with a clear conscious before God, now and in the future, I can’t claim to know what my response would be should a difficult situation arise in my own life. Yet whatever our views are on abortion legislation and access, I think we can agree that the “demand” for these services – whether from unwanted pregnancies, medical conditions or other reasons – is not a good thing.
Reminds me once again that we live in a world broken and affected by sin. For unwanted pregnancies, I don’t just mean the choices of the woman and her partner (though in my view, we have personal responsibility regardless of our circumstances). Just as significant is the collective sin, of us as individuals in this society, in refusing to acknowledge God as creator. Believing that we are fit to define good and evil. That we only need to do what’s right for us, to be happy. Pretending that sex and childbearing are unrelated matters when we have modern-day contraception. Confidently asserting that we (rather than God) know best about relationships, sex, marriage, and even what constitutes the breath of life.
“As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” – Ecclesiastes 11:5