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Friday, October 19, 2012

So That’s What It’s Like

            You hear about women in other countries who don’t have access to safe abortion service.  I have heard a lot about Ireland, particularly with a clinic opening in Northern Ireland.  I know middle income women in Ireland can typically go to England or somewhere else in Europe to obtain a safe abortion.  I have been so enraged hearing about it being illegal, but I also see all the women in Ireland fighting for legal abortion.  I know it will soon be legal in Ireland, but in truth that is the only country other than the USA whose laws concerning abortion I am familiar with.  I do know that in Canada all anti-choice efforts have been met with a steady stand for women. Thanks to these women, anti-choice efforts in Canada have failed.  I have been so consumed with the War on Women here, that I have not researched many other countries.  So what is it like for a woman in a 3rd world country who wants to end her pregnancy?
            Now I know.  I received a call from a woman in the Philippines this week who desperately wanted to end her pregnancy.  She had managed to find an abortion pill on the black market, but after taking it, nothing happened.  She was still pregnant.  I talked to her for some time, and we figured out together that the first medication she took was not the right pill.  The first pill is only available in very few countries, but the second medication is fairly common.  The second pill has uses other than as an abortion pill.  It is also pretty ineffective alone for causing an abortion. 
            Some people recommend trying the second pill alone if it does not work the first time, but really it is not a good idea, especially if you don’t have a doctor to give you advice.  That is the problem in the Philippines:  it is illegal for a doctor to even offer her advice concerning what one should do after a failed abortion attempt.  The medication can cause severe birth defects, although it typically doesn’t.  The truth is a doctor in her country could not tell her if there were birth defects, even if he saw them.  She said she already had three children and loved them, but there was not enough money in her home to support a fourth child.
            She told me that her husband was North American, but it would take months before she could get a Visa to come to the USA.  Her pregnancy was at 9 weeks to the best of her knowledge.  After 9 weeks the pills are not to be used, even if she did want to try a second attempt with them.  She had a lot of questions about the actual procedure, and I asked her why she wanted to know.  She said that if she was unable to get to the USA, she would go to an illegal abortion provider, and she wanted to know what questions to ask the provider to find out if the procedure would be safe.  I was astounded at her situation.  It was shocking, and I really could not offer her help.
            I stayed on the phone with her for almost 30 minutes, and she said it was such a relief just to tell someone without fear of being arrested.  She said she has always wanted to visit the USA, but wished it would be under better circumstances.  I asked her if she had ever tried birth control, and she was on birth control when she conceived two times.  Not only had she been on birth control, but her husband had been using condoms.  I had her go get her pack of birth control and it turns out that it was expired and so were the condoms.  She spoke English very well, and said she had never had any that were not expired.  I wish I had been able to help her.  I gave her the information for the women on waves, but she is sacred to contact them because she could be jailed if any money changes hands, and they request a donation. 
            I don’t know what will to my Filipina friend.  I only hope the best for her.  I hope she is able to get to the USA for a safe abortion because I know that if she cannot get a safe abortion here, she will find a way to end her pregnancy in the Philippines:  safe or not. She told me that she loves where she lives, but the laws against abortion and the restrictions against contraception are why her country is considered 3rd world.  She also mentioned that her family is quite well off compared to most people in the Philippines, but even so there is no way to support another child.  I wish I could do more for her, but all I could do was listen.  It was almost a warning:  “don’t go back.”
            I was at a loss after speaking with her.  I have access to birth control that is effective, and I can go to any gas station and find condoms that are not expired.  I can practice safe sex, and I never even give it a second thought.  What if these products are degraded?  It never occurs to me because they wouldn’t give me 2nd rate condoms or birth control even at the health department here.  They may not give me exactly what a want, but at least I don’t think, “hmmmmm, maybe this condom won’t protect me from HIV because it’s expired.  Maybe theses pills won’t work.”  If by chance the condom and the pills fail, and I still get pregnant, I know where the clinic is.   The concept of living somewhere so anti-woman is beyond my comprehension. Yet, I think if the Republican Party has its way, I may need to think about it the next time I purchase a pack of Trojans. 

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