The nuts, the bolts and the tenderness.

January 1st, 2010

Yesterday I spent 5 hours in a sexual and reproductive health care facility, supporting a dear friend who found she was pregnant and did not wish to continue with the pregnancy.

I, and she (we’ll call her Astrid) are lucky enough to live in a country where the right to reproductive health is honoured, supported and subsidised by our National healthcare scheme- Medicare.

The service started quite simply with a phone call to a 24 hours a day number for information, support and advice.  At that point an appointment can be and was negotiated within 3 days.

A support person is encouraged and that became my role.  Then the process begins.

I collected Astrid and drove her to the facility.  She was asked to fast from midnight and felt uneasy about driving to my place.  The clinic sits nondescriptly, but not hidden, in an ordinary suburb near public transport.  Access is via a buzzer which opens the front door.  Inside it looked like any other medical facility with couches, a TV, magazines and lush, cheerful indoor plants. There were no security guards and no protesters.

The receptionist asked Astrid’s first name and appointment time and requested confirmation of her via photo ID.  Once confirmed, Astrid was asked to take a seat and fill out forms which included a brief medical  history, a consent form and arrangements for co-payment.

Once completed this was given back to the receptionist and Astrid and I waited.  From a secured door a nurse appeared and called Astrid into the surgical part of the facility.  The nurse gently questioned Astrid as to why she wanted a termination of pregnancy and spoke of all options available.  These being birth and keeping the child, birth and giving the child up for adoption and a termination of pregnancy.  Astrid restated her decision.

The nurse then went on to perform an ultrasound examination of Astrid’s uterus, with the monitor only being visible to the nurse.  Confirmation of pregnancy and foetus age was established.

Astrid and I went back into the waiting area where she paid her share of the procedure.  We chatted and waited.

Astrid was called by the doctor and I remained in the reception area. I watched people come and go for almost 3 hours as I waited.

I observed that the men who supported the women were uncomfortable, unable or unwilling to sit and wait. They appeared lost without the purpose of sitting in support as they and the women waited for the surgery.  I guess men are more comfortable with the tangible and preferred to come back later when their partner/sister/friend was ready to be released into their care.

There were at least ten women that came and went including Astrid.  Most came with who I assumed were their partners.  One young woman came with her mother and the tenderness between them was touching.  The most surprising people that I observed were a young couple.  Also in attendance was her mother and his mother.  This young woman had agreed to, or demanded, a matriarch supporting on each flank. Her partner sat opposite, looking completely overwhelmed and out of his depth.  His mother looked terrified and appeared to have never envisaged that on the cusp of 2010 she would be supporting her son’s decision to support his partner’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. I wondered if she ever discussed contraception with her son.

I suspect she hoped she could outsource herself to a doppelgänger, hologram or avatar.

Alas, that is not how unwanted pregnancies operate.  It can be an unintended consequence for women who are heterosexual, sexually active and fertile.  Contraception options remain adequate at best and catastrophically defective at worst.

Abortion involves many more people than the pregnant woman. Yesterday I supported one such woman and witnessed many others do the same.

Astrid remains asleep in my spare room.  She can remain there until she asks to be driven home.  She will be well again in a day or so and with love, care, compassion, ibuprofen, coffee, cookies, respect and support she will be her usual self again.

Why would anyone begrudge her the right to choose?

Abortion happens; make it safe.

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Why the Liberal party is just SO last season

June 6th, 2007

The good Doctor Washer, a Liberal party backbencher and 50 of his colleagues, is reminding the Minister for Foreign Affairs- Alexander Downer, why he, and his party, cease to remain relevant, by highlighting how out-of-touch this government is in relation to its foreign aid policy. Currently, Australian foreign aid money comes with a condition which prevents it from being spent on abortion advice.

“It’s repugnant, it’s an insult to women. I think that is just absolutely an insult. What is even more ridiculous or more repugnant is that we’re saying in these guidelines that if you go and have an illegal abortion where there is a 13 per cent chance of death on average and you happen to survive, we’re happy to give you counselling. Well, that’s good for those who didn’t die but for the 13 per cent, I think counselling dead people is pretty difficult. I haven’t found much success in it as a doctor, so that’s absolute lunacy.”-Dr Mal Washer.

It is clear how Australians feel about safe abortion services. And yet, with this data, this government remains influenced by Senator Brian Harradine, who retired some 3 years ago.

Now is the time to ensure that this aspect of the Harradine legacy is removed from influencing Australia’s foreign aid money. Moreover, it should never have been exported overseas to people who clearly require assistance, not moralising.


Girlcotting, or feminising the work

April 21st, 2007

Why might it be that the practice of terminating a pregnancy would be an ethical issue for more and more doctors in Britain? Some doctors have been anti-abortion for their entire career, but in recent times an increase towards anti-abortion doctors is being observed.

Is this because more and more doctors are Christian or pro-life, or is it because they see performing an abortion as menial and unglamorous work?

A recent article reports:

“There has been a big rise in young medics with ‘conscientious objections’ to abortion. The increase has been revealed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. It says there is evidence of a ‘slow, but growing problem’ of young doctors opting out of abortion training on moral grounds.” -Source

“Medically, abortion really isn’t a popular thing to do, it is not a very technical or demanding operation and it’s actually quite disheartening. There’s no handshakes or slaps on the backs afterwards, or the sense that you’ve done something great for someone. The best you can hope for is a sense of relief that it is over.” -Dr. James Gerrard.

This potential shortage of doctors qualified, experienced and willing to perform abortions has prompted abortion advocates to call for a change in the current British law which would allow nurses to carry out early surgical and medical abortions. Trained nurses and paramedics in Vietnam and South Africa perform early abortions extremely successfully and have done so for some time.

I would welcome having the option of having an abortion performed by a suitably trained nurse or paramedic. It makes sense to be cared for by a professional who is often female, always available and genuinely pro-choice.

Moreover, we should resist doctors who pathologise our bodies and our desires, AND abrogate our rights . Boycott these doctors in favour of the ones who will treat your elbow with the same care and attention as your vulva.

As for the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in North London, I would not recommend it as a place for a woman expecting a holistic service.


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Towards non-violence…

April 11th, 2007

Violence towards another is surely to be condemned.

Research now shows that a woman’s partner and that person’s behaviour can play a predictive role on whether a woman continues with, or terminates, a pregnancy.

The secondary analysis of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Womens Health, by Dr. Angela Taft and Ms. Lyndsey Watson, of Mother and Child Health Research, La Trobe University, was published on 03/04/07 in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

“The study of 9,683 young Australian women aged 22 to 27 found that those reporting either teenage abortions or abortions later in their 20s, were more than three times as likely to have been abused by a partner as those who didnt terminate.”

I’m hoping that two things happen out of this data analysis.

1. The need to stop violence against women takes on broader community appeal.
2. People who insist on making comments such as abortions are the result of selfish women making lifestyle choices can have their assumptions challenged.


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Helpers of Gods Precious Infants told to help less

January 26th, 2007

For years now the anti-abortion group Helpers of Gods Precious Infants (HoGPI) have been a presence outside the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne.

The Clinic which provides abortion services to women has been complaining for years about anti-abortion protesters congregating outside their premises and harassing women.

A security guard at the clinic, Steve Rogers, was murdered by an anti-abortion crusader in 2001. Six months ago, a man was charged with threatening to kill another security guard at the clinic.

Melbourne City Council has agreed that police can now fine people under council by-laws that previously had not applied to the protesters.

Theyre (the protesters) more inclined to be concerned with their actual cause rather than the effect that they have on people. Its a simple issue of creating a real nuisance and impeding someones progress. They can still hold the posters or pamphlets out for people to take but they cant block access to the gate or stand in front of them. –Inspector Chris Duthie, from Melbourne East police station,

Protesters were peaceful and prayerful and offering help to women. We know that people are always going to complain about people making it visible whats going on inside that building, so we know that people dont like being reminded that babies are being killed there. -Tanya OBrien from the Helpers of Gods Precious Infants.