Women’s Reproductive Health and the A-word

Credit: ProgressOhio

Author’s Note: All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the interviewees.

The Rape

“Basically, I felt like I was date raped, period.” Lucille Hayworth says, “He took advantage of me, I was extremely intoxicated, and I barely remembered that it happened. So that’s how I came to that conclusion.” She adds, “I don’t think he thought of it like that, but I mean, I mean, I blacked out, so yeah.” Continuing, “I remember kissing him, but I don’t remember much else. I remember waking up, and knowing something happened.”

It happened on a night in 2014. I was drinking back then, and I was getting involved with a girl who was bad for me, and in the middle of our conversation, figuring out where we should go from there, I got a very drunk phone call from Lucille. She asked me to help her. And I came, riding my motorcycle out to The Country Club. Back then, The Country Club allowed nude swimming, but in August of that 2014, a woman said she had been drugged and raped. So in order to keep its liquor license, the club was forced to require swimsuits in the pool. Someone came up with the notion that barring nudity would prevent women from being drugged and raped.

I don’t remember a lot of 2014. I seemed to be constantly hurting people and myself. It was the year I decided to get sober, and that night was one of the reasons I did. That night I drove Lucille home.

It’s 2019 and Lucille and I are trying to decide who is more morose. She has a sinus infection and I have a recurring migraine.  She’s willing to recall that time in our lives though.

“I took the Morning After, by the way. It didn’t work. Remember you took me to get it? Within less than 72 hours, less than 24 hours, I took it.” She continued, “After my Morning After, I didn’t have my period, and I did a test, and I hadn’t, well without protection…”

“I hadn’t been with anyone else the whole period so I knew it was his. I contemplated whether I wanted to keep it or not, and then I decided I didn’t want to have basically a rape baby if you want to put it that way. Because that’s how I felt was the situation.”

The Abortion:

“They made it very difficult here–The Women’s Health Center–because they put me through a screening, plus they put me through a scare movie. I don’t remember what it was.” Lucille says. “I call it a scare movie.” She shrugs. “Well, it’s a very religious state, so they make you watch a three-hour movie about the complications of abortion and why you should keep a child and dada dada da da.

“They make you feel bad about it here. They make you wait a period of time before they do the procedure, they didn’t do it the same day. They make you watch this movie, and then they make you come back for another appointment.

“It was very peculiar. They did an ultrasound and then asked if I wanted to keep the picture. And I was like, ‘Are you crazy? Why would you think I want a keepsake of this?’

“My situation was kind of unique because I had an examination and they told me I had uterine fibroids, which they were basically kind of surprised I was even pregnant. They said I shouldn’t have been pregnant.

“So for me, that created a lot of emotional trauma and I was kind of feeling like shit about it. I mean, yeah, because I felt like it was my last chance. But again, I didn’t want a rape baby because I didn’t want to be angry at another human being. I felt basically conflicted.

“That’s a very hard thing to answer. I mean I feel like I did the right thing, but I do sometimes have a… I think about it, I’m like, whoa, it would have been this old or that old. It could have been this, and it could have been that, so I wonder about it. I’m not upset about my decision again, because I didn’t want to bring a life into this world that I would be angry at. I have mixed feelings about it to be really honest. They are unresolved, so I’m working on it.”

Women’s Reproductive Health and the A-word

Abortion has long been writ large in the annals of the culture wars. The fires are kept burning by the true believers and by those who can profit from it pro and con. Depending on who you ask, the heroes and villains are clear.

New York recently updated its late-term abortion law.  According to S240, a third trimester abortion may be considered “under any of three conditions: (1) if it is performed earlier than 24 weeks of pregnancy; (2) in an “absence of fetal viability”; or (3) if necessary to “protect the patient’s life or health.”

A movie titled “Roe v. Wade” that filmed in New Orleans hopes to fuel the ongoing debate and bring in a watershed of cash.

A  Louisiana law is especially and impressively restrictive. Abortion, which is one of the least dangerous medical procedures, would require, among other things, doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges to the local hospitals.

It is similar to a Texas law which was previously struck down as being too restrictive and designed for the sole purpose of eliminating clinics that provide abortions. However, since that time, conservative-leaning members have been added to the Court in the persons of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

If the Louisiana bill is to be revisited by the court and allowed to stand, women’s reproductive rights would take a serious hit.

According to Planned Parenthood, “A restrictive abortion law was passed and if this law takes effect, it will pose a serious risk to women across Louisiana. Reports indicate this law could cause some of Louisiana’s five remaining health centers providing safe and legal abortion to close their doors, which could end access south of Shreveport. A woman would have to drive up to 300 miles one way to obtain safe, legal abortion care.

What is happening in Louisiana is part of a dangerous national trend. With these same dangerous restrictions enacted in neighboring states, the United States is becoming a country where a woman’s ability to make personal medical decisions without interference from politicians will be dependent upon where she lives.”

Planned Parenthood of New Orleans does not perform abortions, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at their comments page on Facebook. Being accused of being baby murderers seems to be par for the course.

But this has almost nothing to do with Planned Parenthood, at least Planned Parenthood of New Orleans. Among the services provided to the women of New Orleans: testing and treatment for STDs; cancer screening and prevention; contraception and family planning.

They do refer people though, but that’s not unique to Planned Parenthood. Many medical professionals, including gynecologists, refer people to the Women’s Healthcare Center of New Orleans.  As one healthcare professional, Dr. Anthony, told me, “I guess I’m old fashioned. I believe that a woman and her physician are best suited to make health-related decisions. Period.”

Ginny Rogers, a client, is grateful for Planned Parenthood services. “At first I was kind of intimidated, but they’re pretty secure and I feel really safe there. My least favorite thing about going to the gynecologist is how pushy they are about which test you should get and what shots you need, but Planned Parenthood isn’t like that. If you go just for one thing, they’ll do just that one thing. Maybe if you haven’t had a PAP in a really long time, they advise you to schedule one, but no pressure. I can just go, answer some questions, and they give me my birth control, based on my health history of the past year.”

Jess Ragland is grateful, too. “I was young and broke. I had a miscarriage and went to Planned Parenthood for complications afterward. They were really there for me when I was in need. After I began to make a better living, I’ve been able to donate and pay it forward.”

Currently, Louisiana has only three abortion clinics in the entire state. Planned Parenthood in New Orleans doesn’t perform abortions, isn’t funded for abortions. Full stop. So before women’s reproductive health care options in Louisiana become extinct, choose your heroes and villains wisely.

Michael David Raso has worked as a writer, editor, and journalist for several different publications since graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. If you like this piece, you can read more of his work here.

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