Women are already waiting

7 Mar

A bill that recently passed in the Utah house would triple the current required waiting time for an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours. One of the supporters of the bill, Rep. Steve Eliason, stated:

“Why would we not want to afford a woman facing a life-changing decision 72 hours to consider ramifications that could last a lifetime?”

But 72 hours is just the time between clinic visits. Women are already waiting far more time than that when they make decisions about pregnancy.

I recently saw a woman who had done a lot of waiting. I’ll call her Maria. She realized she was pregnant as soon as she missed her period, but I didn’t meet her until over a month later. Maria had spent that month hoping she would reconcile with her estranged husband, hoping her Section 8 application for housing would go through so she and her 2-year-old daughter could move out of her mother’s cramped 1-bedroom apartment, and hoping her hours as a home health aide would be increased so she would have a little more money in her monthly budget. But none of those things happened. She spent a month waiting for her life to change in such a way that she could imagine
going through another pregnancy and caring for another child, but it didn’t. So she decided to have an abortion.

Maria had waited a week for an appointment with me and was entirely certain of her decision. She was 9 weeks and 1 day pregnant when I met her. Unfortunately, that one day ended up meaning more waiting for her. Had she been exactly 9 weeks or less, she could have had a medical abortion that day. Since her pregnancy was more than 9 weeks, I had to make her an appointment for another day when she could have an abortion procedure. When I broke the news to her, she immediately burst into tears. Because it was the day before a holiday weekend, the soonest I could get her in for the procedure was a week later. Because our medical system is not set up to meet women’s needs, Maria would once again have to call out of work, once again find a baby-sitter for her daughter, and spend another week feeling exhausted and nauseous.

Maria waited 4 weeks for her life to get easier, 1 week to see me, and another week to have her abortion. This waiting is not uncommon. Even if she had decided to have an abortion as soon as she was sure she was pregnant, she would have had to wait a few days, or possibly as long as a week, for her clinic appointment. All this in a state with no waiting period at all, with Medicaid paying the cost of the abortion for her, and with a clinic down the street from where she lived. I think about Maria’s challenges and then imagine what life would be like for someone in a similar situation in a state like Utah where insurance is banned from paying for most abortions, where 97% of counties have no abortion provider, and where, soon, all women will have to wait an additional three days to have a legal medical procedure, just because their legislators think maybe they haven’t waited long enough already. It’s a frightening thought.

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