Af­ter Abor­tion


The McGill Daily - - Contents - BY SIAN LATHROP

When I found out I was preg­nant I had been throw­ing up for about four weeks. In all hon­esty, this was not the symp­tom that alerted me to my con­di­tion – I have al­ways had a wimpy stom­ach. What freaked me out was my bizarre aware­ness of my body’s fragility. This may sound in­sane, but in the weeks lead­ing up to me pee­ing on a stick, I de­vel­oped a sense of anx­i­ety about my body that was un­like any­thing I had ever known.

Full dis­clo­sure: anx­i­ety isn’t new to me. I have been di­ag­nosed with gen­er­al­ized anx­i­ety dis­or­der and I am no stranger to panic at­tacks, but this preg­nancy anx­i­ety was very much em­bod­ied. It wasn’t the nor­mal “ev­ery­one prob­a­bly hates me” self- dep­re­ca­tion that I was used to. In­stead, it took the form of gen­uine con­cern over my body’s strength and abil­ity. I be­came acutely aware of how in­signif­i­cant I was in the grand scheme of things; there are many things that ex­ist which could threaten my body’s daily func­tions. I started to avoid heights, lad­ders, cats, un­der­cooked eggs, and weed. It even­tu­ally got so weird that in one in­stance of fear, I threw my part­ner in front of me to use him as a kit­ten shield. I used his body to stop the slow ap­proach of a tiny, well-mean­ing cat. These strange symp­toms all in­ten­si­fied af­ter I re­al­ized I was preg­nant. What be­fore my test were stronger-thanusual anx­i­eties, be­came, af­ter my test, full blown pho­bias.

Af­ter the nurse at the Mcgill Health Cen­ter con­firmed my preg­nancy, I was handed a few pam­phlets and I walked home. While the Mcgill Clinic does not per­form abor­tions, they sug­gest serveral clin­ics who do. For me, the ini­tial choice was easy. My thought process went like this: I live in Canada where abor­tion is le­gal. Fur­ther­more, I live in Que­bec, where there are a mul­ti­tude of care op­tions for abor­tion. I’m still a baby my­self. I do not want a child. I have a right to make a choice, a choice that is ac­ces­si­ble and easy for me, and I will ex­er­cise my right. Af­ter talk­ing to my fam­ily, some friends, and my part­ner about the two meth­ods of abor­tion avail­able in Que­bec, I opted for a sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure.

The day of my surgery was rel­a­tively nor­mal. I woke up early and took an Uber to the clinic and waited for half an hour be­fore I was es­corted into a small room to get an ul­tra­sound. My preg­nancy was con­firmed and I then went into an­other, slightly big­ger, room for the pro­ce­dure. I was given a low dose of tran­quil­iz­ers and it was all over in ten min­utes. It hurt a bit, but not too much. I was then es­corted into a room that had hot pink decor and was left to re­cover for half an hour. I took an Uber home and rested. My part­ner made me a sand­wich for din­ner.

De­pres­sion hit me two weeks af­ter my ap­point­ment. What had started off as a shift in the dy­nam­ics of my body turned into a full blown cri­sis in the months that fol­lowed. The sub­tle and em­bod­ied re­ori­en­ta­tion of my world that I had felt dur­ing my preg­nancy led me to ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions about my worth and pur­pose. These ques­tions were not part of some pos­i­tive philo­soph­i­cal project, but rather, they were dark, un­con­trolled, and re­lent­less. I did not and do not re­gret my choice in any way, but I feel it is im­por­tant to want to present a nar­ra­tive that does not min­i­mize the po­ten­tial trauma of an abor­tion. In the highly politi­cized dis­course on abor­tion, there is of­ten no space for peo­ple who strug­gle post­pro­ce­dure. There needs to be room for those who are firmly and de­ci­sively pro- choice, but who have strug­gled with their men­tal health in the af­ter­math of their de­ci­sion.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, Mcgill as an in­sti­tu­tion of­fered lit­tle to no sup­port af­ter I ter­mi­nated my preg­nancy. When I went to make an ap­point­ment at the psy­chi­atric ser­vices fol­low­ing my abor­tion, I felt that I was dis­missed. I waited weeks for an ap­point­ment and when I fi­nally saw a doc­tor, she rec­om­mended I come back af­ter my hor­mones had ‘ cleared up.’ I fi­nally turned to a pri­vate psy­chi­a­trist, who di­ag­nosed me with PTSD. I have been work­ing through that in ther­apy ever since.

Mcgill cam­pus’ con­ver­sa­tion on abor­tion as­sumes a level of struc­tural ac­ces­si­bil­ity which does not ac­tu­ally ex­ist. I used my per­sonal story as a cat­a­lyst and as ev­i­dence for this ar­gu­ment, but my story is a priv­i­leged one.

I was priv­i­leged enough to have a fam­ily who I could tell about my de­ci­sion. I was priv­i­leged enough to have a par­ent who loaned me a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the money I needed to pay up­front at the clinic. I was priv­i­leged enough to ac­cess ther­apy af­ter my pro­ce­dure to deal with my PTSD and new found pho­bias. I was priv­i­leged enough to be a white cis-woman, who does not have to deal with the in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized racism im­plicit in the health­care sys­tem.

If abor­tion was not struc­turally ac­ces­si­ble for me with all my priv­i­leges, the bar­ri­ers present for those who en­counter struc­tural forces marginal­iz­ing them are even greater.

In 1988, the Supreme Court case R v. Mor­gen­taler struck down all ex­ist­ing abor­tion laws in Canada. Since then, abor­tions at any stage have been sub­ject to no le­gal con­straints. In Que­bec specif­i­cally, abor­tions are free and avail­able at any time. This nar­ra­tive, fur­thered by opin­ion pieces pub­lished in our stu­dent news­pa­pers, seems to con­stantly re­mind us how ac­ces­si­ble abor­tion ser­vices are. Even ar­ti­cles writ­ten to high­light the lack of sup­port avail­able af­ter the abor­tion pro­ce­dure or draw at­ten­tion to the need for an abor­tion pill take for granted the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of some form of abor­tion to stu­dents at Mcgill.

If you are a stu­dent with outof-prov­ince health in­sur­ance, or in­ter­na­tional health in­sur­ance, the process is not so easy. With the On­tario Health In­sur­ance Plan, you can choose to pay the $700 fee up­front and file for coverage later, or fi­nance a trip to On­tario where the pro­ce­dure is cov­ered. Both sur­gi­cal and med­i­cal abor­tions in­volve at least 24 hours of rest and deal­ing with the trip back from Ot­tawa while pro­cess­ing

“What had started off as a shift in the dy­nam­ics of my body turned into a full blown cri­sis in the months that fol­lowed.”

your abor­tion is a tax­ing re­quire­ment. Even af­ter you have filed for in­sur­ance coverage, On­tario only cov­ers $450 of the fee; you have to fi­nance the dif­fer­ence your­self. This I know from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.

For stu­dents with other pro­vin­cial health in­sur­ances, ac­ces­si­bil­ity to abor­tion is fur­ther im­peded. Some pro­vin­cial health in­sur­ances – such as Nova Sco­tia, New Brunswick, P. E. I, and Yukon – do not cover clin­ics’ ser­vices, so a stu­dent in need would have to go to a hos­pi­tal. New Brunswick goes so far as to have an abor­tion clinic in Fred­er­ic­ton but the ser­vices are not cov­ered by pro­vin­cial health in­sur­ance. When I spoke to the nurse at the Mcgill Health cen­ter af­ter my ini­tial preg­nancy test, they rec­om­mended that I avoid

Up to 80 per cent of abor­tion pa­tients, my­self in­cluded, have bouts of mod­er­ate de­pres­sion af­ter their pro­ce­dures. This oc­curs as a re­sult of the quick de­cline in hor­mones post­ter­mi­na­tion and can be likened to post­par­tum de­pres­sion. Most med­i­cal sources agree that there is no clear link be­tween abor­tion and de­pres­sion, but that the hor­monal changes that oc­cur af­ter preg­nancy loss – an um­brella term that in­cludes mis­car­riage and abor­tion – un­doubt­edly lead to mood changes. Yet there is a lack of in­for­ma­tion and care avail­able on cam­pus for those who are strug­gling post-abor­tion. As the Tri­bune ar­ti­cle “Hey So I Did A Thing” pointed out, there is only one (rel­a­tively new) sup­port group for peo­ple who re­cently made the choice to ter­mi­nate their preg­nan­cies. Treat­ment should not end post-pro­ce­dure. Mcgill’s Men­tal Health Ser­vices should be bet­ter equipped for sup­port­ing those who feel the hor­monal af­ter­ef­fects of an abor­tion.

Over the past decade, re­search has been done into racism in our health­care in­sti­tu­tions. In Canada, stud­ies have shown that racial­ized peo­ple are less likely than white peo­ple to have con­tact with any spe­cial­ist physi­cian or clinic. In a study of res­i­dent physi­cians in Canada, re­searchers found that res­i­dents would ad­mit that prej­u­dice ex­isted, but de­nied that it af­fected their en­coun­ters with racial­ized pa­tients. Al­though some re­search has been done, many of those who study race in­equities have pointed out the in­suf­fi­cient data on racial­ized peo­ple in health care. The Cana­dian health­care sys­tem has yet to fully ac­knowl­edge how so­cially con­structed ideas of race phys­i­cally af­fect the health and ac­ces­si­bil­ity to health­care of mil­lions of Cana­di­ans. Abor­tion is no ex­cep­tion to this wide­spread sys­temic lack of ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

The stigma sur­round­ing abor­tion in com­bi­na­tion with the myth of ac­ces­si­bil­ity has al­lowed for many to feel alone and scared in a vul­ner­a­ble con­di­tion. Mov­ing for­ward, our cam­pus needs to take ac­count­abil­ity for its lack of re­sources. More sup­port needs to be avail­able for peo­ple who want abor­tions, and more in­for­ma­tion needs to be avail­able on cam­pus for those who are strug­gling, pre- and post­de­ci­sion. In the ab­sence of this sup­port and in­for­ma­tion, I urge you all to lis­ten to those who are fright­ened and en­cour­age them to share with you what they feel com­fort­able shar­ing. I want to be clear: pro­vid­ing sup­port to those in need does not and should not take the place of some­one’s right to abor­tion and a stu­dent’s right to a safe and ac­ces­si­ble cam­pus. But it may help con­trib­ute to a de- stigma­ti­za­tion as well as a crit­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion of what ac­ces­si­bil­ity in our in­sti­tu­tion re­ally looks like.

“Treat­ment should not end post-pro­ce­dure. Mcgill’s Men­tal Health Ser­vices should be bet­ter equipped for sup­port­ing those who feel the hor­monal af­ter­ef­fects of an abor­tion.”

hos­pi­tal abor­tion ser­vices, since the stan­dard of care is lower than the ones of­fered at clin­ics. Even af­ter a stu­dent has filed a claim for health in­sur­ance coverage, the amount cov­ered varies prov­ince to prov­ince, forc­ing stu­dents to fi­nance sig­nif­i­cant por­tions of their pro­ce­dures.

Mcgill’s In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent In­sur­ance does cover abor­tion fully. How­ever, those who seek abor­tion need to pay the ini­tial $700 up­front at the clinic. The in­sur­ance takes up to 30 days to re­im­burse claims, so stu­dents need to have $700 on hand.

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