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melon slices with Maya Angelou
July 17, 2013 12:44 PM   Subscribe

What abortions should be like. A safe, comfortable place. Kind people (Maya Angelou, maybe, and Billy Joel playing piano). A room to cry if you need to. Another room with "all the little things you like, the things you use when you want to feel beautiful, if you’d care to go in. Or ... healthy. Or handsome. Or safe, or strong." A swan boat to take you home. And lovely, fragrant melon slices.
posted by Annie Savoy (48 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
This made me tear up a little. From what I gather this is the exact, scientific opposite of what abortions are like.

Honestly? I wish childbirth featured a little more fragrant melon and Jeff Goldblum, too.
posted by town of cats at 12:53 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


International waters means the abortion isn't subject to any nation's laws. It also means protesters are not subject to any nation's laws, so she has that part about not being bothered a bit mixed up. Of course, boat protesters can be mistaken for actors from the local thee-ay-tor.
posted by michaelh at 1:00 PM on July 17, 2013


I found that weird and distasteful. And so not the point. An abortion shouldn't be a poetic spa-day any more than it should be a battleground. It should be a judgment-free outpatient clinical procedure preceded and followed by optional private, compassionate counseling.
posted by headnsouth at 1:01 PM on July 17, 2013 [25 favorites]


headnsouth, I'm not sure if I can explain this well-- but I went into that piece feeling skeptical and all WTF too (swanboat? Some melon? What?) and came out of it in tears. It's about a vision of kindness and trust peculiar to the women who wrote it, but just the same it hit a chord with me, and with many who are commenting on the site as well.
posted by jokeefe at 1:05 PM on July 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


Do I need to mention here that Jonathan Swift doesn't really want the Irish to sell their own children for food?
posted by NedKoppel at 1:15 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


To follow up on what jokeefe had said...it's basically a snapshot from an alternate universe. One in which a woman's rights and desires are not only unquestioned, or granted in a clinical, grudging and sterile manner, but catered to. Honored. Supported.

I had a similar argument once (here, maybe) about how (non-emergency) childbirth should be. Yes, it should be like a spa. It's hard, honorable, beautiful, and to many people, spiritual work. Instead we process women like cattle, pump 'em full of drugs to speed things up, yell at them for trying to have any control in the process, and basically take no consideration whatsoever of what such a transforming and unique experience could or should be like. (for many complicated reasons, none of which we should probably derail on...)

For the record, I think most healthcare experiences could and should be better, more personal and more caring, though we have to get access and enough doctors/caretakers first.
posted by emjaybee at 1:18 PM on July 17, 2013 [23 favorites]


Do I need to mention here that Jonathan Swift doesn't really want the Irish to sell their own children for food?

So this is actually scathing anti-choice satire?
posted by Beardman at 1:19 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I came in here pissed off at how I thought this trivialized an extremely contentious issue, and I'm still not entirely sure it doesn't do that in some way, but thank you, jokeefe and emjaybee, for explaining it. Now I get it.
posted by clockzero at 1:30 PM on July 17, 2013


This reminded me uncomfortably of the Onion's Abortionplex article. It seems almost like a parody of what anti-choicers fear. Like "my tax dollars are paying for massages and melon slices?"
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:30 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


So this is actually scathing anti-choice satire?

I guess my comment wasn't exactly on the nose, no. My point was that this essay is impossible to take too literally, and that I felt some were doing so. The backbone idea in this is that women should not face contentious, terrifying conditions through this procedure, as they do; that some pillars of support and comfort ought to be possible because the decision itself, its ramifications, and the procedure are scary enough. The fancy used in this essay, I think, does a nice job of laying that out.
posted by NedKoppel at 1:43 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


jokeefe and emjaybee, my response exactly. I almost didn't read this essay, because I normally don't go in for sentimental metaphorical prose; but by the time I got to the paragraph about the room containing "all the little things you like," I was crying.

This piece presents a dreamlike picture that is utterly unlike the sterile, frightening reality in which you are very, very much alone. I'm having trouble expressing what I mean, but for a woman who has been there and done that, it offers a gentle, soothing, alternate path for memories to travel. It's the first time I've ever been able to associate kindness and warmth with that experience.
posted by Annie Savoy at 1:45 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I understand what you're saying, but I firmly believe that the opposite of attacks on women's autonomy is respect. Not pampering, not catering to, not anything that conjures up the weaker sex BS. The birth process is a sweaty, painful, heroic deed that should be respected, not pampered. The choice to have an abortion is intensely personal and potentially painful and raw, and it deserves more than to be hidden away behind gauzy curtains and aromatherapy.
posted by headnsouth at 1:46 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


My version of this day was fifteen years ago, and what I wanted was exactly what I got: kind people with quiet voices and forgettable faces, a mercifully short procedure in a clean, light room with a nurse holding my hand, and a room with recliners and a hot pad and tea after. That was the right amount, I think.
posted by mochapickle at 1:47 PM on July 17, 2013 [24 favorites]


At least for me.
posted by mochapickle at 1:48 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I firmly believe that the opposite of attacks on women's autonomy is respect. Not pampering, not catering to, not anything that conjures up the weaker sex BS

To be honest, my take-away on the article was not simply, "hell yeah abortions should be like this," but rather, "man, why can't ALL medical experiences be supportive and restorative the way they describe here?"

I mean, I do understand the financial and sterile constraints on the medical experience, but I've never had a medical procedure of any type that wasn't more or less terrifying, alienating, and awful. (Though I am incredibly fortunate in that all of them ended with my condition cured or ameliorated, and none has yet ended in bankruptcy.) My brother still has residual trauma from some of his hospital experiences.

I don't think that making a scary and isolating process less scary and isolating, in whatever ways are feasible, is the same thing as "weaker sex BS."
posted by like_a_friend at 1:57 PM on July 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah . . . where this starts making me uncomfortable is where it assumes that it's always most relaxing and comforting to treat people in a personal, intimate way. “We’re keeping you,” “I’m so glad you’re here.” Whereas for pretty much any personal, complicated, difficult process, I don't want to feel as if people are looking at me, even if it's in a caring way.
posted by ostro at 1:59 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Obviously I am not taking the piece at its literal face value; I do not literally believe that Maya Angelou should be present at healthcare facilities to greet people. I just think that it probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if patients were treated kindly, not neglected, and maybe got a melon slice now and again.)
posted by like_a_friend at 2:01 PM on July 17, 2013


I agree with ostro that sometimes impersonality goes a long way, but I'll tell you that a comfortable place to rest in a quiet room - or even better, in a private room - is a shitload better than sitting in a cold room in a gown and socks with the fucking View blaring in the corner.

Not pampering, not catering to, not anything that conjures up the weaker sex BS.

So, sit and be uncomfortable and braise in the shame you're supposed to be feeling instead? Don't let the experience be pleasant in any way, because you should be tough for your uterus and what's about to happen to it?
posted by Lyn Never at 2:07 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


The choice to have an abortion is intensely personal and potentially painful and raw, and it deserves more than to be hidden away behind gauzy curtains and aromatherapy.

Wait...so, it's intensely personal, and therefore should Not be hidden away? I dunno about you but I don't usually feel like broadcasting my intensely personal choices...I would much prefer to have a safe and comfortable place of refuge whilst making said choices.

Naugahyde chairs, chemical smell, fluorescent overhead lighting, and blaring televisions (the de rigeur decor of doctors' offices and hospitals) don't feel inherently respectful of my uterus, but that's just one uterus's opinion.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:52 PM on July 17, 2013


mochapickle, I am very glad that on your day, you experienced comfort and caring. That is as it should be and as I wish it could be for all women making this choice.

My day was a lot longer ago than yours. It lacked anything comfortable, warm, or kind; instead I remember fear, loneliness, and, at the end, multiple kinds of desperate relief. That's probably why this essay resonates so deeply with me: it's everything my day was not.
posted by Annie Savoy at 3:01 PM on July 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


i am sorry its just not practical to have maya angelou and billy joel at every abortion
posted by klangklangston at 3:12 PM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I firmly believe that the opposite of attacks on women's autonomy is respect. Not pampering, not catering to, not anything that conjures up the weaker sex BS.

Those who RTFA will note that the writer repeatedly states throughout that the reader may choose alternate paths for what they deem most supportive of their decision if they wish; presumably to accomodate those who wish a different experience they feel suits them best.

Which was ultimately the entire god-damn point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:16 PM on July 17, 2013 [14 favorites]


i am sorry its just not practical to have maya angelou and billy joel at every abortion

You know, I think this thread has been going pretty well thus far, and it would be a shame for someone to read this and think it was a flippant comment by someone who hasn't personally gone through the kind of stuff that people are opening up about here.
posted by dubold at 3:18 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, I think this thread has been going pretty well thus far, and it would be a shame for someone to read this and think it was a flippant comment by someone who hasn't personally gone through the kind of stuff that people are opening up about here.

That's what I assumed.
posted by averageamateur at 3:43 PM on July 17, 2013


I used to escort women with Michigan's Planned Parenthood, so I have a pretty good idea of what the inside of an abortion clinic actually looks like. (It also struck me as odd that so much of the referent points of the article are around celebrities, though I agree with the general gist of making clinics comfortable and easy.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on July 17, 2013


like_a_friend: "man, why can't ALL medical experiences be supportive and restorative the way they describe here?"

Because people who believe in women's rights don't fucking vote in off-year elections.

Cold and fluorescent as they might be, Naugahyde as the chairs are, impersonal as the overworked staff might seem, America's abortion clinics are the only thing standing between reproductive choice in this country and the grim scraping of coathangers. We lost another clinic on Monday, regulated out of existence by the state of Virginia. Pennsylvania lost nine. Clinics in Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kansas are all on the chopping block.

One fine day we will have the luxury of choosing our abortion providers based on their office carpeting; right now though, we've all gotta pull harder than we've been pulling.
posted by The White Hat at 4:07 PM on July 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have never had to make the decision to have an abortion or not. But I want to say what The White Hat said, but more explicitly.

Abortion should be all the things in the article (emphasis on what the patient would prefer) AND accessible, safe, and legal.

Accessible in the effective sense, not in the "If you can afford the money and time to make the trip three states over, while making a sufficient cover story for yourself" sense. Safe in both the physical and emotional senses, and legal in the "we won't mandate waiting periods, because we know you have already thought about this, and we won't force you to get probed and watch ultrasound of something the size of a pumpkin seed" sense.

And I don't know how much good this article does to reach out an affect people who have not had or heard the details of a recent or long ago abortion. Because the barest facts of such a procedure are...well. First they're not consistent across the board, but they're also in many cases pretty horrifying.

Maybe we should talk more about the mundanity and the horror, perhaps even the mundane horror, of how things actually are for a while, instead of what we're wistfully dreaming about.

I don't know. Like I said, this isn't something I've had to actually deal with. And I'm not a conservative, or even ambivalent lawmaker. I don't know what changes the minds of people in charge of reproductive legalities. I don't know. I don't know how much I don't know.
posted by bilabial at 5:14 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I don't know how much good this article does to reach out an affect people who have not had or heard the details of a recent or long ago abortion.

...Not every piece of writing is an article, firstly. And not every piece of writing is meant to change the opinions of someone who isn't familiar with a given topic.

Some pieces of writing are meant to be opinion pieces, meant to reach out to people who are familiar with an experience, and to commiserate with them. This is one such piece - it's primarily addressing people who've had such an experience, and inviting them to daydream about "boy, wouldn't that have gone better if it was something like this". It's an invitation to wish that you could have gone through a more supportive experience, rather than the reality which you did go through.

I got that that's what was going on, and I haven't even ever had an abortion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:22 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am very glad that on your day, you experienced comfort and caring.

Oh my gosh I just had the best idea, which is that maybe we should sort of adopt some of the Bridezilla entitlement behaviors around abortion because I can totally imagine a female-bodied person about to get an abortion snarling, "This is MY day!" That would be kind of amazing!
posted by liketitanic at 6:26 PM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought this was a lovely dream, but I would totally settle for abortion being like dental work - straightforward office procedures of no interest to anyone but the patient and provider, with the chief unpleasantnesses being pain/gore (addressed professionally by the provider) and billing arrangements (addressed professionally by the reception staff).
posted by gingerest at 6:43 PM on July 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh my gosh I just had the best idea, which is that maybe we should sort of adopt some of the Bridezilla entitlement behaviors around abortion because I can totally imagine a female-bodied person about to get an abortion snarling, "This is MY day!" That would be kind of amazing!

Ha! You know what would be even funnier? A terrified woman staring down a very difficult decision and demanding safe, affordable access to an abortion. 'Cause that shit's downright hilarious.
posted by mochapickle at 7:41 PM on July 17, 2013


Ha! You know what would be even funnier? A terrified woman staring down a very difficult decision and demanding safe, affordable access to an abortion. 'Cause that shit's downright hilarious.

Oh, jeez. I knew I should have added the small text saying that it just struck me as funny. I'm sorry you took offense. Insert exposition about what I know about this and 'you don't know my life' and and about things being horrible and funny at the same time and about absurdist humor not translating on the internet. I'm horrible and hate women, etc.
posted by liketitanic at 7:52 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


And also, there are folks who need access to reproductive justice who don't identify as women.

Off to continue laughing to myself.
posted by liketitanic at 7:54 PM on July 17, 2013


Point taken, liketitanic. The intent, while well meaning I realize now, just didn't translate, especially since pretty much everyone who's commented in this thread has been pretty level.
posted by mochapickle at 7:58 PM on July 17, 2013


I'll just put this out there....err, here: I chose to have my baby. I fall in love with her every day. Her freckles and her wit and her sturdy pop-music dancing. There is nothing on this planet that could have soothed this loss, had it happened or even come close, whether it be melons or figs or makeup or an extra room or a poet at the door telling her secrets, or a swan boat. Let's just say that I get this piece to the core, there's not too much else to say here, for me.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:26 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


And also, there are folks who need access to reproductive justice who don't identify as women.

What?

The article's about abortion. How many people who don't identify as women need access to abortions?
posted by Salamander at 8:32 PM on July 17, 2013


Trans men may, depending on their situation (not to mention genderqueer, etc.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:35 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article's about abortion. How many people who don't identify as women need access to abortions?

People who are female-assigned-at-birth but do not identify as women.
posted by liketitanic at 8:35 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


People who are female-assigned-at-birth but do not identify as women.

Umm, okay. Maybe I missed the point of the comment.
posted by Salamander at 9:25 PM on July 17, 2013


One fine day we will have the luxury of choosing our abortion providers based on their office carpeting; right now though, we've all gotta pull harder than we've been pulling.

FWIW I was not just talking about abortion providers. The entire rest of our medical system is a chamber of fucking gothic horrors as well, for all but the very wealthiest and best-insured.

7-year clinic escort peacing out.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:03 PM on July 17, 2013


I speak entirely for myself: as a woman, I don't require, "your" approval...encouragement...warmth...during a medical procedure. As I woman, I can't have it both ways - the expectation society will both perceive abortion an elective medical procedure and a particular emotional issue which necessitates, "especial" consideration and handling. For this reason, I despised the article - it's counterproductive.
posted by Nibiru at 12:19 AM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mastectomies are elective medical procedures, though, which also don't necessitate special consideration and handing, but boy, is it nice to have emotional support through one. I think this might be a better way to think about it?
posted by jfwlucy at 7:01 AM on July 18, 2013


Umm, okay. Maybe I missed the point of the comment.

Yr exaggerated sense of confusion sprinkled with a lil contempt is clear.

Many people we don't expect to fit the profile of a person seeking an abortion actually need access to such care. Like unwanted pregnancies among LGB teens are, nationally, 2 to 7 times higher than the rates of unwanted pregnancy among their heterosexual peers. And we also know, though the numbers are not as clear, that a proportion of trans-identified people who were born female (or whose sex was selected for them at birth, too) also need abortion services. So people who are LGBT actually, in some instances, seek abortions at higher rates than the heterosexual women whom we imagine the procedure(s) is/are for.

I think, amidst a national dialogue about a "war on women" and a parallel dialogue about privilege and power, it's worth remembering that there are other people for whom abortion access is an important and sometimes life-saving thing.
posted by liketitanic at 7:09 AM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many people we don't expect to fit the profile of a person seeking an abortion actually need access to such care. Like unwanted pregnancies among LGB teens are, nationally, 2 to 7 times higher than the rates of unwanted pregnancy among their heterosexual peers.

I'm not sure what you mean by this - why are you assuming that we aren't including LGB teens already in the category of "people who may need abortions"?

Also, I'm not sure what the point of this tangent is - how does this relate to "whether the experience of any person, regardless of who that person is, should have a safe and supportive environment as they obtain it"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 AM on July 18, 2013



I'll just put this out there....err, here: I chose to have my baby. I fall in love with her every day. Her freckles and her wit and her sturdy pop-music dancing. There is nothing on this planet that could have soothed this loss


A lot of people have abortions not because they have decided a baby isn't what they want right now, but because other circumstances have forced their hand. A friend of mine had to have one because she got pregnant with an IUD in place and while taking medication that wasn't ideal when it came to having a healthy baby. The hardest part was knowing that, at her age and in a steady relationship, she should be ecstatic at being pregnant just like the people she knew who were had been, but she had no choice other than to end the pregnancy, no matter how many doctor's waiting rooms she cried in, because it was that or eventually miscarrying. I understand your reaction to the piece, but - respectfully - I do feel it's slightly inappropriate to discuss how awesome having your child was in a thread full of people who didn;t have the great gift of that choice. My friend will never get to know whether her baby would have had freckles, or even what gender they'd have been.

Anyway. Is it true that in the US there is no abortion by pill - they're all surgical procedures?
posted by mippy at 3:16 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can get mifepristone in the US at up to 9 weeks. But according to PP, it's $300-800. According to the Guttmacher Institute: "Fifty-eight percent of abortion patients say they would have liked to have had their abortion earlier. Nearly 60% of women who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it took to make arrangements and raise money." When it takes more than a few weeks to scratch up $300+, that could bump you into surgical territory.

That's why the heartbeat bills here are so concerning -- if you don't recognize the need for an abortion AND get the money/travel arranged within, say, 4-5 weeks, then there's no way you'll be able to arrange services by the sixth week. It's a trap.
posted by mochapickle at 6:42 AM on July 19, 2013


Another thing to bear in mind when it comes to discussing "abortion law in the United States" is that there is no one national law. Every state is actually a bit different - in fact, that's technically what Roe vs. Wade was about, in part, the right of a state to ascertain what it's own abortion rule was within its own borders and when the state's right trumped a woman's own rights.

Most of the laws curtailing abortion laws which we hear politicians trying to pass are laws that would only affect their own states. So a medical/pill abortion may be legal and available in one state, but not another. And yes, that is kind of crazy.

It's that same states' right to choose how to do things within their own borders that has the same-sex marriage rights in this country going so grindingly slow, which is also why so many people were so excited that the federal ruling went through - technically Mississippi can still refuse to grant same-sex licenses, but it'll be hard to keep that position when the federal government does something different. Unfortunately it's also what is chipping away at abortion rights here - I live in New York, and thus can't vote in Texas' elections and can't influence that decision, so I'm going to be stuck in a country where my access to abortion depends on my address.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:59 AM on July 19, 2013


> The choice to have an abortion is intensely personal and potentially painful and raw, and it deserves more than to be hidden away behind gauzy curtains and aromatherapy

Eh, I've had an abortion and this article cracked me up. I didn't read it as political, but rather as just straight-up humor. Not everything about abortion has to be a big serious important deal that we all make lots of disclaimers about.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:31 PM on July 19, 2013


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