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    We originally published this interview on July 22, 2017. Last week, Gov. Bevin signed a bill that would ban a common abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation. The ACLU sued, and a federal judge blocked the law.

    In March 2017, a federal judge blocked the Bevin administration's attempts to close the EMW Women's Surgical Center, Kentucky's only abortion clinic. Anonymous, a 27-year-old graduate student, had an abortion at EMW in May 2016.

    When you first found out you were pregnant, what did you do?
    I contacted my gynecologist and went in just to make sure that I was pregnant. Even though I took a pregnancy test, they also have to make sure that the egg is placed in the proper position so it’s not — I don’t remember the term. Ectopic pregnancy?

    Stuck in the fallopian tube.
    Yes, because if that’s the case, then they have to surgically remove that and abortion’s not going to do anything. So I went in and she recommended one of the doctors that was there at EMW. She says, "If you go, there are two doctors, one is a female and a colleague of mine and she’ll take care of you." I didn’t see the doctor but for a brief second.

    How easy or difficult was setting up an appointment?
    Easy. They want to make sure that you are at least six weeks pregnant. Otherwise if they do the surgery then it may not work. I don’t remember all the technicalities. There was also the option of going to Indiana. I thought, Gosh, what if I should go there because what if I see somebody? But then at the end I just said, "Fuck it." I’m not gonna be ashamed for taking control of my life.

    What was it like walking into the clinic?
    That was awful. I think the experience was more traumatic for my mom than it was for me. I don’t really know why. Maybe because she has two kids of her own. But they bully you and bombard you. They’re not protesting; it’s abusive and aggressive. They follow and harass you all the way up to the door. But the clinic has escorts, volunteers who walk you, hold onto you, linking arms and escort you to the door, which makes you feel a lot more comfortable, and it’s nice to know that there are people who support you in your decision.

    I guess what really upsets me most is, I respect that these people have their opinions, the difference of opinions, and I support these differences because it’s a freedom that we have to be able to express ourselves, so I find it disturbing and ironic that they don’t understand that we’re both fighting for the same thing — a freedom to be able to express ourselves and a freedom to live and conduct our lives in the way that we want to. That really upset me, and I think that the manner in which they expressed their opinions and their beliefs was just — they were bullying.

    What were the ages of the protesters?
    Older. Probably 50 and up. I tried my best not to look at them, though. But they held up posters.

    What was your escort like?
    We linked arms and she just kind of rubbed my arm — almost like she’s sheltering you, cradling you and guiding you to the door. You’re just walking with your head down.

    Walk me through the process inside.
    You go in, you have a time set. They only have two sessions, in the morning and a few hours later. They are only open these two different time frames — because it is an all-day process. I think I got there at like 9 and left at 4. You go in and there’s a Russian woman — I think she was Russian — behind a glass pane window and you check in, just like you do at a doctor’s office. You go sit in a waiting room, there’s magazines, and there’s another door that leads you into the hallway and that hallway has multiple rooms, a room where you sit and watch different videos, informative videos about the process, what to expect of your body, talking about the two options that are available: surgical and then the pill. But I wanted to do the surgery.

    Because I felt like that was much more — I didn’t want to swallow a foreign object and put chemicals into my body. I read about it and thought, I don’t want to put that chemical in my body. You can potentially bleed for two weeks and it’s not even guaranteed that the pill would abort. I wanted to be 100 percent sure that the abortion would be successful. I think it’s more expensive to do the pill.

    Then what did you do?
    There’s a small room where you go and again they do the ultrasound to make sure how far along you are. You take an elevator to the basement. That’s where the surgery is done. You’re given a robe and go into a room where there are all of these stretchers. Seven of them lined up. Then one by one, depending on if you take the anesthesia, they will administer that. I ended up doing that. I spoke with a nurse and she told me about some girls who didn’t take the anesthesia and said it hurt, it really hurt. I had to count back from five and think I got back to three. I was so nervous; I’d never been under before. I had this fear that I wouldn’t wake up, right? That’s one thing I wish they would allow at the clinic is to have a parent or a loved one there the entire time. I asked about that specifically and they said, "We can’t have anybody here that influences your decision." You can say no at anytime. You can say, "No, I’m out of here." Nothing was going to change my mind. I already got there. I already did the hardest part by making the decision. I’m not gonna change my mind right now.

    What were the women who you were with like?
    Nobody talked to anybody.

    Eighteen to probably 30. I saw a young girl who clearly came from Indiana, wearing her Indiana lanyard, with her boyfriend.

    Did anyone mention contraception?
    When I met with the lady at the front desk, the Russian lady, she asked if she needed to get me a script for birth control or asked if I was on birth control. I can’t remember. There was a mention of contraception. 

    Do you approach contraception differently now?
    I just make sure that I take my pill every single day at that exact hour. I have an alarm that I set. I got a different pill that has less hormones. I’m still upset that I have to be the one putting chemicals in my body — because condoms suck!

    Did you have any side affects?

    Were you sore at all?
    Nope. They gave me Tylenol or Advil and something to eat. They make you go in the bathroom and check your underwear and bleed — they give you a pad. You’re supposed to pee and make sure that you bleed. My mom picked me up. I was the first one to go. The rest of the day I just slept because I was basically knocked out.

    How did your experience inside the clinic differ from what you expected it to be like?
    I thought it would be more private, but you were sharing your experience with seven other women. You’re sitting in a waiting room all together, you watch the same video all together, you sit in the hallway all together waiting to get your physical, then they separate those who are going to do the pill and those that are going to do the surgery. Those who’re going to do the surgery, you undress privately in the bathroom and one by one everybody goes. I didn’t enjoy that. I wished it was more private, but I also don’t want to talk poorly about the clinic because I don’t know how much resources they receive to provide the setup that maybe would make one feel more comfortable. Everybody there was professional and I was comfortable with the nurses.

    If you could have just had your gynecologist do it, that would have been ideal.
    Yep, definitely. It’s almost like these clinics are set up to remind you, it’s still this institutionalized shame.

    At any point did anyone ask you why you were doing this?
    No. The decision was quick. It was a conversation (my husband and I) had, and it was a conversation my mom and I had, but this was ultimately my decision. Knowing that I had only been six weeks along made it a lot easier, and being able to go on the internet and see what that looked like.

    What did it look like?
    A dot? I don’t even think you could see it. I just think there are way bigger social issues that we need to be concerned with. You think Bevin’s gonna be able to close down this clinic?

    He’s trying awfully hard.
    It makes me mad that, not a man, but a person in power can use that power to influence policy driven by their own individual ethics. That’s not the appropriate way to lead. To be driven by your own ethics, how does that help your fellow Louisvillians? I don’t think we can argue religion anymore. I think it’s about demographics and race. They see that there is a decrease in the amount of white women who are reproducing, and there’s that fear that there’s gonna be a loss in the number of white babies. It’s an issue of power and maintaining a white majority.

    Afterwards, did you think about it much at all?
    Yeah, oh my gosh. All the time. I still think about it. I still think, "Oh, I’d be eight months pregnant," or — you know? All the time. When I first told my mom that I was gonna do this interview, she said, "Don’t you think it’d be more appropriate for someone who had more of a hardship?" And that upset me because — and I didn’t express this to her — but she’s implying that this wasn’t a hard decision. It was a quick decision, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy decision. It’s not an easy decision to know that you and the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with have this magical capacity to make something beautiful. I understood what she meant by that was somebody who experienced some sort of trauma. I think she was more implying somebody who’d been violated. But that sucked to hear her say that. It’s not an easy decision and it’s not easy afterwards, but that doesn’t dictate how I live my life. It’s not a cloud that hangs over my head. That’s the decision I made and I gotta move on. And when it’s time to have a baby, it will be wonderful.

    What did you learn from the experience?
    Even when you get the abortion and go to the clinic where it’s legally allowed, you’re still shamed. Aesthetically, it shames you. It’s cold. Not that it should be a pleasant experience, just not where a decision you make for yourself is ugly. If you were able to see your gynecologist, someone you see on a regular basis, or at least annually, to do it then and there and be over with… It was a learning experience, not so much personal as it was looking at reproductive rights in general. It sucks. The whole process — leading up to it, during. It’s what a lot of people go through if they accidentally get pregnant and it sucks. It’s unfortunate that a mistake challenges ethics. You didn’t commit a crime. Even with this interview, having to remain anonymous. I don’t want it to be something that I have to be ashamed of. The shaming is just a fad. Live your own fucking life and leave mine alone.


    Cover photo by Mickie Winters.

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    About Mary Chellis Nelson

    Mary Chellis Nelson is the managing editor of Louisville Magazine.

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