I wish I could really write about the women I see during my time at Planned Parenthood. I started one entry about something I saw last week, and halfway through I realized that it was probably too graphic to share, even under the thin veil of anonymity I attempt to maintain. This story did not even step a toe into the heart wrenching tales of the actual patients I saw on Saturday, all of which were too dear and too personal for a description to be anything but a betrayal.

So this entry is about a lack of stories rather than an actual one.

The most I can do as a counselor is be sympathetic and press a pamphlet for a support group into open palms. I wonder if people who train for this position in a professional capacity learn better lines than, “It must be incredibly difficult” or “Remember that you’re not the only person who had to live with this decision.” It seems trite for the women who are confident in their decisions, and it never seems like enough for the ones who are genuinely upset.

This past Saturday the protester on the corner was louder than usual. I could hear him yelling in the office where I did the counseling. None of the women commented, but a few furtive eyes glanced in his direction. One woman even commented that she should really be out there standing with him. I can scarcely imagine a more gut-wrenching place to be than caught between us.

The gossip from an outside vendor is that the protester sells the babies put up for adoption by women he’s talked out of having an abortion. I don’t believe it for a second, but the story has a morbid appeal. It’s the sort of unfair generalization I hear him shouting to the people who drive into the clinic. There was a woman with him today wearing a long pleated skirt and a dour expression.

I try not to wear my political hat when I’m at the clinic. Enough of the women I see are religious and pro-life that I try to provide comfort without controversy. Unconditional positive regard was something we talked about in psychology classes; I want them to know I understand that they need to do something they would otherwise find reprehensible. I want them to know that I think that must be a very hard thing to do. Harder still with a man yelling at them about heartbeats at three weeks that don’t actually exist. I can’t think that it would help them for me to get on a soapbox about how their right to choose is sacred. They chose. It was never a political decision.

Someday I hope to have enough stories that I can start to blur the lines between the individuals without losing the substance of each individual experience. In the meantime, I will continue to filter everything through my own impressions and try not to lose track of how valuable it can be to be anonymous.

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