Sometimes I get so annoyed with my sisters. They just don’t know what it’s like. You see, they are both members of the group of kids who got to stay on their parent’s insurance long after the people of my age group were unceremoniously dumped. I was just 20 years old when I was forced off of my dad’s insurance plan.
After I was dropped from my healthcare plan I was without insurance for a long time. I was working 2 jobs, 50-70 hours a week and just trying to do the best by myself. Unfortunately, my best did not include insurance coverage. I was healthy, so I did what anyone else in my position would do: I told everyone I knew that unless an artery was cut and I was bleeding out to NOT take me to the hospital, and I went to Planned Parenthood for the birth control I relied on. I was young and stupid, but I knew that being young and stupid and pregnant was not something I wanted.
For the three years between leaving undergrad and starting in law school me and my maybe 17k in income relied on Planned Parenthood for my only source of healthcare. I couldn’t afford a $300 per month insurance premium and $10,000 deductible but I was happy to fork over the $20 “copay” they determined I could provide and $7 per month for my Ortho-Tri Cyclen pills. So once a month I would head over to the closest Planned Parenthood office and pick up my birth control and all was well.
One month, I was really late in picking it up. I had to start a new pack on Sunday and didn’t get around to going to the office until Friday. My boyfriend, now husband, and I shared a car, and were both headed to work so he drove me. We completely and totally forgot what Friday meant at this particular Planned Parenthood on this particular college campus.
Friday was the day they scheduled the abortions. As we drove up I saw a line of angry protesters with hateful signs and hard-set mouths ready to sling accusations at me. I wanted to turn around and not go that day. But if I didn’t I wouldn’t start my pack on time and the whole cycle would be screwed up. So we pressed on, and in hindsight, I am so glad we did because it taught me a lot.
We drove through the entrance, and just as I suspected, we were yelled at by a mob of people (it was probably only 4 or 5, but believe me it felt like a mob). I just asked my husband if he could remember what they said, because all I could remember was feeling so little. I wanted to shout, “I’m just here to get my birth control! You don’t even know me!” but I was paralyzed by their hatred for why they thought I was there.
I was shaking when we got into the parking lot, but decided to go in on my own. There were likely to be a number of women inside the building for very private reasons that day, and I wanted to protect them by having my boyfriend wait in the car. The entrance to the front hallway was open, but they only admitted people in to the lobby one at a time after identifying why they were there.
When I got inside, I realized there were quite a few women waiting. Some were probably like me and in for some reason other than to get an abortion, but most were probably there to terminate a pregnancy. Some didn’t looked phased at all; this was just any other procedure. Some looked like they came to this decision after a great deal of soul-searching.
I vividly remember the young girl in front of me in line. She was a tiny woman who, from the little I tried not to hear, was not native of this country. I came up with a bunch of scenarios in my head for what brought her there that day. I couldn’t help it; she struck a chord in me.
I’ve been very opinionated from a young age and have had my mind made up about how I felt about abortion for a long time. But that day I really got a glimpse past the political ideology of it all and saw through to the women who came to that choice on their own. I saw that woman and realized I have no idea who she was or what she had gone through. I can never understand, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.
Ever since that day I’ve tried to focus less on sweeping statements and more on individual impact. I believe what I believe, and you believe what you believe and that is OK, fantastic even because it means we live in a society that allows us to express that.
But when it comes down to the people, can’t we all agree just to cut one another a little slack? To realize we will all live our own lives in the best way we can, and make the best choices available to us based on our own circumstances?
I really try to live my life with an eye towards people, to dole out compassion and sympathy and withhold judgment. No one deserves any less than that. Certainly none of the women I saw that day nor the countless numbers who have come after them.
That day may not have been some huge formative event in my life, but it changed me, and I’m so glad that it did. And I dearly hope that relaying my experiences will speak to a few of you as well.
Brandi is a lawyer in Denver who spends very little time actually lawyering. She can usually be found working for free at a non-profit, hiking up mountains, or bossing her husband around because he made the mistake of asking her for help with his business one time. She’s horribly technologically inept (unless people still use AIM in which case she’s a genius) and takes one bite out of every donut instead of finishing a single donut in its entirety, which is probably a metaphor for something but she hasn’t figured out what it is yet. You can read more from Brandi on her blog, Randi Nickle.