I moved to California from Florida about seven months ago, away from everything and everyone I have ever known or loved. I met a man and shortly thereafter became pregnant. I had had two prior abortions, both as a young teenager, and those decisions were easy. I thought this situation would be the same or at least comparable. I was wrong.
I went to a clinic... a place that I thought from their advertising would be professional and caring, or at least tactful. Wrong again. My previous experiences had been with a family OB/GYN, a caring, gentle man who had known me and my family for years. Both abortions (under local anesthesia) were painless and quick, with my amazing doctor talking me through the procedure, asking after my comfort at every turn, and counseling me afterwards. I went to a place in Oakland CA that advertised a comfortable experience, privacy and dignity. What happened that day in August brought forth feelings akin to that of a rape I experienced at 18.
I was brought into a waiting room, and given a binder filled with what was supposed to answer every question I could possibly have had. No one spoke to me for 45 minutes. When someone did come to get me, I was passed around by what seemed like everyone in the office: clinicians, a nurse, a girl who couldn't have been 18 asking personal and unnecessary questions, and then, finally, as if this wasn't humiliating enough, I was ushered into a room that looked like a department store dressing room and told to take my clothes off, put on a paper gown and lock my things in a locker. I was then to pin the locker key to my gown. I was, at this point, a disaster. I was then taken to another waiting room with other women to wait for my turn on the operating table.
I met the doctor who would be performing my procedure about two minutes before it began. There was loud R&B music playing in the operating suite, and I was told to lie down on the table. There were six people in the room. A female assistant sprayed betadine on my vagina, something that is usually swabbed on in most cases, as it is cold and uncomfortable. I screamed, and the girl yelled at me to be quiet. The doctor never spoke to me. As I said, I have undergone this procedure twice. The pain that followed can be described without exaggeration as unbearable. The procedure was finished, and I was led into another room, where a woman nurse checked me for abnormal bleeding, exposing my body to other staff members and the three other women in the room. I was fed up. I tried to leave. I was very vocal about my displeasure. The director of the clinic came out. She took me into her office, and told me that this was a "clinic setting" and that the standard of care was satisfactory.
I left. The next day I was rushed to the emergency room, where I was told by the attending physician that my cervix was scarred, that the amount of lidocaine administered was excessive to the point of danger. He told me I might not regain feeling in my vaginal vault. It has been two months. I still have no feeling.
What's worse is how this simple procedure hurt me in a way that feels irreparable. I have no moral issue with abortion, it was the right decision for me. If I could go back, I would not change it. That is not where my pain comes from. This place, these people who took my money and DAMAGED me-- that's what hurt me. I put my trust into a place that advertised safe and dignified abortion services. I was treated like cattle, I was humiliated, and my privacy during this immensely difficult time was gone. The damage wasn't just emotional; there are physical scars that may never heal.
I am 22 years old, and I am a shadow of my former self. The strong, empowered woman with many friends, who loved adventure and new things is gone. I don't trust people, I can't leave my house, and I'm afraid all of the time. I feel I have no one. I, for the first time in my life have fear. Of everything. And it touches everything I love.