Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Would You Like Fries With That?

"When we thought about the future of abortion, we knew it had to include many different perspectives and experiences. We also knew that the interesting questions were not about legal rights or access, but about the quality of the abortion experience. We realized that the question about abortion for the 21st century had to be: “How do you want your abortion?”

That's Margaret R. Johnson, writing in 2002 as president of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, and Claire Keyes, executive director of Pittsburgh abortion clinic Allegheny Reproductive Health Center, writing in their essay "How Do You Want Your Abortion, and, in their words, "imagining a utopian world where each of us constructs how we would like abortion—indeed, all pregnancy experiences—to be." The essay is on the abortion-advocating Abortion Conversation Project site, as well as the Allegheny center's site (where its URL calls it "fantasy.html").

Following are excerpts from Johnson's and Keyes' hopeful vision, sent to me by Alicia of Fructus Ventris. Your comments are most welcome.

The authors begin with a series of imaginary "packages," which they present as futuristic ideals (but don't take my word for it; read them in context):

3. The Family Package-- This is an important decision in your life and of course you want your loved ones around you!! You can be accompanied through every phase of this process by the person you choose. Counseling is available for all family members and includes training and suggestions for them to participate in your care. Flowers, breakfast in bed, baby-sitting, just tell us what you want and we'll pass it along. We stress support and coping skills before, during, and after your abortion. Choice of abortion pill (additional $100) or surgical abortion.

4. DIY (Do-It-Yourself)-- Are you the kind of person who does a lot of research? Someone who is knows what you want? Do you want to avoid the hustle bustle--and waiting time-- of a busy clinic? Would you like your abortion in the comfort of your own home? Take a pill today and choose when you bleed anytime in the next three days, safely, completely, in your own home. Full instructions and educational video included and our 24 hour advice line is open to you. Available only in early pregnancy. Some restrictions apply. Like everything else you do, have this experience on your own terms!

5. Deluxe Spa Treatment-- Get the luxury and personal attention you deserve!! Check into our special suite at the Jetson Hotel where you will meet with our experienced guide, who will be available to you for your abortion experience. After extensive orientation for you and your partner or family, enjoy a relaxing massage and jacuzzi. Full emotional support is available to you and those close to you, tailored to your needs. A full range of sedatives and pain relievers to choose from make for a pain free procedure by our experienced and friendly physician. Recover back in your suite and choose from 3 relaxing options--a foot massage, a mud pack facial, or a rebalancing of your shakras by our expert Reiki master. Then, enjoy room service from a 4 star restaurant. Our guide will be available to you to review aftercare and discuss any emotional issues. Full cable and choice of video entertainment available, and enjoy our feather pillow beds for a good night's sleep.

6. Spiritual Journey-- Ending a pregnancy is not just a physical act but also a spiritual process. Meet with our spirit healer and guide a week in advance to plan the ritual journey that will meet your spiritual needs. Native American (Taino clan tradition), Eastern philosophy, nature-inspired (pagan), or custom designed ceremonies are available to you and to the support people who will accompany you on your spirit quest. Or, design your own rituals with the help of our experienced guides. Check in to our mountain retreat Friday night for a ritual cleansing and spiritual preparation. Have the surgical procedure when you are ready for a separation of paths with the spirit child within you. Miscarriage with medicines and herbs is also available early in pregnancy. A follow-up ritual a year and a day later is included in this package.

7. Full Emotional Support-- Deciding to end a pregnancy may well be the most difficult emotional crisis a woman or couple may face. Our experienced counselor will spend 2 hours with you and support person of your choice, and your appointment will be scheduled 2-7 days after that. The counselor will explore relationship and identity issues, personal goals, religious and spiritual concerns and offer interactive skill building to you and your significant other. A choice of 3 self help books are included with additional suggestions for grief work and emotional aftercare. The procedure will be performed by an experienced and kind physician in privacy with your choice of pain relievers and sedatives. Or, choose to miscarry with medicine taken at home. ($100 extra.) Two follow up visits with our licensed and experienced counselors are available one week and one month after the procedure. Consultation by phone with the clergy or spiritual leader from your belief system included, if desired.

8. Discount Package-- A basic "no frills" package is available for those women who don't need ambiance or additional support. No additional sedation is available without additional cost. Licensed physicians perform the safe surgery in less than 5 minutes. Expect delays and waiting time. No support people allowed in counseling or medical areas. If you want to spend the money on something else, this package may work for you, but we encourage you to consult our website for a complete overview of the abortion experience.
$250, cash only. 9. Abortions Anonymous-- For the woman who wants to tell no one, keep it secret, and have no record of having been there, we offer an anonymous service with private hours. Counseling offered to explore any feelings and potential emotional side effects. No names taken.
$950, cash only.
After listing the full range of imagined options, the authors write:
In most utopian scenarios, price tags are not offered because we assume money will be replaced by a better system of valuation. We have included these imaginary prices, in 2002 dollars, as a way to think about what an experience is worth to us. It may seem strange to think about market forces at work in abortion services but, actually, the stigma long associated with abortion has kept the principles of market economics from working for the consumer of abortion care. Abortion fees have been historically low in relation to medical inflation, and consumers have few choices. Abortion services, by and large, have not changed much in the last 30 years. If people were given real choices of how they wanted their abortion experience to be, the market would reflect a range of price tags as well as desires. When the stigma of abortion dissipates, women will actually have more choices and more recognition of the range of feelings, circumstances and their needs in facing an unintended pregnancy.
There is quite a bit more to the essay. Your comments on the rest of it are welcome as well.