By Abby Johnson
In 2009, I had my tonsils removed. They had been bothering me for a while and no one knows what they are really for anyway…so I figured I might as well have them out. I knew a lot of tonsil-less people, so I wasn’t nervous at all about surgery. A couple days before I went “under the knife” I had my pre-op visit with my ENT. We were going over a few things that I already knew. Then, he started talking about the risks. I guess I hadn’t really thought there would be risks with a tonsillectomy. Severing vocal cords and being unable to speak…damage to teeth…extreme blood loss…damage to my tongue…and even death. WHAT??? Um, maybe I should just keep my annoying tonsils. I suddenly became very nervous. My doctor assured me that my fear were kind of irrational…he just HAD to tell me those things. Needless to say, two days later, the tonsils came out. I had no problems. My throat has never been happier.
Now, flashback to 2003. I was 23 years old, a volunteer at Planned Parenthood, a college student, a woman who was 8 weeks pregnant by her husband…a husband she was divorcing. I didn’t want a baby so I had a solution…abortion. I had already had one abortion and it was easy. Surely, this time it would be the same. Instead of a surgical abortion, I thought this time I would choose a more “natural” way to abort…the medication abortion. It was all pills and that seemed really simple. Everything was done at home. It was private, on your schedule, under your control and seemed less invasive. “Nothing worse than a heavy period,” according to Planned Parenthood. Sounded pretty easy to me. So, I took the bait. I made an appointment and got the money together. The day came and it really felt like any other day. I wasn’t nervous…I wasn’t having surgery. This was going to be simple. At the clinic I filled out paperwork, had some basic lab work done, had an ultrasound (that I don’t remember), and got put in a room for abortion counseling. I had brought someone with me, but I, of course, had to do all of this alone. No one except the patient was allowed past the waiting room. I remember my “counseling” as if it happened yesterday. “You will have some heavy bleeding and period like cramps. None of it should last too long. You will be back to normal in a couple days,” my counselor said. “Sounds good,” I remember saying. And I guess it did sound pretty good. I could get rid of my biggest burden for $400.00 and a little cramping. Not a bad deal. There didn’t appear to be any risks or side effects…or if there were, we didn’t go over them. Surely if there were risks, they would have told me about them, right? So the exchange was made. I gave them $400.00, and they gave me a Mifeprex pill and a brown bag of pills to take home. After taking the Mifeprex, I felt great! No side effects…just like she said. The next day, I did as I was told. I ate a light lunch and took the 4 pills in my brown bag called Misoprostol. They told me these were the pills that would start my bleeding and cramping…but nothing a few Ibuprofen couldn’t take care of. I was told after taking the pills at home that I would probably start bleeding in about an hour. So, I made myself comfortable on the bed and turned the TV on. Ten minutes later, I started to feel pain in my abdomen unlike anything I had ever experienced. Then the blood came. It was gushing out of me. I couldn’t wear a pad…nothing was able to absorb the amount of blood I was losing. The only thing I could do was sit on the toilet. I sat there for hours…bleeding, throwing up into the bathroom trash can, crying and sweating. I used to watch shows about childbirth. I would see these women in labor and they would be covered in sweat. I would always think, “Gosh, do they keep it hot in the delivery room, or what?” But at that moment, sitting on the toilet, I knew it wasn’t from heat…it was from pain.
After several hours on the toilet, I desperately wanted to soak in the bathtub. I was hoping that would make me feel better. Maybe the warm water would help the cramping. Certainly it would make me smell better. I had vomit all in my hair and on my legs, not to mention how sweaty I was. I filled the tub and climbed in. It actually did feel pretty good. I remember closing my eyes and leaning my head back. I felt exhausted. The cramps kept coming, but the water helped soothe them somewhat. I opened my eyes after 15 minutes and was horrified. My bathwater was bright red. It looked like I was sitting in the middle of a crime scene. And I guess it was…I had murdered my child.
I knew I had to get up and wash the blood off of me. I stood up slowly and straightened out my body. As soon as I was completely upright, I felt a pain worse than any other I had experienced. I began to sweat again and felt faint. I grabbed on to the side of the shower wall to steady myself. Then I felt a release…and a splash in the water that was draining beneath me. A blood clot the size of a lemon had fallen into my bath water. Was that my baby? I knew this huge clot was not going to go down the drain, so I reached down to pick it up. I was able to grasp the large clot with both hands and move it to the toilet. I stood in the warm shower for a few minutes…feeling a little relief from the cramping. Then came the excruciating pain again. I jumped out of the shower and sat on the toilet. Another lemon sized blood clot. Then another. And another. I thought I was dying. This couldn’t be normal. Planned Parenthood didn’t ever tell me this could happen. This must be atypical. I decided that I would call them in the morning…if I didn’t die before then. It was around midnight and I had been in the bathroom for a good 12 hours. I knew I couldn’t leave yet. I didn’t want to lay in the bed…the bleeding was too heavy. And the clots were still coming; not as often, but they were still coming. So, I decided to sleep on the bathroom floor that night…right by the toilet. The cold floor felt good on my face. I was physically depleted, but I could not sleep.
The next morning, I called Planned Parenthood as soon as they opened and asked to speak to the nurse. I was told she would call me back soon. She did. I told her about my previous day. She told me, “That is not abnormal.” WHAT?? She could not be serious. All of the bleeding, the clotting, the pain…that was NORMAL??? “Yes,” she said. “Use heating pads, soak in a warm tub, and take Ibuprofen.” I was angry. How could they not tell me the side effects? I felt betrayed.
Eight weeks passed. Eight weeks of blood clots. Eight weeks of nausea. Eight weeks of excruciating cramps. Eight weeks of heavy bleeding. When it was finally over, I went back to volunteer at Planned Parenthood. My anger was gone and had now been replaced by self-reproach. I no longer blamed Planned Parenthood, I blamed myself. And honestly, I was glad that I wasn’t pregnant. So, I just chalked it up to a terrible experience and vowed that I would do my best to never let anyone I know choose medication abortion. I did not want anyone else to experience what I had been through.
When I started working at Planned Parenthood, I did just that. It actually became a joke around the clinic. “Don’t let Abby see the MAB (medication abortion) clients. She will change them all to surgical and we will be here all day.” I HATED medication abortion. I hated that we were pushing it at all of our clinics. I did not think it was best for our patients. And I told them the risks. I told them my story. I told them about the clots, the cramping, the nausea, the bleeding. I had seen too many women that had been hurt by this “natural” abortion method. There was nothing natural about it. At a management meeting, I voiced my concerns. Why weren’t we talking about the risks? Why hadn’t anyone told me? “Well, we don’t want to scare them,” my supervisor said. “Oh, like they are scared when they think they are dying from the amount of blood they are losing because we choose not to tell them that is supposedly normal,” I responded. That didn’t go over too well. That was their answer? They didn’t want women to be scared?? The night of my medication abortion, lying on the cold bathroom floor, I had never been so scared. What if I died there alone? Who would find me? Would my parents find out that their daughter died because she had an abortion? That fear was real.
Looking back on my tonsillectomy and my abortion, one thing really stands out. When my ENT was going over all of these crazy risks, I was kind of thinking, “Hey, can you just NOT tell me any of this.” But then I was grateful. Because if I woke up and I wasn’t able to talk, or if my two front teeth were all busted up, at least I would have known that was a possibility. At least I had the CHOICE to back out. With my abortion, I wasn’t given that CHOICE. They didn’t tell me what was really going to happen to me…because they didn’t want to “scare” me? So much for freedom of choice.
Here is another glaring contrast. When my ENT was explaining the risks to me, I became nervous. But as he was calming my fears, I remember him saying, “Don’t worry, none of this has EVER happened before to any of my patients.” That made me feel better. But the same cannot be said of abortion…particularly medication abortion. Women have died from medication abortion. Thousands of women have had very serious complications. I saw many of them with my own eyes…I was one of them.
To not give women all of the information about abortion because you think it will “scare” them is actually very offensive. Doesn’t Planned Parenthood claim to “trust women?” Then why don’t they trust these women enough to give them all of the information? Do they not think women are smart enough to handle basic facts? What kind of female empowerment is that? Here’s the truth…Planned Parenthood is not worried about women being “scared”…Planned Parenthood is scared. They are scared women will walk out the door if they get accurate and thorough information. Every woman that walks out is lost revenue…that is Planned Parenthood’s biggest fear. They are scared. They are scared of the truth. They are scared to give women the truth.
In 2003, a young woman died from a medication abortion. Her name was Holly Patterson. Since then, her father, Monty, has been working to expose the dangers and risks of abortion. He recently created a website. This website is full of accurate information on the true risks of medication abortion. I encourage all of you to please share this with people you know. Please post this website on your facebook or twitter. Right now, Planned Parenthood is planning to expand their medication abortion protocols to EVERY family planning clinic in the country in the next 5 years. We must act now. Holly didn’t have to die. Women do not have to be hurt by abortion. Expose the truth. Someone has to trust women to make the right decision…it certainly won’t be Planned Parenthood.
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