The Elephant in the Examination Room: Why Are Medical Professionals Reluctant to Talk to Women About this Common Medical Procedure?
By Lauren Kretzer
Seeing a new medical provider means you get handed the brown clip board from the receptionist with that tedious multi-page “new patient form.”
Some questions are quite detailed and frankly, embarrassing.
Others may make us squirm in our seats; e.g., weight, smoking, daily wine intake, etc.
But if you are like me, there is one question that hit me harder than any other; HAVE YOU EVER BEEN PREGNANT?
As someone who experienced abortion, and was unable to conceive as a result of complications from the procedure, the answer had ALWAYS been, “No”.
I didn’t think about it.
I didn’t agonize over it.
I simply answered, “No”.
This is the denial that marks the daily lives of millions of women and men touched by abortion.
Until someone breaks through that blindness and sheds some light on how abortion may have hurt you, and the good news of spiritual and emotional healing, you remain in the darkness.
I learned about an abortion recovery program, Rachel’s Vineyard, and made my retreat in March, 2013. The program gently allowed me to lower my denial defenses built up over many years. The experience cleansed the gaping spiritual and emotional wounds left from participating in the death of my unborn children.
This Doctor’s Visit…Is Going to Be Different
Fast forward to 2017. I went to see my primary care physician. Her medical practice is part of the Abington Hospital network. Because Abington Hospital provides abortion services, I was in conflict about continuing with my current doctor.
But I have been with this doctor for over 15 years and did not want to be hasty making the switch. And I have always felt very comfortable with her.
Since that Rachel’s Vineyard weekend in 2013 I have grown stronger spiritually and emotionally. In 2017 I became part of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. The Campaign has connected me with a network of other women and men called to share about their abortion loss and recovery.
Coming out of that foundation of healing and peace I decided that this medical appointment was going to be different.
This was going to be an honest encounter where I was going to share my “complete” medical history.
In my evaluation with the doctor she asked if I had any questions.
I told her, “There is something very important in my medical history that should be added to my records.”
I began to tell her about my abortions and some of the common emotional and physical complications many women suffer after the procedure.
She looked at me with compassion, but did appear a bit taken aback. The doctor agreed to add it to my records. I was pleased when she told me, “In the future, if a patient shares with me a history of abortion, I will be sure to ask them how they are doing emotionally.”
I shared some pamphlets and contact info with the doctor for anyone looking for emotional and spiritual recovery for their abortion loss.
I spend the next couple of days praying for this physician, that her heart and mind would open up to the physical and emotional damage many women suffer after abortion.
“How Many Children Do You Have?”
Now here we are a year later and time for my annual check-up.
This time I did not see my regular doctor. Instead, I saw a nurse practitioner, Susan.
Susan pulls out her lap top and begins to ask me a bunch of questions. It is clear she is using a very detailed but standard questionnaire for physicals.
She even asked me if I ever smoked. When I told her, “yes as a stupid teenager” she went on to ask me how much I smoked – and the ages I started and quit. That was over 40 years ago!
Another question. Have you ever had surgeries?
I am thinking major with general anesthesia…so I answered no. Then she said any surgeries? Wisdom teeth? Yes, I had my wisdom teeth out (30 years ago).
I then told her, “Susan, there are also two surgeries that I had that should be in the records. I had two abortions.”
This revelation clearly shook her up as she fumbled at the lap top. She was very quick to respond, “No I do not see them…they do not need to be in the records.”
I replied “I had requested them to be there.”
Avoiding any eye contact, she went on to the next question on her form.
Much to my surprise, a minute later came the question…are you ready for this?
How many children do you have?
I told her that I lost two children to abortion and that the reason why I do not have living children today is very likely due to the physical damage caused by those abortions.
For a second, she looked angry, annoyed, and horrified at the same time.
But being professional, she composed herself and said, “We don’t need that information.” She then went on to the next question.
I left there feeling sad and angry because when it comes to abortion, the “right to choose” takes precedence over “the right to complete, accurate medical information and care.”
Abortion is looked at as some medical “non-event.”
Yet it is a life-changing experience, and certainly a medically significant part of the medical history of millions of women.
I thought about that nurse practitioner, Susan, as I processed our encounter in the days after my appointment.
Perhaps her reaction comes out of her personal history. It is quite possible, given her role at Abington hospital, an abortion provider, that she may have helped in some way to facilitate the death of unborn children.
It is possible a family member, even her daughter had one. Or maybe she herself had lost a child to abortion, and what I shared touched that sensitive wound in her heart.
I am grateful for my journey to recovery and connecting with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. This equipped and empowered me to find my voice, and share the truth about my abortion losses. It has empowered me and many other women to openly share our experiences, bringing light to the darkness, even behind the closed doors of the doctor’s examination room.