Wednesday, August 1, 2012

An Abortion in Tunisia

Tunisia legalized abortion in 1973. It is avaliable without question, as long as it is done before the 3  month mark of the womans pregnancy by a liscensed physician in a hospital. It is the most progressive Arab nation by law, however, there is still a strong social stigma against abortion in the nation. This is one story, there are many more in different places around the world with different reactions. From the supportive Abortion clinics in the USA who offer free counseling
 to women who come in, to a woman I know in Saudi Arabia who had her maid perform an abortion with a bent hanger. Women of all nationalities and religious confessions make the decision to do this, whether its legal or not.

However we may feel personally about a procedure, it is one that is beyond difficult for women to endure in the first place – nobody likes the idea of doing it. It’s important to recognize that this procedure can haunt a woman, for life. At the end of the day, it’s a choice, one that every woman should have the right to make – and they know the consequences going into it, it doesn’t mean one is heartless or doesn’t want children, but sometimes, those choices and consequences are the better option to endure for a better life.
Those who feel opposed due to religious reasons, at the end of the day, if we don't give humans free will and the choice to do the right or wrong thing and deal with the consequences (much as God has done for us) then there is no way to get genuine love , belief, or actions. The women who make this choice, aren't doing it with joy. If you believe in any God of any relgion, I believe it is always taught that God is the judge (not humans) He is all merciful, and God knows his creations best. So why not leave any judgements you may believe need to be made, in hands of God, and do your best to support and give these women the love they probably need to feel.

It was October in Tunis. She was awaken from her sleep around two in the morning from a burning sensation in her breasts. She remembered how her friends used to complain about the exact feeling during their pregnancy. “Shit”, she thought quickly, but fell back asleep.
The next day she took a trip to the pharmacy, ashamed. She moved her diamond ring from her middle finger to her ring finger, so she would appear to be a happily married woman. She tried to hide her fear and remain calm as she stepped inside the Pharmacy in Nasser, a high-end neighborhood in Tunis.
The Pharmacist must have seen the panic in her eyes through her play-it-cool act as he told her quickly next time if she didn’t want to be pregnant she should use the morning after pill. He caught her off guard, she ignored the comment and left. The pharmacy was just one block from her apartment, but as she was walking down the street with the pregnancy test in her hand, panicked with thoughts and fear, she suddenly began to lose consciousness, and found herself laying on the street, she had fainted. She knew something was wrong.
She took the test, and it was instantly positive, no three minute dely. She looked at herself in the mirror for an instant, and in that instant she felt the most beautiful she had ever been. The way the hair fell on her face, the way her cheeks puffed out slightly, her breasts were plump, and a glow that came from her – she felt so feminine. Amazed that her body was capable to be pregnant, that if she did nothing and waited her belly may swell and she may be able to bring a human into the world.
It was the shortest and most beautiful moment in her 24 years, and the moment came harshly to an end. She sobbed, as she had never sobbed before. She no longer felt beautiful, she was alone, and it was not planned for. Her parents would disown her, her partners parents would disown her. Her boyfriend and her had been together for two years, and were planning on getting married. She couldn’t get ahold of him on the phone, he was taking an exam. Time was frozen, and she cried for two hours, alone in her bed. She wanted to lock herself in her bedroom, away from the world. But she had responsibilities, so she forced on a fake smile, and headed to work. She was giving one-on-one oral exams, her students knew her as bubbly and kind, and she had to play that role even though she was dying inside.
Every instant that went by she remembered she was pregnant. Though she wanted to clear her mind and feel at peace, she couldn’t forget. She sipped her tea, pregnant. She went to the bathroom, pregnant. She brushed her teeth, pregnant. She answered the phone, pregnant. She took a taxi, pregnant. Not a moment went by when she wasn’t, pregnant.
His reaction killed her more than the unexpected news of being pregnant. “we can keep it” she begged him. His instant “No” seemed like a scream, a thundering NO that echoed so deep into her soul and forced itself through her veins and into the very bloodstream that carried his child. In that moment, she knew somewhere deep down that the man whom she had planned on marrying didn’t love anybody but himself. But at the time she cared more about him then herself, or anybody else. She was frozen. His harsh “no” remained engrained inside of her.
He frantically called and found a doctor who would perform an abortion, and set up the appointment. She was frozen. Her boyfriend took her to the doctor, they found out she was a few weeks pregnant, and the Doctor gave her a pill to take the night before the abortion. “Do I need to take pain medications with it?” she asked. “No” he replied with confidence enough to convince that he had a vagina of his own and had already tried this pill, “it doesn’t hurt, it will just dilate you before the procedure, it’s nothing.” She was frozen. "How often do you do this?" She asked. "About three times a week" the doctor replied.
She went through the motions of being alive, breathing, eating, sleeping, working…but she was in survival mode, frozen, always remembering she was pregnant. She passed her time in tears, snapping from one mood to another; laughing was so much sweeter, but crying was so dark, and bitter.
The time came to take the pill, and prepare for bed to wake up the next morning to go to the Clinic in Tunis. She took the pill and retired to sleep. But never made it that far…
She ran to the bathroom, unable to move or reach a position that would be comfortable. As she ran in pain to the bathroom, her entire body began to feel hot and felt as though the blood was rushing from her head to her toes, and before she realized that she was in the process of fainting, she slammed hard onto the marble floor. Her boyfriend came running at the large bang. She woke up, her boyfriend was above her, panicked, and then the pain hit her all at once.
She screamed and cried in pain, she felt as though her insides were being crushed, and no matter what position she turned in attempt to escape the pain, she could not get comfortable – she went from freezing cold, to burning hot, and all the while her insides were under pressure. Contractions. Birthing contractions, they were. Her boyfriend had checked information online about the pill – it was well known that this pill caused two hours of contractions, and was incredibly painful. It was usually given with pain killers. She wondered, was the doctor that stupid, or did he mislead her on purpose? This would be the first of many similar questions.
As the contractions slowed down, she had more time to breathe in between each gust of pain. She had time to calm down, but was so exhausted by the end of the two hours that she didn’t want to think about going into the clinic. It was too late now, blood was dripping down the side of her leg.  Her boyfriend brought her some new clothes, and she struggled to stand. They headed towards the clinic.
It wasn’t horrible, but it was by no means nice. Though Tunisia was ranted and raved about for quality health care standards (in Africa), she would soon discover that there was nothing to rant and rave about here, besides their unprofessionalism. A nurse burst into the room, and looked at her over her glasses as if examining the girl. She started asking questions in Tunisian to the girl’s boyfriend. “’I can’t understand Tunisian Arabic, you did your medical studies in French, would you please speak French so I can understand what’s going on” the girl pleaded to the nurse. “Bloodtype. Whats your bloodtype?” The nurse asked shortly. She didn’t know. “Well, if one day you want to have a baby, if that’s something that you care about, you need to know your bloodtype for the baby”. The nurse seemed to be trying to repeat baby on purpose, assuming that somehow the girl’s position in the hospital bed meant she hated babies. The girl was too afraid and exhausted to comment back. Her fiery personality had been subdued.
A second nurse came in to give the girl an IV. The girl explained to the nurse that she had a fear of needles and a medical disorder that caused fainting. The nurse heard her, looked at her and shoved the needle into her arm as if to show the girl she didn’t care. The girl looked down at the IV as a single tear rolled down her face. Her boyfriend smiled at her. She was disgusted at him, he seemed so relieved at her demise. She knew his “helpfulness” was coming from completely selfish motives. He had never bought her a gift in all their time together, this was the first thing he offered to pay for, his first "gift" to her. She didn't want to look him in the eyes, but she needed someone familiar next to her.
A third nurse came in, to take the girl up to the room to have the procedure. She explained to the girls boyfriend he should wait in the room, and told him the procedure doesn’t take long. The girl climbed into a wheel chair, and the nurse wheeled her up to the room.  When they were in the elevator, there were a number of Tunisian men in with them. The Nurse turned to the girl, and asked her “Now what are you doing today?” She asked the girl. She was confused, “You mean later?” she asked. “No, I mean now, what’s the name of the procedure you’re going to do?” The nurse said it loud enough so that all the men in the elevator were curiously staring at her waiting to know why she was in a wheel chair and what she would do. The nurse knew exactly what she was going to do, as she had just explained the process to her boyfriend. She realized the nurse was trying to put her on the spot, she felt sick to her stomach and angrily responded “I don’t know the word in French”.
The nurse pushed her down the hall and left her for two new nurses. The girl was crying. One nurse looked down on her as if she was crying over spilt milk, “why are you crying?” The girl found no response, it seemed too obvious of a question to ask to the girl. “What? The nurse continued condescendingly, “This is your first time doing this?” The nurse gave her an unbelieving smirk. The girl nodded her head to respond yes, that this was her first time, though at this point she wanted nothing to do with any female in this hospital. A second nurse came over to her, “You’ll be fine.” She seemed much nicer than the other nurse. She tried to make small talk, asked her where she was from, what she was doing in Tunisia, how long she had been there. The girl responded to her questions, this nurse seemed kind. But when the girl responded that she had been in Tunisia for just 3 months, the nurse turned to the other nurse and said “only three months and she already got pregnant” in Arabic, thinking the foreign girl wouldn’t understand them. The girl understood and responded in French “I’ve been with him for two years, not just three months”. It was something she always hated about Tunisia, she preferred they treat her like shit if that’s how they felt, rather than putting on a fake smile, it humiliated her.
The anesthesiologist came into the room with a warm smile. He was a young and handsome, and in the midst of all those catty nurses, she wanted nothing more than him. He smiled down at her, and asked her if she was ok through her tears. He directed the nurses to get away from her, and to get to work. They mumbled and reluctantly went to prepare. He explained what he would be doing, cracked a few jokes, and told her not to worry or be scared. She smiled her first smile through tears. The other doctor came in, not Tunisian, he also was very kind to her. There were five female nurses who were on duty to help prepare her for the process, but they had done their best to break her down rather than support her, and for some odd reason she felt like it was these men who were supporting her. The doctor kindly did his best to put her at ease. The handsome anesthesiologist asked her to count down from ten. “Ten….nine…….”
She woke up. The nurses were chatting around the room. She turned to her left. Right next to her head on the table, the nurses had left the jar of blood from the procedure. The rest of the room was cleaned, but they left that right in her sight. They told the doctor she was awake. She was crying. The doctor came in, and seemed confused and angry to see the jar of blood on the table next to her head. He turned frustrated to the nurses and told them to be professional. They were instructed to leave and dispose of it. She cried. He looked at her, and simply said, don’t let them break you down, that’s all they want to do.
She knew it was socially unacceptable. But she didn’t expect that professional nurses could be so heartless and unprofessional. They did everything in their power to make her feel like dirt, to tear her down, and to try to make her ashamed. She already felt bad enough.

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