February 20th, 2017
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
I used to think that Vox was the most boring site on the Web, but lately I’ve been reading the site often.
“I am an archaeologist,” I told the gynecologist with the relative calm of someone answering an emotionally loaded question with a rehearsed response. “I don’t know if I’ll be living in a country where abortion will be available to me should I become pregnant.”
This was no exaggeration. I still lived in Sweden, where I was born and raised, but many of my peers were settling temporarily in Ireland, where large-scale infrastructure works put archaeologists in high demand — and where abortion is still illegal in most instances. In the summers, I worked in countries where I couldn’t legally bring half of my book collection, much less get an abortion should the contraceptive implant in my arm fail. My husband and I were open to moving to such a country if I got a more permanent position.
The way she snorted at my concern made it clear she did not understand what it means to struggle financially or to leave your country for a job because you desperately need one. In her mind, I could always pay to abort the pregnancy I was attempting to avoid should I not be covered by some national health care system abroad. I could also fly back home to Sweden, she told me, where health care is next to free. Her disregard for my financial situation aside, this was simply not true. Swedish citizens who live abroad are not eligible for subsidized elective health care. This woman held the keys to my future, and she intended to make her decision based on ignorance.
“I am also concerned about the rising conservative trend globally,” I carried on. “I can’t be sure that I will be able to get an abortion in 10 years, much less get one wherever I might live.”
Her half-laugh and the way she turned away to compose herself before looking down her nose at me made her feelings absolutely clear. Child, her eyes said, don’t be stupid. You live in Sweden, and the world is always going to get better and better. This was 2009, and the far-right conservatives who want to restrict access to abortions were not yet the second-largest party in the opinion polls. “I am going to refer you to a therapist here at the hospital. If you can convince her, I will approve you for the procedure.”
…The dark and empty hospital corridor leading to the therapist’s office was not wide enough for a medical emergency. There was no waiting room. I had the distinct feeling that this corridor was not meant for me. I was nervous about the amount of power the stranger behind the door might wield over my future. This is what I imagine waiting outside of the headmaster’s office feels like.
The office could barely fit her desk. When I sat down opposite her, I tucked my feet under the chair so I would not accidentally kick her toes.
As I answered questions about my parents’ marriage and my early childhood, my mind explored strategic options. Would the truth about my brother’s autism and sister-in-law’s cerebral palsy highlight my understanding of parental sacrifice and lifelong commitment, or would it be twisted into a convenient scapegoat for my unconventional stance?
“My job is to determine that your aversion to having children is not the result of a fear that we can cure,” she said.
I decided to tell the truth, no matter how inconvenient.
After almost two hours of exploring my feelings and extolling the uneventfulness of my happy, sheltered middle-class childhood, after I was told to lean back in the uncomfortable office chair and imagine myself cradling my newborn infant, I was allowed to leave. It was concluded that there was nothing a professional could do to heal me of my deviation.