Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Week(s) (02/10/11)
TITLE: When is it Real?
By Amanda Brogan
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The teenage girl stared intently at the woman before her. Her question hung in the air like an unsteady guillotine blade; her face contorted in apprehension of a painful answer. Lisa had seen cases like this before. Were she not extremely careful with her answers, she may lose the patient.
“You’re only in your first trimester, so the procedure should be quick and easy. At this stage we generally use the suction aspiration method to dispose of the tissue.” Lisa kept her tone kind, gentle, matter-of-fact – just as if she were a nurse explaining to a patient how often to take a medicinal prescription.
The girl glanced down at her shaky hands and then gripped the edge of the table on which she sat. “Stage ... what stage is it? I mean,” she tucked a rebellious streak of blonde hair behind her ear, “how old is the baby? How many weeks?”
Lisa tried not to cringe at the girl’s choice of words. Calling it a baby was taboo for the staff. “The fetus is at 11 weeks gestation.”
The blonde wrapped her arms around her stomach and leaned forward slightly. Was she going to be sick? Lisa wasn’t sure if she should comfort the girl or help her to a sink.
“Is everything alright, Miss Kendle?”
“Will it hurt?”
“The procedure is harmless. Very few patients walk away with serious side effects. Only in extreme cases – ”
“I mean, will it hurt the baby?”
Lisa held her clipboard tightly to her chest. There was that word again. “At this point, ma’am, the embryo has not yet developed enough vital parts and organs to be considered a human. Abortions are performed at much later gestational periods than yours, I assure you. It’s perfectly safe.”
“So it won’t ... it won’t feel anything?” Zoe Kendle placed a hand over her abdomen and looked down. Her eyes screamed sorrow and helplessness.
“What’s inside you now is mostly a blob of developing cells, Miss Kendle. I’m sure it won’t feel a thing.”
Invisible needles began to prick all over Lisa’s body. What is that feeling? Guilt? I have nothing to feel guilty about. This is a valuable service to women. This girl has come here for help and I’m a part of providing it for her.
Yet in watching such distress play out in Zoe’s every response, Lisa suddenly felt that she was doing anything but helping.
Inhaling slowly, Zoe looked up again, eyes moist. “Do I have time to think it over?”
“Of course, dear. We encourage you to consider your options. But we suggest you don’t postpone the decision too long. For your own health, it may be beneficial to decide sooner than later.”
The girl pushed another batch of hair from her eyes. “How long until it’s not just cells and tissue? How do you know when it becomes a child?”
Pricking needles became a hammer that rammed into Lisa’s chest. “Well, um, a pregnancy can be terminated at least up to 23 weeks gestation. And, um, well ...”
“But how do you know when it actually becomes a baby?”
Lisa fidgeted with her clipboard and smiled nervously. “I’m really not the one to ask. I’m just an assistant. I’ve never, uh, performed the procedure.” The room seemed to be getting smaller and the air getting stuffier by the minute.
“Will you excuse me, Miss Kendle? I need to check something in another room.”
Leaning her back against the off-white wall in the hallway, Lisa tried to reassemble her dismembered nerves. What’s wrong with me? I’ve never questioned women’s rights before. But then ... that girl has a point. When is a fetus no longer a fetus? Who draws the line between baby and cell mass?
She glanced down at her clipboard chart. Due to assist the doctor in about 10 minutes. Better pull my mind together.
Straightening and turning down the hall, she collided with another clinic assistant. Shock and terror masked the woman’s face.
“Jennifer, what’s wrong? You look as if you’ve just witnessed a massacre.”
“You don’t know the half of it. We got in some new 4D ultrasound equipment today and I was helping and watching the screen and ... Lisa, you won’t believe how vivid those pictures are.”
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