by Jennifer Clifford
I don't know whether to say that I passed the home pregnancy test or failed it. At any rate, that infamous strip had turned pink, indicating that I was pregnant. I was eighteen years old and in college.
It was April 1, 1994. My boyfriend James and I drove to Planned Parenthood to verify the results of the home pregnancy test. The walk from the car to the door of the clinic was like a hallway in a dream that gets narrower and longer the farther you walk. I remember feeling scared, but not necessarily in a negative way. It was more like the anxiety I would associate with the nerves surrounding a blind date or the wait in class for the return of an exam that will either make or break your grade.
We entered the clinic and approached the counter. The receptionist asked why we were there and then asked us to take a seat. Women came in and out of the waiting room, and I couldn't help but wonder what each of them was doing there. I shuddered to think that some of them were coming in pregnant but would leave without their babies. Abortion was never an option for me, but I could sympathize with women who weren't fortunate enough to have someone there to support them. I looked over at James, who was fidgeting and trying to read a magazine that was clearly not taking his mind off the issue at hand. I smiled at him to calm his nerves, but he was wound up too tight for me to reach him. All I kept thinking was how much my life could change in the next few minutes. Soon, the nurse called me in for "counseling". She asked if I wanted to take a blood or a urine test, and I decided to go with the cheaper, but less accurate, urine.
Next, the nurse asked me how I felt about the possibility that I could be pregnant. I let her know that I was excited at the idea but unsure of my future. She honed in on that uncertainty and probed further - what would I do with the child? Could I support it? What would my parents think? These were issues that I had not yet allowed to enter into my mind; I was taking this whole thing one step at a time. Consequently, I could not answer her questions as quickly as she blurted them out. As I floundered for responses, a look of smug resolution came over her face, as if she had already decided what I was going to do. I was a textbook abortion customer to her - young, afraid, and not knowing where to turn. She thought that all she had to do was prey on my worries and shoot down my childish dreams of being a "mommy", and she could add another abortion to the paperwork. I, however, had other plans.
After this first counseling session, the nurse suggested that we get on with the test. I took the sterile cup she handed me into the ladies' room. My bladder, unfortunately, was tied in knots of anxiety and refused to cooperate. I came out of the rest room, empty cup in hand, and explained to the nurse that I just could not go. She off-handedly remarked that I probably wasn't pregnant then, because if I was, I wouldn't have any problems voiding. I followed her into the lab where she drew my blood as I tried, blushing, to make light of the situation. She seemed disinterested and impatient. When the task was done, she instructed me to wait in the lobby for the test results. She estimated it would take about half an hour.
James and I went outside for some fresh air and paced for what would be the longest 30 minutes of my life. We didn't say much to each other, but rather drowned in our own private pools of anticipation. Somehow, the time passed, and we headed back to the clinic. The test was ready when we got there.
The nurse motioned for me and told James to wait there. I wrung my hands as I walked into the counseling room, and she closed the door behind us. She sat down at her desk, slowly and deliberately, as if for the dramatic effect. She passed me the test, and I looked down. There in my shaking hand was a plastic cube with a pink plus sign on it.
"I'm sorry, Jennifer". The nurse shook her head and tried to look sympathetic. I was confused by her apology. I remember the dismayed look on her face when I began to smile. She grasped again at my concern, desperately trying to save her sale. She reminded me of my age and of my state in life. I knew I could not support the child on my own, so I asked her for a number I could call for government assistance. She claimed she didn't have one to give me. It struck me as odd that she couldn't provide me with a point of contact. Surely other women had been in this same situation before me and had needed information on how they could get help to keep their children, as well. Why did Planned Parenthood, then, not keep such an important number handy?
I asked the nurse to give me a list of doctors from which to choose, as I felt the next reasonable step would be to see an obstetrician. The nurse breathed a heavy sigh of disapproval and curled her lip, as if I wasn't understanding her point. "We don't deal with pregnant women". Shocked, I wondered how this company could call itself "Planned Parenthood" when it was unable and unwilling to deal with expectant parents. The way she was responding to me put me even more on edge about what steps I should take to best care for myself and the child. She seemed to sense my uneasiness and pressed some more.
She mentioned my parents again, appealing to my utter terror in having to break the news to them. The nurse bombarded me with negativity, playing on my fears and concerns and continuing to offer me the "easy way out". Although she never actually said the word, she left no doubt in my mind that in her opinion abortion was my only option. When I disagreed, she thrust a package of pamphlets at me on abortion costs and procedures, adoption information, and a small excerpt on prenatal care. She presented this to me and told me to come back when I had made up my mind. I thought perhaps she had confused me with another patient. I knew I had been very clear that I wanted to keep the baby, and that this was not bad news to me. That concept seemed to escape her, for there was no money to be made on her end if I carried out the pregnancy. She had absolutely no concern for me as an individual with needs and desires; she was interested only in making money for her company.
I walked out of the clinic, tossed the packet in the garbage, and began my reserved celebration.
I had a baby girl on December 10, 1994. She is positively perfect in every way. My own parents, whom I was so afraid to tell, have been overwhelmingly supportive of me, and they are crazy about the baby. I live at home with them now, and my life is back on track. I thank God everyday for lending me this child to tend to for Him.
I think often of the other women who were in the clinic with me that day. I wonder if their babies were given the same chance at life that I gave mine. I know how it feels to look to the future with sheer terror, because I've been there. I've felt the shameless prodding of the abortionist's pitchfork in my side, heightening every fear that was brewing within me. That nurse tried her hardest to manipulate me and to scare me into doing something that I knew was wrong. I now want to warn other expectant mothers about these abortion clinics. They do not have your best interests in mind and they will not give you a choice. They could, instead, force you into an abortion that you are afraid to decline. Please be strong and resist them, for yourselves and for your children. Better yet, don't even go to these clinics; find counseling in pro-life organizations where your choices are fair and the help is abundant. Your baby's life is at stake.... and it's all up to you.
Update from Jennifer's Father: Jenny returned to the Catholic Church and began receiving the Sacraments again. James abandoned Jenny and Emily shortly after the baby was born. She subsequently met and married a wonderful Catholic man. Emily now has a little baby sister named Katherine. Paul adopted Emily and she calls him "daddy". He is the only father she has ever known
Update 25 Years Later: Jenny went on to earn a Masters Degree in Montessori Education and is teaching in a Montessori school. Emily has four younger sisters (Kate, Maria, Rachel, and Clara) and a brother (Matt). Emily married her high school sweetheart after they graduated from college. They are the proud parents of a little boy (Ezra) and his younger sister (Miriam).
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