What Went Through My Head During The 4 Hours I Spent In An Abortion Clinic

by Pippa Biddle

Of my four and a half hours in the abortion clinic, the variety of women who were there left the strongest impact on me.

Hint: It wasn’t full of pregnant teens who looked strikingly similar to Ellen Page in "Juno."

While there were a few of those, there were also 30-year-olds with designer handbags and rocks on their ring fingers and 20-something recent college grads who looked like they had reluctantly taken a day off from their swanky downtown jobs.

I was there to support a friend, which was a strange role to play, as an abortion clinic escort entails nothing beyond reading yellowing copies of Women’s Health and waiting.

But, there I was, reading articles like how to lose flab by the Fourth of July while slowing sinking into an armchair that thousands of anxious women occupied before me. The arm rests dimpled from finger nails that gripped in the blood-red upholstery.

I hadn’t thought much about my short and (for me) uneventful time in the midtown abortion clinic until I went to see "Obvious Child," a movie that tackles abortion with a dash of humor.

It’s fabulous and made me think again about what I would have done differently had I been the pregnant one. If, instead of sinking into that chair and lazily flipping through sex tips, I’d been clenching its arms in terrified anticipation.

I still have no idea.

I am utterly and entirely unsure, which I find terrifying. Despite studying medical ethics in college, I’m not sure when a fetus should be treated as legally human.

I also don’t know how I would feel about the idea of removing something that was growing inside of me, treating it as if it were a pernicious weed rather than a bundle of cells with at least the potential of becoming a living and breathing child.

At the same time, I would never consider taking away a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. To me, that is a decision that only one person is qualified to make: the woman whose body is involved.

Donna Stern, the protagonist of "Obvious Child" played by Jenny Slate, never ponders whether an abortion is the right decision, and I appreciate that greatly.

She knows what she wants, she asks for it and she follows through. She is vulnerable and the process isn’t portrayed as easy, but she also doesn’t ask those around her to validate her decision. She might ask a friend what the procedure is like, but not whether or not she should go through with it.

The film's message is that a woman can make a choice on her own and stick to it; that her friends and family can be supportive, even if they don’t entirely agree; that your life doesn’t end when you hit a bump in road — or in this case, your belly.

After her procedure, I took my friend back home, stopping at a deli on the way for a sandwich (for her) and some Cheez-Its (for me).

We were quiet, there wasn’t much to say, but we held hands. She squeezed my hand tightly as we pulled up to her building, clenching hard as if she couldn’t let go, even if she wanted to.

I told her she didn’t have to.

Originally posted on

Photo Courtesy: Fox Searchlight Pictures/Juno