Emma from Norman Oklahoma
So I was awake last night after taking in Chris Hayes, pages of people’s writings, and of course Rachel Maddow, and I thought about my time at the University of Nebraska in the early seventies, before abortion was legal and I started to image a seventeen year old girl (she is not real, but to me she surely represents someone today), and I named her Emma.
Emma went to the Prom in early May and she got pregnant with her boyfriend, who is finishing high school and working on the family farm for the rest of his life. Emma is headed to the University of Oklahoma in August, and she is hoping to pledge Pi Beta Phi, like her mother before her.
Today Emma told her parents she was going to the lake with friends for the day and instead she was driving to Oklahoma City where she made an appointment at a clinic to get an abortion. By herself. She told no one because Norman Nebraska is a very small town, with very few secrets and she knew that her plans, her vision for her future, would not come to fruition if anyone knew her situation. She wasn’t scared, but she was nervous, more nervous than ever in her life. Today she is ten weeks pregnant.
She drove to Oklahoma City, found the clinic, checked in and was sitting scrolling through her phone waiting to go in when a women asked her to follow her. They went to an office and she sat down while the woman told her the clinic couldn’t do the abortion today, or any time in the near future. Emma could tell she was trying not to cry but really what Emma was thinking is what she could do now?
The woman said they would reach out to her about how they could help her get to another state to get it done as quickly as possible.
Emma spent the car ride home terrified that she might not be able to do this. She starts her summer job, six days a week to get money for school, on Monday. There is no excuse she can think of that would warrant her taking a few days off from school, and she doesn’t have money to pay for hotels, and what about the mileage on the car and what about and what about?!
Emma, while I’m watching Rachel Maddow, is in her room wondering how she can keep hiding the morning sickness. She has no one to talk to; she is smart enough to realize that once one person knows, it’s not a secret anymore.
So, now I too am wondering how the Emmas of America can possibly maneuver the road ahead; the short term road ahead, and I feel helpless to help them, but I will find a way.
When I was at the University of Nebraska, my roommate called me when I was working for the summer in upstate New York at a place right out of Dirty Dancing. She flew out to ‘see’ me and I took her to Albany where she got an abortion and no one knew, save she and me. I was proud to help her.
Thomas Kerenyi, who died just a few years ago, was one of the first doctors to do abortions through Mt. Sinai and the first clinic opened in 1973. He was my friend. I did a podcast with him about what it was like before he could do them legally and after. We were going to do more and make a series of it, but he passed away. A number of you have texted me today and asked me to repost it.
Take the time to listen to Thomas Kerenyi make the case for Emma and all the other women who need - and deserve - and have a right to this service, and the privacy they must have around their choice to use it.