The battle over abortion rights continues around the world, including Italy, where many doctors and nurses refuse to carry out the procedure on religious grounds.
The fight around abortion rights in Italy is focused now on doctors who claim the right of "conscientious objection" status to refuse to carry out the procedure. It all makes me think about Anna, and her husband, a typical couple in their forties.
They came to the clinic to get the infamous certificate of "mental fitness," that shameful piece of paper that the state requires of those who want to adopt. Couples whose lives are scrutinized like criminals, like suspects.
Theirs was a story of fruitless attempts, of much money spent, and the baby that never did arrive. Anna's eggs "were no longer good," they were told. So much suffering, wanting so badly to create a family.
When her husband stepped out, and Anna and I remained alone, she turned to me with tears in her eyes.
Remembering a nurse
"I was 30 years old, I wasn’t so young. I got pregnant with my partner. I was on the pill but it happened anyway. One case in a thousand. But he didn't believe me. He said that I had set him up. He treated me like a bad person, supported by his family who hated me. I said nothing to my family. My father had just been diagnosed with cancer and I knew he was counting on my help. I felt alone, afraid, without any support, perhaps I was simply immature.
I decided to end the pregnancy. I went to the hospital alone. I was welcomed by a nurse who stayed with me all the way through. There were many other women there in the same situation. Adults, young girls. So many stories, so much sadness and tears.
The sense of guilt destroys me. The anger at myself.
When the day arrived, a friend, an angel, came to hold my hand. There was also that nurse, beside me right to the very end. The operating room. I was trembling and the anesthesiologist, before putting me to sleep, caressed me. I fell asleep with tears on my face. When I woke up the first thing I saw was the gynecologist. Madam, everything went well. Now rest and think about the future.
Since that day, doctor, I think of nothing else. The sense of guilt destroys me. The anger at myself. I wasted the only opportunity to have a child of my own. But in all this pain I will always be grateful to the staff of that hospital who understood and respected my suffering that day. Without looks of reproach or judgment. As you, doctor, are doing with me today.”
This is what being a doctor or a nurse is about: to serve, not to object to, the lives of others.
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