Leslie* was a 25-year-old woman who came to my clinic in California with her adorable two-year-old son, asking for help. Our clinic was well known for being able to care for women in complex situations and for being passionate about caring for women who were unable to get the reproductive health care they needed anywhere else. So with this hope that we would be able to help her, she had woken at 4 AM, roused her child, packed themselves into the car, and driven three hours to come see me. The reason was that Leslie was pregnant, which she had been told was too dangerous for her health, and she was terrified.
Her life up until two years ago had been pretty normal. When she had her son, she and her fiancé were thrilled. After her delivery, however, problems started to arise. She developed a blood clot in her lung, and then another one. Then it was found that she had blood clots up and down her pelvic blood vessels. After evaluation, she discovered that she had not only genetic mutations predisposing her to blood clots, but she had anomalies in her pelvic vasculature (the makeup of the blood vessels in her pelvic region) that also placed her at high risk of clotting. She was placed on life-long blood thinners and was told if she ever became pregnant again, it would be high-risk.
Looking at her young son, she and her partner decided that one child was all they would have, and they started using birth control, covered under state insurance. Shortly after this, her health care providers, scared by her clotting history, told her that they weren’t comfortable giving her any kind of contraception anymore.
They reminded her that she should avoid pregnancy, and said “just be careful.” Her fiancé considered a vasectomy, but because he had no insurance and a vasectomy without insurance can cost up to $1000, he couldn’t afford it.
She did her best to “just be careful,” between caring for her young son and working, but one year later, she found herself pregnant. After being told over and over that this was dangerous for her, she desperately tried to find someone to help her, but was turned away again and again, because she was too high-risk.
Eventually she found her way to us, three hours away. We were able to take care of her, and safely completed her abortion. We also placed an IUD (a form of long acting, reversible contraception), at her request to help her avoid future pregnancy.
Afterwards, she told us she felt so such relief, such a weight off her shoulders, to be able to know that she could return home, safe and healthy, to take care of her son and her family. She and her son packed themselves back in the car and then drove the three hours back home.
*Names were changed.