The Silent Observer Among the Sisterhood

by Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 12, 2017

Most of yesterday – from 8:30am to 7pm, I was the silent observer at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City, the one standing in the corner silently watching. I tried to blend as inconspicuously as I could in patient consultation and surgical operating rooms as Dr. Colleen McNicholas and staff went about their routine.

Dr. McNicholas entering records between patients.

After a mandatory counseling session, patients progressed to an initial consultation with Dr. Colleen after choosing either a medical or surgical procedure.

Medical abortions are a 2 day process with the 1st dose of mifepristone right then and a 2nd dose of misoprostol taken safely 24-48 hours later at home. Medical abortions are best effective up to 10 weeks of gestational age. If a woman chooses a surgical procedure before 17 weeks she can opt for same day surgery. If she is beyond 17 weeks, she needs to return the following day after a cervix expanding treatment.

Oklahoma state law bans abortions at 22 weeks or later so the clock is ticking for both the patient and provider.

Each physician consultation differs, depending on the woman’s age, her choice of procedure, medical history and circumstance. Many women had traveled several hours with friends, partners or mothers as their support – a few came alone. Dr. Colleen made them feel at ease before doing an ultrasound (at 6 weeks or under a vaginal ultrasound is usually necessary to be able to see the pregnancy). She asked each if they would like to see the ultrasound or have a photo and many said yes. She asked when there were tears, if they were okay to proceed, always making sure they were comfortable with their decision.

I was struck by the sense of calm in the clinic along with the camaraderie and instant warm compassion by the all female staff. Every patient was treated with the exact same kindness and the exact same tenderness.

The hardest part for me was stifling the urge to be a caretaker too. I wanted to hold their hands during surgery and give a compassionate hug afterwards but that was not my role.

We were all sisters in the clinic, with an immediate understanding of each other. Any of us could be wearing any of our shoes. A sisterhood with an instant bond of strength and hope of the future.

State Rep. Stacey Newman