For this week’s Storytime, Claudia will ask her neighbor, Dr. Epstein, about her new client, Nadia. Dystopian vocabulary this week is DOALA: Defense of American Life Act. Dr. Epstein is a gynecologist, and by that, of course I mean “part-time abortionist,” which in this story means he’s breaking the law every day. See “fait accompli” tag for other excerpts in this novel.
Between filing paperwork, seeing my other clients, and lining up an efficiency for Nadia, I was late coming home from work, which meant I was late in coming for tea with the Epsteins. I texted them from work and asked them to wait another hour, but I wouldn’t cancel, not that night.
I loved them both like the grandparents I’d always wanted, and I always looked forward to hanging out with them. This time I especially needed to talk with Paul, who was technically a practicing gynecologist but refused to be called Doctor outside of work.
“Sorry, Mr. Ep, but I gotta talk shop with you,” I said after sitting down with a cup of Darjeeling at their coffee table.
“You two don’t work together,” Sarah nagged.
“Of course we don’t work together, but I need to get his professional opinion.”
“Ask away, Claudie darling,” Mr. Ep prompted.
“Right. So, I got a new client today, and obviously I can’t tell you too much about her, but she’s pregnant. If she told me she wanted to get rid of it…what are her options?”
“Is she sick?”
“No, not really.”
“Anything wrong with the fetus?”
“Twins, actually, but they seem to be doing okay.”
“How old’s your client?”
“Forget it,” said Mr. Ep. “Totally illegal.”
“Of course I know it’s illegal, that’s why I’m asking you,” I answered. “Otherwise, I’d just ask her when I can schedule her an appointment.”
“Are you asking my husband to fit this girl in after hours?” Mrs. Ep asked disapprovingly. Paul ran a regular practice part-time and spent his late afternoons flipping the bird at DOALA. Mrs. Ep didn’t object to what he did, she just worried that he might get caught.
“Depends on what her options are,” I replied.
“Did your client file a police report?” Paul asked.
He made the pinched face that meant not good. “Has she seen a doctor in a public hospital?”
Another not good. “How far along are these twins?”
“Around seventeen weeks.”
“I’ll bet she’s showing, huh?”
“I won’t do it, and I don’t know of any gyno who will,” he pronounced.
“That bad, is it?”
“You know as well as I do your client should have gotten it taken care of before she started showing, and she shouldn’t have carried that belly into a public hospital.”
“She was kind of…isolated from medical care until very recently,” I pointed out.
“I’m not saying it’s her fault,” said Mr. Ep, “just that it’s too late for her to terminate without getting found out. I might be persuaded to flush a set of twins in the second trimester if I knew I’d be dead by the end of the week, but you really gotta wonder about a doc who’d do it otherwise.”
“And, darling,” Sarah put in, “if my husband gets arrested over one of your clients, I will never speak to you again.”
“Perhaps I should suggest a trip to Canada?”
“You could suggest it, but not as a risk-free option. The problem is, her pregnancy’s on the public record, and if she comes back not pregnant, people are going to ask questions.”
“But she can’t be prosecuted here for what she does in another country,” I protested.
“Sure she can,” said Sarah. “A lot of states are charging women criminally for getting abortions in Canada and Mexico, and there’s no reason to think DC won’t start.”
“That can’t possibly be legal,” I said.
“It’s totally unconstitutional, but that doesn’t stop DOALA,” Sarah pointed out.
“Yeah, it’s true,” I admitted, “the law doesn’t seem to need to make sense when the country wants more babies. What about a mental health exemption?”
“Oh, dear,” Paul moaned. “Have you read the text of DOALA? Seriously, have you read it?”
“Well, not directly, no,” I confessed.
“I’ll tell you what,” he began. “The genius of the law is that it doesn’t allow for any loopholes to be stretched out. You and I both know why it doesn’t make an exception for rape. Tell me in your own words, Claudie, why no exception for rape?”
“Because women can lie about these things,” I explained, “and it’s impossible to set the burden of proof in a way that weeds out the liars while being fair to the victims.”
“Right, and mental illness is a similar problem for abortion law,” said Paul. “Sure, an unwanted pregnancy can make a woman crazy, but how crazy is crazy enough? How can you tell she’s not just being dramatic? It’s impossible to draw the line in a good place, so instead the law puts the line in the worst place possible. You know what happens if a doctor sees a pregnant patient’s at risk for suicide or other dangerous behavior?”
“I’m gonna love this, I know,” I muttered.
“Not only can’t she terminate it, but that doctor is required to have that woman institutionalized for the rest of the pregnancy. She can be sedated and confined to a padded room for months, if that’s what it takes to keep her from hurting the fetus. That’s how we ‘defend American life’ now.”
“I think I’d just go ahead and kill myself if I had that to look forward to,” I mused.
“Claudie, that’s not funny,” said Sarah.
“She’s not joking, honey,” said Paul. “Every gyno I know,” he said to me, “has had at least one patient who just up and suicided not long after a positive pregnancy test in the last five years. It’s only because your generation is really good at using birth control that it doesn’t happen more often.”
“Would I be required to have a woman committed if I thought she posed a danger to herself?”
“No, no, you’re not an MD, so it’s not your call,” he assured me. “Why, are you concerned about your new client?”
“No, it’s not that, I mean, I don’t see a suicide risk there. I just can’t believe the way this country forces rape victims to give birth. So, what, that’s it? She’ll just have to suck it up and grow the babies?”
“If she doesn’t wanna end up behind bars, then, yeah,” Paul concluded.
Sarah grabbed my hand. “Do your best to keep her on an even keel, darling. That’s all anyone can do for her now.”
Fait Accompli is a work in progress. The author’s completed novel, Charlinder’s Walk, is available in paperback and ebook.