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The Daily Tar HeelWednesday, September 13, 19895
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By MYRNA MILLER
Assistant Features Editor
The doctor walks into the room. He
explains what he is about to do in a low,
professional tone. When he is sure the
patient is comfortable with the proce
dure, he begins.
First, he inserts a plastic tube into her
cervix and uterus. Suction is applied,
and within five to 10 minutes the uter
ine contents are removed.
The abortion is complete.
It only takes a few minutes to have an
abortion a fact many people don't
know about the process.
In July, the Supreme Court legalized
increased state restrictions on abortion,
and many Americans have found them
selves in the middle of something they
feel strongly about but don't completely
understand. What happens inside an
abortion clinic is a mystery to many of
those who participate in the emotional
pro-life or pro-choice rallies.
"It really doesn't look much differ
ent from a normal doctor's office," said
Brian Brenner, a representative of one
local abortion facility.
. Although some women choose clin-
One of every three
abortion will have
according to state
girls who has an
ics for pregnancy counseling, many
others go to a private gynecologist or
hospital. But no matter what facility
she chooses, the process is basically the
Brenner, marketing director for the
Triangle Women's Health Center, de
scribed what a woman who is consider
ing an abortion goes through there.
When a woman' with an unwanted
pregnancy goes to the office, she is first
given a free pregnancy test and talks
with the center's personnel about her
situation. Counselors discuss the op
tions of keeping the child, giving the
child up for adoption or aborting the
"A lot of these girls are usually scared
and have to do a lot of soul-searching,"
"How would you vote on a
bill to restrict abortion in
Brenner said. "We make sure they know
they have time to think things out and
make a decision."
However, the counselor stresses that
the longer someone waits to have an
abortion, the more expensive and risky
it may become.
The center's fee for aborting a fetus
under 12 weeks old is $245, compared
to $575 for someone 15 to 16 weeks
along in her pregnancy. Later, when the
fetus is between 18 and 20 weeks old,
the price increases to $1,000 plus hos
pital costs because the procedure is
much more difficult and cannot be
performed at the center, Brenner said.
If a patient decides to have an abor
tion after the counseling session, she
then makes an appointment. The center
ensures complete confidentiality. "We
perform abortions on girls 13 years old
and up without anybody else's con
sent," Brenner said.
However, most people who have an
abortion in Chapel Hill aren't that
young. Less than 1 percent of the 1987
abortions in Chapel Hill were performed
on women younger than 14.
Patients between 20 and 24 years old
made up the largest proportion of abor
tion patients 47 percent accord
ing to data compiled by the State Center
for Health Statistics, N.C. Division of
Health Services. Women between the
ages of 15 and 19 made up the next
largest group, totaling 29 percent.
Once a patient signs a consent form
and comes into the clinic on the day of
her abortion, she again goes through a
counseling session. This time counsel
ors tell her in detail about birth control
methods and the abortion process it
self. "We try to get her to commit to some
form of birth control before she leaves
our office," Brenner said. "If some-
"Would you consider having an abortion
or letting your girlfriend have an abortion?"
Where we found
The DTH Abortion
Survey was conducted on
Sept, 6 and 7, 1989.
Surveys were given out in
the Pit. There were 184
response sheets filled out.
Forty-three percent of
those surveyed were men
and 57 percent were
women. The survey was
organized by the arts and
features desk of the DTH
and cannot be considered
body doesn't practically force her to
make the decision, she will probably
end up here again."
One of every three girls who has an
abortion will have another one, accord
ing to state health statistics for 1987.
Next, the patient changes clothes in
a private room and waits for the doctor.
He leads her into the operating room
and talks about the procedure with her.
"It helps relieve some of the anxiety
they are feeling if they know what is
going to happen," Brenner said.
The room in which the abortion takes
place looks like the examining room in
any gynecologist's office. The only
difference is the presence of a curtain
covered machine in one corner.
This one piece of machinery which
makes a rumbling, humming noise when
turned on is the heart of dilation and
evacuation (D&E), one type of abor
tion. The machine looks harmless enough,
topped with bottles that have rubber
tubes sticking out of them.
The process is fairly simple. The
plastic tube is placed through the va
gina and into the uterus. Suction re
moves the contents. Sometimes the
physician needs to enlarge the cervical
opening by inserting small metal dila
tors. Although the center performs only
the D&E technique, other clinics and
hospitals may use induced labor when
necessary. Vern Katz, a staff physician
at North Carolina Memorial Hospital,
discussed the hospital's methods.
"The type of abortion depends on the
gestational age and the reason for hav
ing the abortion," he said. "Most people
don't use the saline solution to induce
labor anymore, and we use pros
toglandin to induce contractions."
During the abortion, most patients
remain conscious with only a local
anesthesia administered. Usually, the
center gives medicine only to induce
sleep if the patient is more than 16
weeks along in her pregnancy.
Afterward, the patient sits in a recov
ery room for an hour of observation. At
this time, nurses give her blood tests
and sample birth control packs.
"Many women go right back to
work," Brenner said. Normally, the
patient experiences a blood flow as in
Two weeks later, the patient returns
to the center for a follow-up exam that
includes a PAP smear and another talk
about using birth control in the future.
The center's psychotherapist deals with
any emotional problems that patients
may have at this time.
"Counseling is extremely impor
tant," Katz said. Many women suffer
short-term emotional effects after an
abortion, even if they don't leave a
long-term emotional scar, he said.
"Most of them have thought about it
a lot, and they are very sad and feel a
sense of loss," he said. "It is not some
thing to be taken lightly."
Katz said many of the abortions
performed at the hospital are on fetuses
with genetic defects.
During 1987, the licensed facilities
of North Carolina reported 35,544
abortions to the State Center for Health
Statistics, an increase of 30 percent
over the number reported in 1978.
The total number of abortions in
Chapel Hill was 259.
A life-saving decision for
student with bright future
By MYRNA MILLER
Assistant Features Editor
"This just can't be happening to me."
Cynthia Shang was 19, an A student at Duke University
and she was pregnant.
She made a choice that she now says changed her life
she decided to have an abortion.
That was five years ago. Shang, 24, now is happily
married to the man whose child she decided not to have
five years ago.
She grew up in a lower-class family in New Jersey with
four brothers and sisters. Her parents didn't have the
money to support their family and decided they weren't
going to have any more children.
"My mother got kicked out of the Catholic Church be
cause she decided to use an IUD because she couldn't
handle any more children," Shang said.
In high school, Shang was competitive in her studies
and activities. As a member of the National Honor
Society, the math club and the track team, she was one of
those students who had everything going for her.
However, the one thing Shang wasn't involved in was
the social scene. "I didn't date at all in high school. I even
begged somebody to go to the prom with me. I was a
virgin until I was 19, and I was proud of it."
' During her junior year of college, she met Warren
Shang, then a sophomore at Duke. "Warren had some
thing I was missing, and he gave me back my confi
dence," she said.
When Cynthia and Warren became sexually involved,
they didn't take any chances. "We were diligent about
making sure we were protected," she said. "I always had
my diaphragm, or he used a condom."
It was a scary day for her when she began experiencing
the symptoms of pregnancy. "I thought, 'No, I've done
everything right. It's not possible. "
After two days of waiting, she rushed to a clinic. The
doctor confirmed her suspicions she was six weeks
"I went to a counselor, and she talked to me about
giving the child up for adoption or keeping it. She never
mentioned abortion until I asked her," she said.
Cynthia made a tentative appointment for an abortion
and went back home in a daze. "I was well on my way to
getting a computer science degree. I didn't want my
. parents to have any more financial burden, and I didn't
. want to force Warren to get married. I was just not ready
. to have a child," she said. "Although some people say
they could never live with aborting their child, I knew I
couldn't live with having a child."
Giving the child up for adoption seemed even worse,
she said. "I would be thinking every day that my child
was out there somewhere. He could be being abused or
At 2:30 a.m., a sobbing Cynthia called her father and
; told him, "Dad, oh God, I'm pregnant."
When she asked him how he could laugh, he told her it
; ! was no big deal. "He said, 'It's not the end of the world,
: : Cynthia. You can do what you feel is right.' Suddenly, I
felt a whole lot better."
Warren also told Cynthia he would support her in what
ever decision she made.
When she went for her abortion, she and five other girls
talked with a counselor for an hour about why they
decided to have an abortion. "They made us talk about
our decision," she said. "Then they left us in the room for
another hour just to think about things and told us that
everyone and anyone was free to leave."
The abortion procedure itself was simple, Cynthia said.
"It only took about 15 minutes, and the only problem I
had was a few cramps."
Afterward, she said: "I felt safe and I realized how
many lives I was saving. I was saving my life, my
boyfriend's life and my parents' lives as they knew it."
Two years later, on May 29, 1988, Cynthia married
Warren Chang. She is happy with her marriage but says
she is still not ready for children.
"I'm not anti-family; I'm just not ready for a family
yet," she said. "We will have children, but only when we
are ready to and want to."
Shang said she has never regretted her decision to have
the abortion. "I'm a thinker, not just a breeder," she said.
"I don't make anyone have an abortion. They can't make
me have a baby."
By JESSICA YATES
Assistant Arts Editor
It's a five to ten minute procedure, usually uncompli
cated, and besides, it's just "pregnancy tissue."
That's what Katharine Berkowitz was told when she
entered an abortion clinic in Forsyth County when she
was 19. Ten years later, she is still angry and frustrated
that no one told her the truth about deliberate pregnancy
"When I had it done, I wasn't really happy about it, but
I went in anyway," she said. "At the time, I felt like I
didn't have any other alternative."
Berkowitz said the abortion was painful, but as she was
told, it was a fairly quick and easy procedure. The real
pain, according to Berkowitz, comes during the months
and even years after the abortion.
"I experienced a lot of depression in the years after
ward, and I wasn't aware of where it was coming from,"
Later, Berkowitz married and became pregnant. "When
I was 24 weeks pregnant, I went into premature labor,"
she said. The baby weighing 1 pound, 9 ounces
"A lot of people out there
are hurting, no matter what
side they're on."
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Cynthia Shang married the father of her aborted child but says she still Is not ready for a family
didn't survive. The state of North Carolina issued him a
birth certificate, though, recognizing the child as a person.
"My best friend had just had an abortion in the hospital
at 24 weeks, and yet they did not consider her fetus a
person," Berkowitz said. "I found that really contradic
tory, and I couldn't deal with it."
She later told the doctor who had performed her
abortion about the problems she had with her pregnancy.
According to Berkowitz, he said the abortion "might have
had something to do with it."
Raleigh attorney Susan Renfer said she became
involved with the pro-life side of the abortion issue when
she started working with women like Berkowitz who had
experienced physical andor emotional problems follow
"It's called post-abortion syndrome, a specific type of
post-traumatic stress disorder," said Renfer, who repre
sented the state's Department of Human Resource in
Whittington v. Flaherty, a court case concerning the
state's abortion fund.
The American Psychiatric Association has recognized
the validity of abortion-related trauma, Renfer said.
"A woman frequently suppresses the pain, only to have
it come up in a later date," she said. The syndrome is
similar in many respects to the stress disorder often
associated with Vietnam veterans.
Problems can be emotional as well as physical. "Severe
infections are the most common complication, but many
women also experience punctured or torn uteruses, espe
cially teenagers whose bodies haven't fully developed,"
she said. Authorities have linked abortion to sterility, she
Renfer has lobbied for the Right to Life group in the
General Asssembly and now works in Chicago for another
pro-life group, Americans United for Life. She will work
as an attorney there for four months and then return to
Raleigh to work in the chapter here.
Berkowitz is also involved in helping people under
stand what the immediate and delayed effects of abortion
are. She works in local support groups, such as Open
Arms, which try to help women come to terms with their
"I don't condemn people who decide to have abortions
because I had one myself, but for me it was the wrong
decision," she said.
Berkowitz believes that accurate information about the
abortion procedure and its prolonged effects would have
relieved some of the pain she experienced. "My regret
may have at least been lessened if I had known more
about abortion, especially about the grief I would feel and
about the possible physical complications I discovered
could occur when I tried to have children," she said.
Although the legality and funding of abortion is often
in the forefront of politics, Berkowitz insists the emotional
issue for women is equally important.
"A lot of people out there are hurting, no matter what
side they're on," she said. "It's real lives we're talking