Louisville Magazine

MAR 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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3.14 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 5 3 sets of pills — one set swallowed at the ofce, the other at home two days later — that, Ahola says, "basically cause a very early miscarriage." After eight weeks and up to 22 weeks, the sur- gical procedure starts at $700 and goes up from there, depending on how far along the woman is in her pregnancy. Te pill patients and surgical patients split up to watch a 20-min- ute video, a way for E.M.W. to deal with the volume. Dona Wells, the director who preceded Ahola, explains the surgery on the video. "All abortions in the frst two trimesters are safer than carrying the pregnancy to the end," it says on the screen. Te latter group's video includes pictures of the metal instruments used to scrape the uterine lining and of a plastic suction tube. "I've heard them yell on the sidewalk that the suction is 40 times stronger than a vacuum cleaner," Ahola says. "If that was true, your brain would get sucked out." An elevator leads to the basement, which has faux-wood foors and walls painted in pastel blues, greens and peach, with waist-high wallpaper borders in seashell themes. "What the protestors call 'the dungeon,'" Ahola says. "I want people to understand we're not a crazy place where we drag people in by the ankle just so we can make a buck." Two rows of metal lockers, 22 total, stand near doorless dressing rooms like you'd see at a department store, with curtains for privacy while changing into a hospital gown. Six gurneys line a wall in the room next to the OR. Among the clinic's employees are three nurses, a nurse anesthetist, a surgical technician. Te clients enter the OR one at a time. Te procedure takes less than fve minutes, followed by an hour of recovery in a maroon leather recliner in the basement. Because of the general anesthesia, the surgical patients cannot drive themselves home. "Tose graphic signs they bring to the sidewalk? No surgery is pretty," Ahola says. "If you get your leg amputated — if you have any surgery — you're not going to want to see it. "Yes, at 20 weeks some have been born. And at six weeks a fetus has a heartbeat. But a heart- beat isn't the only thing that makes us human. It's the beginning of something, and if things go good it's going to become something. Until then, the heart is just a pump," she says. "A baby is something you can hold in your arms. It can breathe on its own. It can look at you. God put his breath into Adam, and that's what gave him life. Fetuses don't have lungs. I like to think the soul isn't there yet, that it comes when we take that frst breath." Anna Collins, 29, is a massage therapist who lives in Germantown. "You can use my full name," she says. "I'm not ashamed at all." She had her frst abortion a week after she and her boyfriend had broken up. She was 20. "I had no stability and was really poor at the time," she says. Two years later she was pregnant again. "I was actively trying not to get pregnant," she says. She had the frst one in Lexington, the second in Louisville, where she had worn an orange vest before. Collins doesn't recall the exact date of either procedure. After watching the 20-minute video in Louisville, she does remember the television being tuned to Court TV. She was a little lightheaded in the recovery room in Louisville. "It's like donating blood," she says. "Why are we having more kids when we aren't even taking care of the ones who are already here? I see my friends with kids strug- gling to get by. I look back and I'm like, 'I'm so happy I don't have two kids,'" she says. "I have two dogs and two cats that are plenty of work." I n 2008, Ahola wrote to then-Mayor Jerry Abramson, requesting a bufer zone around the clinic that would require picketers to re- main a certain distance from E.M.W.'s doors. In his response to Ahola, Abramson wrote that he had forwarded a copy of her letter to the police chief. "As you noted in your correspondence, individuals participating in this type of protest have a constitutional right...," Abramson wrote. Ahola has a spacious ofce on the main foor, blinds shut on the window facing Market. A computer monitor displays six blocks of security-camera footage. Tere are pictures of her eight cats, three of which she found behind the clinic. A small picture of Jesus stands on the sill. "I want people to know we're not against this man. Te thing that gets to me the most is when the protestors tell me I'm worshipping Sa- tan," she says. When Ahola was promoted from counselor to director in 2006, she asked one of the doctors to pray with her. "I just asked God to watch over us," she says. "It's almost like this calm, nice haven in here from all the chaos outside." She says the staf recently threw a baby shower for one of the employees. Ahola spends most of her time in the smaller of her two ofces, where she meets with clients. She makes sure nobody is pressuring the woman to have an abortion, asks why the client wants to terminate the pregnancy. "Many times they're in the wrong relationship. Or fnances, that's a big one. Health reasons. Tey might be in school, or planning to go to school. Some just never wanted to have kids." What about adoption? "Some people just don't give their children away," she says. Her desk is tidy, and she prefers lamplight to the fuorescents. A painted gourd from Ecuador contains a collection of four-leaf clovers Ahola has picked from a small patch of grass near the parking lot behind E.M.W. "Some people don't look at them as anything more than a weed. But to fnd them here? I think of them as a good thing," she says. She parks near the spot where she fnds them, in the lot encircled by a barbed- wire-topped chain-link fence. She and her co-workers enter the clinic in the back, through a heavy and windowless door. Ahola was born in Finland, the second oldest of four sisters, and she emigrated to South Flor- ida with her family when she was in her early 20s. She was a mother by 27. "My son's father asked if I'd consider abortion," she says. "I said, 'Don't ask me again.'" She moved to Louisville because some friends lived here, and she was soon working at Home of the Innocents, a refuge for neglected children. "I have seen the other side, children who come into this world to people who, for whatever reason, do not take care of them," Ahola says. "Te most serious job you have in your life is to be in charge of another life. If you aren't ready for that, then don't have them." When she interviewed to become a counselor at E.M.W., she didn't even know the clinic did abortions. "Very few people who work here are here to work at an abor- tion clinic. Tey looked to work in healthcare. And that's just what we happen to do here. We don't do dialysis. We don't do cosmetic surgery. We do abortions," she says. "You have to be comfortable with what we do to work here. If you're not, this is not the place for you." At par- ties, Ahola will tell strangers she's the director of a medical ofce. If they press her, gynecology. "Not because I'm ashamed of it, by any stretch. I just don't want them to have to deal with it," she says. Neither of the clinic's two doctors would talk for this story. "One of them, she has two children and doesn't want anything to happen to them," Ahola says. One of the founders, Dr. Samuel G. Eubanks Jr., died on Dec. 11, 2013, at age 72. He was born in Memphis, Tenn., the oldest of 10 children. He and his wife Hazel had two kids, a son and a daughter. He played the trumpet, loved tennis and read mystery novels. During a Dec. 17 service celebrating Eubanks' life, at St. Stephen Church on South 15th Street, several of his friends spoke about the many babies he delivered as an OB/GYN. His colleague Ernest Marshall, the "M" in E.M.W., stood on the stage and wept because his friend was gone. K entucky had eight abortion providers in 1996, according to the book Standing Up for Reproductive Rights: Te Struggle for Legal Abortion in Kentucky. Now, E.M.W. operates the only two in the state. Its Lexington ofce is open Tursdays and Fridays and does abortions on pregnancies up to 12 weeks along. Te state doesn't break the total down by clinic, but the Louisville location did the majority of the 3,810 abortions in Kentucky in 2012, compared with 4,272 in 2008. Te majority of those clients were from Kentucky. In 2012, 963 women had abortions while six weeks pregnant, 803 at seven weeks, 588 at eight weeks, and so on, with 42 at about 21 weeks. Te number of abortions is in inverse relationship with the number of weeks pregnant. According to Standing Up, which was com- missioned by the ACLU of Kentucky, the frst clinic in the state opened in Covington, in Northern Kentucky, in the spring of 1973, after the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that January. By September, Louisville's frst clinic, called RELSCO, was in business. CONTINUED ON PAGE 118 42-53 Abort BUS.indd 53 2/20/14 4:51 PM

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