I’m twenty-one, touring a Chicago hospital in a dirty-snow winter, trailing a student who raves about the school, its illustrious doctors. Power suits for women are the fashion for those who hope to be taken seriously, so I’m wearing a black one—big shoulder pads, pink bowtie—and Ferragamo shoes that kill me. We scurry down a hallway, around moaning patients on gurneys, and he delivers me to the half-open door of an office. The doctor behind the desk gestures with a flip of his wrist for me to sit, shuffles papers to find my file. From his questions I can tell he has not read it. He asks me what I think of Roe v. Wade, now three years out from the decision to legalize abortions, a forbidden interview topic. Flustered, I give him my honest answer, that I believe in a woman’s right to make choices about her own body. I am thinking how last year, a month late and scared, I took emergency hot baths, my mother imploring me to have the baby. She would raise it, she said, while I attended classes, took exams, and stayed overnight in the hospital. But I did not want to cede my baby to my mother, as she imagined herself young despite age and illness, while I fulfilled her dream of my becoming a doctor. She asked for too much. But my delayed period was from stress—MCATs, applications with long essays, final exams in physics, and for the first time, I gave thanks for it. Feet on the desk now, steeple-fingered, my interviewer smirks, Tell me, if a patient is pregnant, and a month before her due date she says she wants an abortion to look good in a bathing suit, would you give it to her? Not waiting for an answer, he waves me away.
Abby Caplin is the author of A Doctor Only Pretends: poems about illness, death, and in-between (2022). Her poems have appeared in AGNI, Catamaran, The MacGuffin, Midwest Quarterly, Moon City Review, Pennsylvania English, Ponder Review, Salt Hill, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Southampton Review, Tikkun, and elsewhere. Among her awards, she has been a finalist for the Rash Award in Poetry and the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award, a semi-finalist for the Willow Run Poetry Book Award, and a nominee for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. Abby is a physician in San Francisco, California.