Dr. Connie Mitchell is a nationally recognized expert on the health care of victims of violence and abuse. She serves on the AMA National Advisory Council on Violence and Abuse and is a member of the Board of Directors of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.
I grew up as one of four daughters in a middle-class family. As sisters, we shared everything: bedroom, clothes, cars and double dates. It was a loving and lively home and one, I thought, of few secrets. But recently, after one of my sisters was killed in a tragic accident, another sister told me of the secret the two of them had kept for many years. At age 16, my deceased sister was pregnant and wanted to terminate the pregnancy. She sought the counsel and support of the sister now disclosing the story and got the reproductive health care she needed.
Later, I asked my mother about her reaction to the story, as I too was raising teenagers and would appreciate her perspective. My mother began to cry, but she quickly let me know that these were not tears about the abortion. Her tears flowed because the story made her feel so inadequate. She said, "I wish that I could ask her what I might have said or done differently so that she would know, really know, that I understood life provides challenges, that I loved her no matter what, and that I respected her as a young woman."