This post is part of our week-long series on the personal impact of the current state of reproductive health, rights, and justice.
This contribution is from a board certified physician, in full time practice in the US Midwest providing preventive care, obstetrics and abortions. She will be providing abortion services at the clinic being re-opened in Wichita, Kansas. She shares her story with us anonymously, for her safety.
I didn’t go to medical school to be an abortion provider.
I’ve always identified as a feminist. I’ve always been pro-choice. But an abortion provider? That seemed like a hard row to hoe. As far as I knew, either you were an abortion provider, full-time, or else you were a non-abortion provider and you did all the other things you could do in the field of medicine. I couldn’t see myself doing all abortions, all the time. It seemed like thankless work, and I was grateful that other people stepped up to do it, but I didn’t think it would be me.
Then I got involved with Medical Students for Choice, an organization founded to address the shortage of abortion providers — a shortage whose existence came as a complete surprise to me. I learned that America’s abortion providers are graying, that physicians are stopping abortion provision and are not being replaced. “If not you,” they asked me, “then who?” I had no answer.
Medical Students for Choice introduced me to a concept revolutionary in its simplicity: provide abortions for your own patients. Like most Americans, I had viewed abortion as something that happened in abortion clinics, a medical pariah divorced from mainstream healthcare. I came to realize this was unnecessary: a woman could see her own personal doctor for illness, for contraception, for abortion.
I decided that I would learn to provide abortions. I would provide them, at least, for my own patients. In the back of my mind, though, with the tenuous legal status of Roe v Wade, I anticipated a future in which those skills might be crucial.
And then Wichita came knocking, and I could not in good conscience say no.
I’ll be honest: I’m terrified. I don’t want my life to end in pain and violence at the point of a gun. I’m all too aware that it only takes one determined terrorist. I’m all too aware that the same antichoice zealots who publicly disavow violence would be only too happy to give my detailed daily itinerary to a homicidal extremist. It would be so easy not to do this. The safest thing, and maybe the smartest.
Why, then? Why do this work? One answer is, because I love it. It’s not tasteful, these days, to admit taking joy in abortion. We’re supposed to regard it as a necessary evil at best, a minor tragedy. But there’s nothing I love more than being able to take the hand of a desperate woman and say to her, yes, I can help you. There’s nothing more rewarding to me than the palpable relief and thankfulness when I tell a woman that she’s no longer pregnant. With a five minute office procedure, I can help someone take back her life. I am incredibly excited and blessed to be able to do this work for women who would otherwise have no choice.
And that’s the other answer. If I don’t do this work, who will? The answer is: no one. I have the skills. Wichita has the need. I feel morally obligated to do what I am able and willing to do.
Each woman’s abortion story is deeply hers and no one else’s. Each abortion I perform is a unique encounter with a unique woman, a story she and I share that may never leave the walls of the examination room. At the same time, there’s no question that this is a war. It’s a war on women’s bodies, women’s personal integrity, women’s personhood. It’s a war that needs soldiers on the front lines, and I feel a moral imperative to step up.
[Editor’s Note: more people than just cis women need and want access to affordable reproductive health care, including abortion.]
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