I’ve been an abortion provider for about 10 years. Abortion work is many things for me but, at heart, it is a profound privilege and honor to serve the women we do. And I mean to include the young women who come to us as well as women in careers, women with young families, and countless other walks. All these women come, many crossing barriers of the most profound family and community opposition, in order to act on their belief that there is something better for themselves and their families. Something that lies beyond today’s daunting and probably painful procedure, today’s line of yelling protesters, and tomorrow’s social consequences.
As I listen to their stories, I often ask myself if I would have the courage to do and act as they do. I am never sure. I admire them and, so, the least I can do is provide a service as best as I can with the gentleness and professionalism they deserve.
It is also a privilege and honor to work side by side with the staffers at the FPA. As a doctor my job is relatively easy. I’m not holding the woman’s hand or wiping away her tears, or engaging her in the deep conversations that can arise throughout the day.
It is an unfortunate irony that abortion work has been cast to the fringes of medicine. Many of my colleagues, if they know at all what I do — and most don’t and don’t want to know — think that abortion work is for doctors who can’t do anything else. They would rather not know about me or our patients, preferring to imagine that none of this goes on either for me or them. This makes for what is, in many ways, the hardest part of abortion work — the isolation. It is hard to find people outside of immediate colleagues and family to share the stresses and difficulties of the work.
But I say it is an unfortunate irony because, in many ways, abortion work is absolutely what we were all taught in medical school. It is absolutely what most of us aspire to in our idealism — to use the skills we have to help those in need.
In my day job, I am a family physician in a small town here in Maine. Most of my days, I do what I can to stem the inexorable flow of chronic disease. Not to gainsay what I do, or the pleasure I get from it, it is nevertheless a fact that in general practice medicine clear victories are rare. That is not even what it comes to be about.
But in abortion work, clear victories happen every day as we give people back their lives. I can remember a young woman, a high school student. After her procedure, we offered to write her a note to excuse her from school that day — but she declined. She had a paper to present to her class and she was going to do it. And I am sure she did, in spite of our recommendation that she take the day off.
After she left, relieved that the procedure was behind her, aware of new strengths and determinations within herself, I thought about what might have been her future if abortion were not available. Almost certainly a life of poverty, a slim chance of even finishing high school, let alone the college career she was planning. What is that worth? Everything.
~ a Maine physician