During the 40 Days for Life anti-choice protest, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes for us here at the FPA to provide abortion care services.
I don’t mean the medical side of things. The FPA follows the standards of care established by the National Abortion Federation.
I’m talking about the extra factors that abortion care providers have to consider. The key elements that create a supportive environment for patients, medical providers and staff.
1.) We Provide a Judgment-Free Space — FPA abortion care staff do an excellent job of providing our patients with judgment-free care. They let each woman know about all of her options, they never pressure her to decide one way or another, and they support whatever decision she makes. They support her through the entire process. I saw this reflected many times in comments from our patients.
In their personal lives, FPA staff members often have to decide how to answer the question, “What do you do for work?” At a PTA meeting, we might say we work in women’s health. In another setting, we might be more forthcoming. We do this dance because we don’t know how we will be judged (or how our kids may be judged) for the work we do.
Part of providing abortion care services is helping all of our staff deal with these challenges. At the start of the 40 Days campaign, each staff person was given a copy of You Are a Good Woman, a handout from the Abortion Care Network that we give to patients. For both patients and staff, the handout is a powerful affirmation that the decisions we make regarding abortion care come from a place of goodness.
2.) We Are Transparent — The FPA is completely upfront about the work we do. The abortion care section of our website has a wealth of information for patients and health care providers.
The way we see it, truth-telling is the best antidote to the distortions and falsehoods that anti-choice extremists spread about us and our work.
3.) We Have Excellent Security — It’s a simple fact. Maine doctors would not provide abortion care services at the FPA is we did not provide for their safety. So the FPA must secure and allocate significant resources to set up and maintain effective security.
At our Augusta facility, the Harris Institute for Reproductive Health, the landscaping design, audio and video monitoring systems, bullet-proof windows, and other features make it one of the most secure buildings in the state.
So, here’s what I’ve learned. Excellent abortion care involves more than the provision of medical procedures. The way we do it, abortion care also involves creating a judgment-free, honest, and safe community for our patients, our medical providers and our staff.