This piece was written by Liz Hays. Liz has been a member of MFP’s Board of Directors for almost 20 years; she first came to Maine Family Planning as a patient in 1983.
When I pass the anti-abortion picketers outside Maine Family Planning, it makes me very angry.
I have been a family planning counselor helping women to go through the decision process to have an abortion. I have supported close friends through the abortion procedure. I have served on the board of Maine Family Planning, helping to ensure that abortion remains a viable option in Maine.
I know the mixed emotional feelings that can accompany an unexpected pregnancy, and how very difficult it can be to make the decision to have an abortion. I also know the relief and peace of mind a woman feels when she knows she can go to a safe, compassionate, high quality medical facility once the decision is made.
A patient has every right to be at the clinic seeking a legal, medical procedure without being subjected to harassment from people who disagree with her decision. Anti-abortion protesters are entitled to their personal feelings and opinions on abortion, but are not entitled to make another human being feel guilty and traumatized for making the choice that is best for her and her family.
All of us who believe that abortion must remain a safe and legal option need to be shaken out of complacency. As we have seen in other states, restrictive laws, insurmountable clinic requirements, and defunding efforts can close reproductive health centers. When this happens, what should be a constitutionally protected right to access abortion care is no longer an option. I can only imagine the feeling of disbelief, exasperation and frustration of a woman and her family in these states. They have used their best judgment concerning their future by making a uniquely personal and difficult decision to have an abortion, only to be told the nearest clinic is hundreds of miles away, that an abortion requires a 24 hour waiting period after an unnecessary ultrasound, or that they cannot have an abortion without a parent’s consent.
We need to make sure our federal and state legislators know that we will not tolerate further legislative restrictions or efforts to defund reproductive health care so that the ability to have an abortion remains a real choice. If financially capable, we need to donate to international, national and state organizations that protect access to safe, legal abortions.
It makes me angry, but I also feel a spirit of camaraderie and empowerment when I work with the Maine Family Planning staff and board, when I go to the state house for Maine Women’s Day, or attend a pro-choice rally in Portland. I’m reminded that there are many people out there that are united in support of this often taboo, controversial issue. When a patient drives by those picketers with their gory posters, demonizing slogans and intruding stares, I want her to know that she is not alone and that there are many who stand beside her, supporting her decision.