I have worked for an abortion provider for the past 5 years, and I have never had an abortion. I see the true responsibility of parenthood and understand that women need abortions. Growing up in West Michigan, NO ONE discussed abortion. West Michigan is known for their conservative views. Our highways were littered with anti-abortion billboards and procedures were often discussed from the religious point of view. I did not know how to get one; I didn’t know what happened, and most of all I didn’t understand why it was so stigmatized.
In college, like many sheltered white girls from the suburbs, I found a group of women who were unapologetic, forward thinking and advocates against the shame, stigma and obstacles surrounding a woman’s right to choose. Post-college, I found my degree worthless without furthering my education and sought employment at a Metro-Detroit area abortion provider. As a liberal, recent college graduate/activist, I could not wait to work in something as “scandalous” as abortion care. I had only just found my voice and outside the clinics, I loved to watch friends, family and strangers cringe when I told them what I did. I loved shouting, “I WORK FOR AN ABORTION PROVIDER!” at the top of my lungs. My social media feed turned into my soapbox. I was reading more articles, sharing more knowledge, and fighting off anti-abortion trolls in a single bound. Within the clinics, I asked every patient, “So, how are you feeling about this decision and how did you come to it today?” and EVERY answer I heard was valid. Most women already had children they couldn’t care for; others had aspirations not suitable for motherhood at the time. Some experienced failed relationships and job loss while even more just weren’t ready to be mothers. The stories of these women inspired me, broke by heart and gave me a new perspective on the hardships and successes life had to offer. As providers, we save the lives of women coming in our doors everyday.
All this excitement came to a halt after about 6 months of direct care in the clinic. Without explanation, people I knew for years no longer reached out or returned my calls. Members of my family shied away from discussion about my work and eventually stop inquiring about any aspect of my life. I could not find a balance between the person I used to be and who I was becoming. I could no longer ignore the inaccuracies spread by anti-abortion organizations, propaganda and individuals. I knew the truth and I sought to share it without knowing how to do so effectively. Coinciding with issues in my personal life was the introduction of Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws in Michigan. Before these laws, I was able to build connections with my patients. I heard their stories, held their hand during their procedures, wiped their tears, and laughed with them. After these laws passed, I was forced to channel my energy into comprehending legislation instead of providing holistic patient care. For the first time, I saw how the decisions made in Lansing affected my daily life and presented further obstacles to the individuals in my care. I was shocked that after 40 years, access to abortion was still in jeopardy. These laws were dripping in deception; disguised as making abortion safer for women, but I know the truth. ABORTION IS ALREADY SAFE! These regulations made providers work harder and women jump higher. My clinic was shelling out money to meet arbitrary licensing requirements when the funds could have been used to help women afford procedures. Staff members were exhausted trying to integrate holistic patient care with wonky restrictions. Patients were no longer getting the emotional support my clinic was known for.
And I was sick of it.
So, I took action in my longer-term fight for justice. With education, I reclaimed my power. I earned my Master’s in Social Work, specializing in policy and community development. I interned with an organization dedicated to teaching communities and politicians the realities of abortion care. So, here I am again, still a post-graduate Master of Social Work with a calling to social justice. I created this storytelling campaign so that we can hear from the 1 in 3 women who will have an abortion in their lifetime in this country. Where are the stories of these women? Where are the people who love and support the choices of these women? Where are the providers who care for these women? All of these stories must be shared so that we can stop restrictive legislation and start respecting the bodily autonomy of our women. Women need abortions, and they will have them regardless if they are legal or not. What do our women deserve?