This weekend over coffee, a friend asked for my perspective as a provider about her friend's recent abortion experience. I was prepared for her to ask if pricing was fair (I don't know the market) or even if a second trimester abortion is safe (it is, for the love of god), but instead, she regaled me with a tale of a clinic visit so terrible that it made me question whether the woman was positive that she went to a legitimate clinic, and not a crisis pregnancy center.
The clinic wouldn't let her contact her driver for support, they described the fetal development to her, and then they refused to perform the abortion until an arbitrary date.* Granted, I heard the story third-hand, but that encapsulated account sounded like a nightmarish visit to an office that had no regard for choice nor for comfort nor empowerment. And yet, my gut reaction was to defend the monster of a clinic.
Providers are such unique allies in something that we don't even believe should be a fight. We weave compassion in with enforcing anti-choice laws we're bound by. It's medicine and social work all together, and then it's more than that. And so, giving the clinic the benefit of the doubt, I spouted off possible reasons the driver wasn't allowed to participate in the appointment (doctor and staff privacy), for the fetal growth talk (anti-choice legislation), and for the wait (yolk sac development). But for all I knew (and I acknowledged this), it could simply have been a bad seed clinic. They exist. And they make me want to shout at them for perpetuating every abortion stereotype we fight daily, for being nothing that abortioneers believe in. Providing an abortion is far from the only thing a clinic does.
And when I defended that clinic, I knew that I was diminishing the patient's experience. I am a patient advocate for the abortion experience, and that doesn't stop at patients who come to my clinic. Maybe I was 100% correct in my devil's advocate assumptions, but if those facts were never made clear to the patient, if she left feeling vulnerable and untrusted, the clinic wasn't doing its job. It's incredibly difficult for me to say that because it's not what I want to believe, but the next patient at that facility could be my best friend or my sister or my cousin's girlfriend.
It was the first time I had been faced with having to "choose sides" like that after three years of abortion work. And the friend was actually an acquaintance I was still getting to know, so it was the first time I acknowledged to a relative stranger (and maybe to myself) that abortion providers aren't always good guys. In the end, she nodded in sincere understanding at my defensive assumptions, and she took my email address to offer to her friend if she needed support or information. And here I am, still navigating support and information, walking the line as an advocate for my profession and for our patients.
*Some details have been changed in order to protect privacy.
Desemarazarme's comments policy, adapted from Daughter of Wands: Desembarazarme will not be publishing negative comments, manipulative questions or generally scary shit, pro- or anti-choice.