Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dr. Eugene Glick lives on

Dr. Eugene Glick passed away on Sunday. Perhaps you've read the book the size of a collection of poetry called Surgical Abortion or watched him speak about about providing illegal abortion in Voices for Choice (see embedment). You may have cried out loud (col) in solidarity when you heard him say: I felt good about the fact that I could help somebody when I knew they were really hurting. I knew it was against the law, but I also knew the law was wrong. I really felt that this was crazy. That this was a law that was bound to be changed.

I still remember the conundrum that fascinated me first when I entered Abortionland--the graying of abortion providers.
And by fascinated, I do mean deeply and existentially fearful of our future. The only thing that gives us this choice? --A tight group of compassionate, bohemian, warrior doctors who witnessed women rot to death due to septic shock...

Dear diary: The graying doctors are dying.

Certainly, not every passionate provider is *gray* and reaching an age where death may be inevitable. I have had the good luck of regularly meeting with expert doctors all over the country. (Note: vagueness of the who, what, when, where, and why that may draw lines of solidarity between us have been omitted due to stalkerish, terrorist activity.) In fact, my docs are young spry things capturing the world of truth, integrity, and wellness like rock stars and serving it to every deserving woman on gleaming, silver platters.

You come in for an abortion at the tryingest time in your life. You're cared for, and you leave precisely satisfied at the very least. Abortioneers do that for you.

Dr. Glick was an Abortioneer.

You may understand: Once you’ve bounced around in Abortionland for a while, you do find faith and hope tucked away in cargo pant pockets. You meet the second generation, post-Roe v Wade, genius providers and realize they don’t necessarily cover every county in the country, but you also meet researchers and entrepreneurs, artists, foundation officers, educators, and politicians who WANT and WILL find reproductive health care for every woman in this world. They have tailored their lives to fight peacefully and methodically for abortion so that you don’t have to if you can’t or don’t want to.

You may be fairly new to Abortionland—a freshman or sophomore, a student in training, still catching your bearings, and finding your niche. You may notice that a good number of young providers and medical students for choice are women who have had, do, or may have abortions, miscarriages, and babies. You’ve noticed that lines of gender, race, and sexuality blur in the reproductive justice movement, and you feel more comfortable as a living, breathing human-being than you’ve ever felt before. Sometimes you are sad and scared due to the violence and harassment we endure. You mourn the first degree murder
of one of our wise leaders, Dr. George Tiller, and you whisper gratitude into the air in the likely event that Dr. Glick may still hear you.

You have a wild and lovely imagination, and you envision a world where your truth is not absurd. Every so often, you put the oxy-moronic, current stats behind you because you imagine the day when people know that the voices of choice are sitting beside them, quickening inside them.


  1. One of the things I learned during my rotation "inside" (med school) is: the "shortage" of abortion docs, and the "greying" problem, are myths.

    In fact there are just enough abortion-docs to meet the demand for their services, neither more nor fewer. The demand has been dropping as the baby-boomers have aged out of the unwanted-pregnancy years, and the number of providers has dropped accordingly.

    Regarding the 83%-of-counties-have-no-provider thing, if every county had a free-standing abortion-doc, most of them would be standing idle most of the time. Not enough patients to keep 'em all busy!

    The need for abortion docs will drop further as more and more states start allowing undlerling-professionals--certified physicians' assistants and so on--to do abortions, as is currently done in Vermont and a few other states.

    Have you ever heard of a woman in USA being forced to carry an unwelcome pregnancy to term because she couldn't find anyone to do her abortion? Doesn't happen in USA. But if there were a shortage, it WOULD be happening.

    Cheer up and focus on your studies.

    Oh, and check out my blog, which takes a NEW approach to dealing with anti-abortion terror. An approach which so far NO ONE has tried.....

  2. This is a wonderful eulogy to the man, letter of gratitude to his generation, promise to continue doing our part in carrying the banner alongside them, and danceable prose-poem... thank you.

  3. Too bad that the right wing crazies might actually eliminate abortion by harassing practioneers out of business. Roe might be intact, but on paper only. My wife and I were thinking thank goodness we have the means to go somewhere (Canada, England, etc) to have the procedure done if it got down to that.

  4. Operation Counterstrike: Thank you for your readership. @"Have you ever heard of a woman in USA being forced to carry an unwelcome pregnancy to term because she couldn't find anyone to do her abortion?" The short answer: Every day. The long answer: 1) see Hyde, 2) Unfortunately, med schools differ in their approaches to abortion and reproductive health care education.

    IronDog: Well said--thank you for your awareness :(

  5. to Operation Counterstrike:
    1) NPs and PAs can be very capable providers of abortion, so it would be awesome for laws to stop restricting this one area of their scope of practice. I don't see it happening much right now -- most states are trying to make it harder, not easier, for APCs to provider abortion -- but if it happens before the retirement of existing providers then sure, I wouldn't be so worried about the graying of the docs per se.
    2) Yes it seems silly to have "abortion providers standing idle" with one in each county, but only having them in urban centers is pretty terrifying for the (not-most-but-still-many) women living in the middle of nowhere. Ideally those areas would have clinicians who could provide abortions as well as other medical services. And for what it's worth, when I worked as a case manager for women seeking abortions in some pretty middle-of-nowhere places, the number of women who called me for assistance from those regions was around 20 a week per podunk state, so it may not be enough to require a daily clinic, but it's a lot of women in need!
    3) Out of curiosity, are you a doctor currently?

  6. Hi PlacentaSandwich (great name!):

    1. Thanks for commenting on my blog! Please return and comment some more--you are always welcome!

    2. These cases you are talking about seem to depend on money (including travel-money) rather than on provider-availability. I'm not saying there are no REGIONAL shortages; there are, but they're mostly in places where there are shortages of docs generally, where they offer to pay off your loans if only you'll go practise there.

    3. You are right about NPs and PAs doing abortions. In Vermont they have been doing them since the 1970s and no one has EVER found any significant difference between them and the docs regarding frequency and severity of complications. (I linked to one such study on my blog). Yes the current trend is towards greater restrictions, but the economics favor letting the underling-professionals (no offense meant by "underling") do them, so in the end they will. Generally, short-term trends in USA are always toward greater restrictions on abortion, but the long-term trend is the opposite. Right-to-lifers win all elections EXCEPT the ones that matter. On the Presidential level the ones that mattered were 1992 and 2008, but it applies on lower levels too.

  7. @Operation Counterstrike: No, it sounds like the flippant approach you take toward provider shortages depends on money, ie. If I want to pay off x amount of debt by x date, then providing abortions in x region and paying x malpractice rates, is not a sure thing for me.

    The cases of inaccessible health care both PS and I are referring to do often occur due to finances and travel issues, but if you actually consider these women and their health care needs and what health care would look like if every woman was served, then the idea that there are enough providers to cover the need for reproductive health services becomes completely bunk because there is an overwhelmingly, under-served population living throughout this country.

    Furthermore, there are several other complex issues at play when we talk about making basic health care readily available to all women--first and foremost: If there is even one woman in this world who decides to have a baby because she could not access a safe abortion then we as humans have failed due to a health care deficiency. Alternatively, I would much rather live in a world where women had too many reproductive health care options than not enough.

    Lastly, how would expanding access to reproductive health services via more compassionate providers serve to reduce the isolation and stigma currently inherent in seeking birth control services and pregnancy termination while also appropriately challenging MDs who choose their specialities based on financial rewards?

  8. Yeah, "because she couldn't find a provider" can mean a whole lot of things, but "couldn't find a provider within (e.g.) 3 hours of her" is certainly one of them. It happens way too often.

    I'm also curious about whether federal loan forgiveness programs apply to doctors who provide abortions in under-resourced areas. Seems like it'd be hard to count on, wouldn't it?


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.