Perspectives on abortion care from those of us who've been there.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Thank you to deliverance for joining us again as guest blogger today!
I was talking with a co-worker yesterday about our work in abortion care. "We should all work part-time here, and then part-time somewhere else, like…an ice cream shop!"
What a great idea, I thought.
Burnout has gotten me down and it is harder than ever to self-motivate. A sanctuary-type environment where I used to continually stumble upon joyful moments, has become a normal office building with boring tasks.
It's not the absence of all joy or gratification, but those moments have become few *and* far between.
Part of it is repetition--the same stories ("I feel like I am killing."), the same obstacles (poverty), and less patient interaction in my current position.
It's also about money. Recently I called a few clinics to get an idea of how much others charge for abortions. There was a clinic a few states away charging over $600.00 for first trimester abortions. Considering how challenging it is for patients at our clinic to pay for procedures, I can't imagine how difficult it is to come up with twice as much money. Then again, women in that state probably don't have any other option.
According to the National Abortion Federation, women cannot access abortion in 88% of counties in the U.S., and that percentage rises to 97% for women in rural areas (http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/facts/access_abortion.html). It doesn't take a genius to figure out why we need people who have a ton of passion and motivation to work in abortion care--this right is, and has been, on the brink of extinction.
I have met and waved goodbye to numerous abortioneers who have flung their entire selves into abortion care, but when it comes down to it (and I really do hate to say it), what we make isn't sustainable. If you want to have a family, go back to school, travel to get away from such stressful work, while also meeting rent, buying groceries, and paying off student loans (a Bachelor's degree is required for many positions at clinics)--good luck.
There is an effort on many of our parts to not only be happy, but to thrive with less--we don't need most of the shit we buy anyway--but fair pay is surely a feminist issue, one which many clinics want to avoid discussing. "Everyone needs a raise," is a reply I've gotten quite often, but I don't think that's so true when looking at wages for administrators and doctors.
Despite all of this, there are still some abortioneers who stick around. They have worked at clinics in the same position for 7 or 8 years, and although many clinics don't have much room for advancement, they hang on because our work can be that important and fulfilling. Some go to medical school to become providers. Others study midwifery, so they can deliver babies as well as provide abortions, in the few states where midwives are able to do such comprehensive care. A few play the game of working their way up to an administrative position.
When I realized I wouldn't be one of those people, I started to make plans to "move on," as people call it (even though I will take this work everywhere with me). I feel guilty for knowing I will one day leave, and resentful for what could've been.
For those of you who stay for the duration of your working life, thank you for being the backbones of our movement. Your amount of commitment and dedication is astounding to me.