Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Systemic Breakdown

I often deal with other institutions on behalf of women seeking abortion care. I interact with many different abortion funds or social assistance agencies, when I worked for a fund I helped women deal with medical clinics, I also deal with a myriad of other kinds of institutions in order to help women access safe medical care in both my personal and professional life.

The thing is, usually I am able to figure out how to help a woman get care when someone seeks my help. Sometimes there are legal issues like when a woman is a minor and has to get parental consent or judicial bypass. I have extensive experience in different types of case management, but sometimes I just can't figure it out. The many laws, regulations, dollars, and other barriers between a woman and her abortion are impenetrable. I have spent 3 work days trying to figure how to help a young woman get seen before she is too late to be seen at the clinic where I work. I have been able to raise some money for her from a myriad of places, but the money isn't the issue. There are so many institutions that can work together to stop a woman from accessing safe and simple health care.

It's really frustrating. Today I had to accept that a woman who does not want to be pregnant and should not have to will stay pregnant. This woman has medical issues that warrant abortion, and yet it isn't any easier. The answer doesn't change: she will most likely have to stay pregnant. I don't understand it. Access to health care should not be this disjointed in the United States.

I remember the first time I had to tell someone who was 26+ weeks pregnant with a severely deformed fetus that was incompatible with life that I could not pull all the strings to get her abortion. I felt like my heart might fall to pieces. This happened at least two years ago, and yet I still remember minute details about our interaction.
Accepting that helping everyone is not possible is a really important part of self-care for me. I cannot absorb the world's problems. I try to help people access something that should be available, but when a system of legal, medical, and social service agencies fails someone, I cannot feel personally responsible. I have to find a way to accept it and move on because I can't help everyone.

Thankfully, the work I do usually results in women getting the care they need. Learning how to take time for my spirit to recuperate is really important. I'm constantly trying to balance dedication to my work with self-care. In this emotionally intense line of work, abortioneer burn-out seems only inevitable. What are some of the ways other folks in the abortioneer community deal with this disappointment, when a patient isn't able to get seen or something else emotionally draining happens?

1 comment:

  1. Processing with close friends and family - whether or not they're fellow abortioneers, as long as they're allies - is incredibly important to me. I don't believe in "leaving work" when I go home. In this line of work I think it's absolutely crucial for my mental health to process what happened that day when I get home. Of course there are times when I just need to come home and turn on the TV, but overall I don't know what I'd do without a solid support network of people who can hear my stories and support me in what I do.


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