God, there’s a lot of stigma around abortion. We certainly get our share of hearing the antis slur words of hate to us that propagates stigma (like in Anti-Antis post Monday); but sometimes, we fight it at work, too.
Yesterday, during a counseling session, a patient folded her arms, looked straight at me and declared, “I am not the same as the other girls in the waiting room. I’m not the same as the rest of them having an abortion.” I’ve heard this sentiment before and asked her to tell me more. She followed with, “I’m married. I have kids. I was using birth control when I got pregnant. I mean, I’m older; and I’m a professional. I’m a responsible person! I’m not the type of person who gets an abortion.” Her statements implied that the other patients were irresponsible, in non-monogamous relationships, unstable, and unprofessional. And who, exactly, is the type of person who gets an abortion?
I’ve learned not to grind my teeth and get offended when women suggest they may be better than other women having abortions because the reality is, they’re just regurgitating all that awful, untrue stigma. I turn experiences – like yesterday’s – into learning opportunities with the women and each time, I hope I don’t sound preachy. I usually handle those conversations by initially putting the focus on her and not the other patients; generally women are worried about being judged and stigmatized for having an abortion (e.g. “I’m not a bad mom. I love children! It’s just we weren’t planning for anymore…it’s such a bad time! My husband just lost his job. The economy is so bad...”). I usually say something along the lines that it sounds as though she’s a good mom who cares very much for her children, and that it must’ve been very frustrating to find out she was pregnant when she did everything she could to prevent an unwanted pregnancy (especially under her present circumstance). Almost always, women uncross their arms, soften their eyes, and take a deep breath; then, I follow-up with the lesson learned: who gets an abortion.
I tell her:
- Most women who have abortions already have at least one child. - Over half of women who have abortions used some form of birth control the month they got pregnant. - Most are concerned about the financial implications of having another child and/or the overall well-being of the family unit (perhaps the relationship is rocky already, for example).
Usually they don’t know that. Why would they? Most staff that start working at the clinic don’t even know. (We get trained in it!) My hope is that clients realize they aren’t so different from anyone else having an abortion…and hopefully realize then, that they are not alone. I try to touch on stigma and state the fact that at least three out of 10 women will have an abortion by the time they’re 45, which means they probably know quite a few people who have had an abortion: they probably just don’t know it because of stigma.
I wish there was some solution to this. I don’t know what it is. I wish we could stamp out all the negative connotations about abortion and instead show the truth: someone you love has had an abortion. It’s not uncommon. Regular girls have them. It takes strength, courage, bravery, and determination. There’s nothing irresponsible about it and it’s not a frivolous choice. People who have abortions think about the future. They think about now. They think about others.
I know there are some projects out there tackling stigma...but especially now, it feels like our country is incredibly divisive. It's sad. It's scary. I hate it. And I hope it can change.
Thanks to the faithful readers who contributed their haikus! My spirit took flight with every carefully-placed syllable.
In a way, you're all winners. But in a much more real way, there is only one winner. And the winner is the individual who submitted this literary gem:
Aborted my child I should have kept my legs closed I'm a worthless slut
I had expected to receive some anti submissions. We actually received a half-dozen. (Of note: none of the antis who left comments left their names. Shocker.) Most of our anti comments are trite phrases that you can find on any posterboard sign propped outside a Planned Parenthood. But every now and then we get something really off the wall like the above. I have heard some hateful things in my life, but this is just revolting.
I don't intend to give so much publicity to this kind of sentiment, but it's worth getting the word out that it exists. It's offensive not only to pro-choicers, feminists, women, and your work-a-day human being, but even to some mild-mannered antis I'd bet. And I want the crazies to know that with every hateful utterance, you only make us MORE PRO-CHOICE. Nobody likes a crazy person.
This, dear readers, is why we <3 you so much, and appreciate all the non-crazy that you bring to this blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I just can’t understand that there are people out there who don’t support abortion even when rape is the cause of pregnancy. I don’t want to understand these people and I don’t believe I could even be civil to one of them. I really don’t. (And if you knew me, you’d know I’m civil to most everyone.)
This week, my co-workers and I advocated for a young girl – 13 years old – who was pregnant and had been raped by her father. Last week, I was helping an elderly woman schedule an appointment for her 12 year old granddaughter who had been raped by a cousin. A couple weeks before that, I was trying to help a woman that lived 300 miles away to get to our clinic for an abortion after being raped by a guy 1,000 miles away. All of these girls had to travel to our site. All of them needed help coming up with the money to pay for it. Each of them was in their second trimester. One of them had been denied Plan B at a Catholic hospital after her rape, so she thought she didn’t need it and believed she wouldn’t become pregnant. Under lots of stress, she didn’t think twice about not having her period for awhile. The 12 year old had only just started her menses, so she didn’t even know/understand/think to tell anyone she wasn’t bleeding.
How anyone – ANYONE – could deny these young women an abortion is absolutely beyond me. As clinic employees and abortion advocates, it’s our responsibility to do everything in our power to be there for them, to give them resources, to help make their abortion experience empowering in some way. Our doctor who will help give rape victims a bit of control during their abortion; he will ask the women to hold one of his fingers and if at one point (before aspiration), they want him to stop so they can breathe/take a break, then they just have to pull on that finger. This works. It gives the clients a voice without using their voice. Some control in a position – literally – that could bring back horrific memories.
I don’t agree with – but can be respectful of – individuals who don’t agree with abortion for most circumstances; but I just cannot – and will never – be able to get behind someone who believes that even if raped, that abortion is wrong. Sometimes, I just wish that those individuals could meet one of these girls. Or just talk to them. And though everyone says it: if it was one of their children/grandchildren, I would hope to god they’d be supportive of her having an abortion after a rape, if that is what she chose (because I do know that not everyone who becomes pregnant as a result of rape chooses abortion).
Anyway, I just want to say to those who don’t agree with abortion even under this circumstance, need to totally go fuck off. That is all.
Abortion clinics Are great because they're awesome They do abortions
OK, so I'm no Pablo Neruda. I may not even be Dr. Seuss. But I love abortion, so I express it through the majesty of haiku!
Haiku is the art of turning grown people into blundering pre-schoolers by forcing them to count on their fingers because they've forgotten what constitutes a syllable. Here's how it's done:
First, five syllables Then, follow up with seven End with five again
Because our readers have been SO great lately, keeping up with us and showering us with love and lots of comments, I'm thinking we need to show our appreciation. Without you we couldn't maintain this blog (well, we probably still would, but it would be much less fun and dynamic), and we're so grateful for your continued support. Hell, we even get our ideas from you! So, the reader who submits the best abortion haiku will have it featured here as an Abortioneers post!
Submit your factual, subversive, hilarious, sensitive, face-kicking, or just plain silly abortion haiku as a comment.If you would like to remain anonymous, please post your comment anonymously. Otherwise, we'll give you full-on mad props for your work! Submissions are accepted immediately, and the lucky winner (plus some honorable mentions!) will be posted this Friday.
Readers, you make me Feel like a million dollars When you leave comments!
I was making Christmas cookies with friends today, talking about our Christmas shopping, our holiday travels. It made me think of what the holidays mean in the abortion world - "the busy season". It probably comes as no surprise that pregnancies happen around the holidays. It should then also come as no surprise that unwanted pregnancies happen around the holidays. December-February/March is generally the busiest time in an abortion clinic.
It's one thing for a woman to face an unplanned pregnancy in the best of situations. It's another for a woman to face an unplanned pregnancy in a bad economy, after she has been laid off, is living off of public assistance, around the holidays. We hear these tough stories every day, all year, but they really increase this time of year.
We are forced to have really tough conversations. Her family doesn't believe in abortion, so she can't tell them. She has never believed in abortion, so she's punishing herself for even considering an abortion. She doesn't have the money and doesn't know how she's going to get the money. She may have return her kids' Christmas presents. She has to walk past this just to get into the clinic.
The holidays are a tough and stressful time of year for everyone. They can be an especially tough time for women with an unplanned pregnancy and for those of us working to help her. As we gear up to work with more women in their greatest time of need, I would like to ask all of you readers to consider what you can do. Local abortion funds could really use your help right now as they get ready to field an increasing number of calls. If you haven't before, check out the National Network of Abortion Funds.
I was going to write about something totally different this morning, but Daughter of Wands and Vegan Vagina have me thinking about secrets with the posts they've written this week. We live somewhat double-lives, as DoW mentioned: we give direct service to women seeking abortions, but we all have interests and lives outside abortion work. And like Vegan Vagina shared, we then write for this blog, which means we’re extra secretive because we have to protect our own anonymity from our employer (and co-workers) as well as our co-bloggers’ anonymity.
This blog began so we could discuss how amazing and challenging doing direct service abortion work is. We needed a safe outlet: a place where we could really vent and celebrate. Work isn’t always a safe place to do this, especially if we think improvements could be made in certain areas. There have been times I’ve definitely been nervous at work listening to people talk about our blog. I often worry about getting outted. Even last week, a co-worker talked about one of my own blog entries. I was incredibly scared that I may have blushed and made it obvious it was me who wrote what she was talking about. Why would we care? Because we don’t represent our employer when we write here, and we may not always agree with our employer and we may want to talk about it; some employers would not be happy with this at all. Mine is one of them. And to be totally honest, there are things I still haven’t written about because I’m so scared of being outted! (And this totally pisses me off.)
Being the keeper of secrets for clients, carrying them on our shoulders, in our hearts, will be a job that lasts a lifetime. Even beyond our work with abortion. We know things about some women that perhaps they’ve never told anyone else. We become woven into their stories: their abortion story. And we have a responsibility in that. It’s our responsibility to be kind and to make their stories – their experiences – just a little better. So we are present. We focus on the women. We care for them. We listen, and - hopefully - trust them. And yet, we must be separate and tip toe on this very fine balance…of being a protector: of patients and of self...without becoming cynical and burned-out. It's not always easy.
I try to keep my life outside abortion quiet and peaceful and not filled with abortion stuff…which, let’s face it: is usually not quiet or peaceful. I try to protect my family from my work and clients from the protesters and myself from my employers and you just end up with this spiral of protectiveness and secrecy which can be difficult to unravel.
So, to those who do know our secrets (our dearest of family and dearest of friends who know we write on this blog), we’ve entrusted you with our utmost confidence that you, too, will protect us. And…we thank you for that!
This whole "SIRI Abortiongate" situation has really highlighted how my participation in this blog is a secret from most people in my life. All of last week I was seeing news headline after news headline and blog post after blog post about SIRI and her abortion snafu. One of my professors even brought it up!!! I was dying to tell my friends and family, "That's my blog that started it all!!! I am so proud of my co-blogger for bringing this issue into the news and eventually getting a response from Apple! APPLE!!! #%$@". Alas, we here at the Abortioneers have anonymous identities for a reason and we would risk a lot by telling people that we write for this blog. So, I emailed my Abortioneers regularly throughout the week to celebrate our accomplishment, and that had to suffice.
So, I think everyone who works in direct service abortion work experiences some similar level of this. Even for those of us who tell our friends and family that we do this work, there are always secrets that remain. Not the type of secrets that anti-abortion jerks think we have, such as hiding fetuses in dumpsters or other such nonsense. Rather, the secrets we keep are an extension of the work we do. There is something shared between us and can't be understood by "outsiders". I can't explain it, but there is something about a group of Abortioneers that lends itself to secret-keeping. There is such immense trust between us and we are bonded in a way that most co-workers are not. The nature of abortion itself is often secret due to patient confidentiality, so we are used to keeping things hush-hush and protecting privacy.
When I worked at an abortion clinic I remember the days when we had down time and would open up to each other about our lives. We talked about things that probably don't get brought up in most work places. We shared stories of intimate partner violence, birth control failures, family stressors, masturbation techniques, drug use, and even our own abortions. There was an implicit understanding that we could trust each other and respect each other's experiences. I loved it, and I doubt I'll ever find at a job again.
My connection to the other Abortioneers on this blog is a cyber version of my experience at my abortion clinic. I have shared some very personal things with the other writers that I dare not tell most people in my life, and that's mainly because I trust them. The interesting thing is that I have only met a few of the writers in person; most of them are complete strangers in the "real world". However, I trust them because of what we share and what I innately know about them based on the fact that they work in abortion. They are Abortioneers through and through...and that is all I need to know to trust them.
Has anyone else experience this in their abortion work? What about as social workers or other direct service providers?
I live a double life. I am artist and patient advocate. I am not completely in either world.
When I gather with fellow artists, I am my selfest self, on the edge, whimsical and seeking. But also, the conversations become painfully existential, the dramas seem overdone.
When I create, I am alone. The art unravels itself and I am simply there to witness.
When I go to work, I am my best self: present, compassionate, intelligent, and thorough. But also, the conversations become hilarious and rich, life seems full and incredible.
Something about becoming a patient advocate at an abortion clinic has taken me to another place where things are stripping themselves and the earth seems on the edge of aborting everything. That every time I tell a woman it is okay, if I am dead wrong then this is hell and I am burning.
As I traverse between art compound and health center, I miss things in both. Sometimes puzzling are the things I miss among the artists. The scholarships, the rewards, the feeling that my art is enough. They will suspect I am not involved in the community though I help them with their health care one at a time while keeping it confidential because I am an Abortioneer and that’s what Abortioneers do. They keep the secrets.
They also keep abortion sacred and clean for little pay and precarious support outside the walls of the clinic.
It’s okay. I don’t suspect I need my fellow artists to create the art but I do need my co-workers—the manager, doctor, nurse practitioners, my fellow advocates, the volunteers and external support folk—to be able to serve others well.