Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Got the hots for choice

There had been some talk among Abortioneers in the past about dating and relationships, and how an anti-choice position would be a dealbreaker among potential mates. This then led to the imagining of a pro-choice dating service, where pro-choice folks can meet each other and fall hopelessly in love (or just hook up, whatever), without having to have the awkward conversation about "what you do" which may then lead to another awkward conversation, at the end of which you get dumped and stuck with the bill.

The horror!

Fear not, lovers of dudes, because I've found some prospectives who just might get your juices flowing!  I'd also like to hear some love from our dude readers out there, who aren't afraid to say "Yo, what's up with all these injustices toward women and reproductive freedom?"

Thanks, dudes! (Oh yeah, and RG)

Friday, July 20, 2012

So You Want to Be an Abortioneer

So, you’re thinking of becoming an Abortioneer. Yay! There is no shortage of Abotioneers, so you’ve come to the right place.
With all jobs, there are pros and cons. Abortioneering is no exception. Here’s a list of some potentially negative things to consider if you want to be an Abortioneer.

1. What should you say when people ask you where you work? I believe there is no right or wrong answer to this question, and that you may likely find yourself varying your answer depending on circumstances. Abortion is highly stigmatized. Depending on your geographic location and your own community, you may or may not feel comfortable stating where you work and what exactly your job entails. Check this out. And another.

2. Abortion is riddled with stigma. This impacts LOTS of things (could be multiple blogs in and of itself), including how people respond/react to abortion, which means it will impact you. Be aware of this. Even people you think are liberal may not be pro-choice; people you consider – or consider themselves – to be conservative may be. This might impact the way you talk about your daily life; for example, while an accountant may be able to talk about her day at work to most anyone in a social situation, you may not feel that you can without potentially being harassed (or even violating HIPAA). Here are some previous blog posts about talking to others about your work. This. And this one. And this. And yet another. (You can see we write about this a lot.)

3. Abortioneering can be isolating at times. (I could write several blogs about this topic alone.) Stigma plays into this, causing many abortioneers to feel somewhat guarded about their work lives. In an unhealthy (but probably not-so-uncommon) situation, some abortioneers may even feel a bit cut off from their communities, families, friends and stay safely within Abortioneering circles. (There are many reasons this could easily occur – but they require another post!) It’s up to you to come up with strategies to keep involved in your community. We all need support. Which brings us to…

4. Support. You'll need it. Consider ways to get the support. Having friends, family, and co-workers you can talk to helps immensely. If key family members and friends are not supportive of your decision to become an Abortioneer, you may be in for a bumpy road. Compile strategies on how to deal with this in healthy ways. Abortioneers are amazing people. You’ll probably be drawn to them. You’ll have common interests, they’ll understand what you’re going through, and you can talk about your day with them. They “get it.” And there’s a beautiful community out there waiting for you, filled with passionate, caring people. Still, try to strike a balance between your abortion world friends and your non-abortion world friends so you keep a foot in your own community (even though, it will be strange to navigate this at first). Here are some posts we're written on support, or calling on the need for it. And here.

5. Work for an organization that encourages its employees to support one another. Sounds obvious, but I would try to suss out if they really do support their employees (in the ways their employees want/need). It might be best to know someone you can talk to who works for the organization to see how their organization supports them. It may be more difficult for some employers to breed a culture of support nowadays. In this economy, many clinics and organizations have had to reduce their staff. That means fewer people working harder and smarter. That also means there is less time during work to seek out support from co-workers. I would argue that it would benefit you to find the ones that do their best under the circumstances. (This could mean: happy hours; occasional lunches; debriefing meetings; whatever.) I have a friend who used to work at a clinic and they would write down all the funny things their co-workers said. At a bi-weekly meeting, they’d start off by reading out all the funnies. This helped lift spirits and encourage a spirit of teamwork.

6. Work/life balance. Abortion is intense. Talking to a 13 year old who was raped and now wants an abortion is intense. Many abortioneers are motivated to make a difference in others’ lives. That commonly means you’ll focus on the women you serve throughout your day. This is an absolutely amazing, special, and rewarding part of Abortioneering. It’s where all the magic happens. It can also take its toll if you don’t take care of yourself. Take your lunch. Take your breaks. When things feel especially intense at work, step outside. Go to the restroom and take deep breaths if you have to. You will most likely need ways to decompress after work as well. Try not to take your work home with you. (Literally and figuratively. This is difficult to do.) When I was single, I would go straight home, get a glass of red wine, grab a great book, and soak in the bath. Now that I have children, I decompress in the car, en route to picking them up from school. I blare music, chat with my friends on the phone, nip into a little shop. Whatever. When I get home, I focus on my family and, late in the evening, I make an effort to do something just for me. Here's a post about that.

7. Security. Ever so sadly and infuriating, the safety of the facility where you work, the safety of your doctors, your co-workers, and yourself is at risk. I hate even having to type that. But it is true. Depending on where you live, the risk might be lower. I know a handful of people who have been followed. It’s not uncommon for anti protesters to take photographs of staff. They might even write down your license plate number. US Marshals recommend clinic workers register their cars to a PO Box or to their place of work, not to their homes. It may be disarming to see the doctor wear a bullet proof vest. Depending on where you work – and honestly, at any abortioneering job they should be talking about this – you might be advised to stay alert at all times, walk out of work in pairs (at least), change your route home on a regular basis. This began to impact me more deeply after I had my children. I didn’t want some psycho following me home to my two kids. Consider your safety. Look around at the facility where you’re working: do they take security seriously? If it’s a clinic, there should probably be, at minimum, security cameras, bullet-proof windows, alarm systems, etc. Here are some posts about safety and security. And here. And a last one.

Hopefully these ideas help a bit. Ask away if you have questions! Good luck in your Abortioneering job search. It really is an amazing sector to work in.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Great Macy's Fourth of July Abortion Sale: Get 'em while you can! (offer valid only in Mississippi until 7/11/2012)

This is actually a breadline, not a bank run or a premodern Black Friday. But when I thought about it, the breadline matched the vibe of the clinic waiting room better than those. People are there -- with their spouse, mom, kid, infant -- because they really need to be. 


Remember my last post, where I was kinda sick and tired of legislators playing doctor (and not in the sexy way) (but also, is playing doctor actually sexy to anyone?), and I was writing about the last abortion clinic in Mississippi being legislated out of existence, and about Rep. Bubba Carpenter, and how he was talking in what I imagine is a too-bad-so-sad wah-wah voice about how the other side talks way too much about "some poor pitiful women" who might risk their health and lives trying to end their pregnancies by any means available, and I think I might have blacked out shortly after that as an internal defense mechanism?

Yeah, I know: oof. But let's talk about Mississippi some more!

So the bill passed and was signed by the governor and its stipulations include that abortion providers must have hospital admitting privileges -- something Bubba Carpenter noted was notoriously difficult for anyone to obtain, not just abortion providers -- and that means that this last clinic in Mississippi, which has not been able to secure admitting privileges, will have to close. But then, since as Bubba Carpenter noted this law is not trying that hard to be constitutional, a judge stayed the new law until a court hearing planned for July 11 -- giving the clinic a reprieve of, uh, about a week.

And here's something that interests me as an abortioneer.
But it has also created a rush of women from across Mississippi wanting to have abortions. The clinic's three doctors normally perform about 40 abortions a week, but received more than 100 calls in one day last week from women trying to schedule appointments. Two of the doctors live out of state and will fly in to perform abortions this week, said Diane Derzis, the clinic owner.

"What women are hearing is, You may not be able to have an abortion soon," she said. "If you're pregnant and you don’t want to be, you’re thinking, 'By God, I've got to get in there fast.'"
Seems kind of weird, doesn't it? Like a run on the banks, as my arm candy quipped. You'd think that the need for abortion care is pretty much static over the course of a year, since pregnancy can occur in any season and any abortion clinic is the potential provider for at least several million people of reproductive capacity. But demand for services really does seem to have a certain flux to it. While I can't remember hearing of a run on the clinics (though I guess it's not hard to understand), I have noticed other ups and downs and maybe patterns.

I've mentioned before that I had many clients who were able to finally secure their abortion care when their tax refund came back -- and even some who specifically filed early in order to make sure they raised enough money before they reached 12 weeks when the fee would start progressively increasing. Those patients were very resourceful and very on top of it. And I sympathized with their certainty that they made little enough to be owed a refund -- my full-time job qualified me for both a tax refund and assistance from an emergency abortion fund should I ever need it.

But demand also seems to drop on holidays, especially big ones. It's hard to seek an appointment while hosting extended family, driving to grandma's, juggling your parents' or grown children's multiple Thanksgivings after a divorce, entertaining your school-aged kids at home, or arguing with your teenager about sharing the family car over winter break. You don't have as much privacy, time, or energy for taking care of yourself. Shit's hectic.

Then, weeks after a holiday, demand bounces back to levels even higher than before. Phones ring off the hook at the emergency abortion fund, they ring all day although you have multiple phone lines and someone answering every line. Same thing happening at the clinic, which is also jam-packed with people -- you have to bring more chairs into the waiting room -- and clients want to know what is the point of making an appointment if you still have to wait all damn day. (The answer is you struggle with turning people away from care, and wish there was such a thing as walk-in care, but in your state there's a law requiring advance appointments so pregnant people can take time to "cool off" and think hard about their impulsive and flighty decisions. As Sarah Silverman says, maybe they're not as hungry as they think they are.)

I say "weeks" after a holiday but we'd often remark that it seemed to be about four to six weeks after a holiday. Kind of joking, because that's how long it takes from fertilization (four) or last normal menstrual period (six) to the earliest point in pregnancy that most clinics are able to offer abortion care. Kind of not joking, because it really happened. At least three years I noticed that after a December-January lull, we'd have the most insane February and March. That's the time of year that I first became an abortioneer, actually. At first I thought that was just how it was -- that we'd have 100 appointments per day forever. (On the plus side, a lot of those were double-bookings or ambivalent patients who ended up going to another clinic for prenatal or abortion care. We didn't actually check that many patients in per day.)

I could surmise that stereotypically hectic and overburdened times (Thanksgiving/Christmas) or stereotypically romantic times (New Year's/Valentine's) or stereotypically hedonistic times (spring break, New Year's again) lead to unintended pregnancy. And surely the delaying of one's own needs during family-heavy holidays would explain part of the resurgence of appointment requests afterward. But I don't really know and I don't think there's any way to find out on a large scale. It'd be interesting, though, to ask individual women to recount the story of what prompted them to seek abortion care when they did, and why. If only such questions weren't so politically loaded, so likely to suggest there's a right and a wrong answer, maybe we'd hear a lot of honest and interesting stories.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Some days I can't bear to look

I know I haven't been around much. Frankly, keeping up with the insane and nonstop political assaults on abortion and related care has been nearly too much to bear. You'd think I'd be writing nonstop, because SO MANY FEELINGS, but at times the feelings kinda drain my emotional energy. I know some of my co-bloggers have been feeling that same drain, lately, in various ways -- and I bet fellow abortioneers in the field have, too.

So it seems almost futile to single out one law and one group of politicians. But if any law has earned that, I guess it'd be the latest restriction out of the magnolia state. Mississippi, come on down!

Maybe you've heard? The lawmakers who passed Mississippi's House Bill 1390, while claiming to be motivated by a desire to protect women from dangerous abortion providers, are also cheering the fact that the bill will have the effect of shutting down the only existing legal abortion provider in the state.
Sen. Kenny Wayne Jones (D-Canton) asked Sen. Dean Kirby (R-Pearl), who chairs the Senate Public Health Committee*, whether ending abortions in the state would force women to resort to dangerous, back-alley abortions.

"That's what we're trying to stop here, the coat-hanger abortions," Kirby replied, in reference to the abortions provided at the clinic in Jackson. "The purpose of this bill is to stop back-room abortions."
*I would also like to call your attention to the fact that Sen. Dean Kirby chairs the Senate Public Health Committee. Presumably, that is a Senate committee on public health. But maybe it's...a Senate committee against public health? I guess the title isn't super specific.

Oh, speaking of the Legislative Brotherhood Against Public Health, see also the breathtakingly cavalier Rep. Bubba Carpenter announcing afterward:
"We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi. Three blocks from the Capitol sits the only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. A bill was drafted. It said, if you would perform an abortion in the state of Mississippi, you must be a certified OB/GYN and you must have admitting privileges to a hospital. Anybody here in the medical field knows how hard it is to get admitting privileges to a hospital.

"It's going to be challenged, of course, in the Supreme Court and all -- but literally, we stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi, legally, without having to-- Roe vs. Wade. So we've done that. I was proud of it. The governor signed it into law. And of course, there you have the other side. They're like, 'Well, the poor pitiful women that can't afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.' That's what we've heard over and over and over.

But hey, you have to have moral values."
Wow. Was that a sneer I just heard? And then...a shrug?

He has a point, right? Sure there might be some poor pitiful women who can't afford to go out of state for their medical care and end up injured or dead using coat hangers and home remedies -- but aren't we pro-choice people (the other side) just talking about those women to score political points? I mean, why else would you bother talking about them? We say it over and over and over because we don't have better talking points, I guess. But hey! Those deaths are so trivial we can mock them and the people who talk about them.

(Later, Rep. Carpenter also shrugged off his coat hanger 'quote' as "just some language that some of the African-Americans used.")

(You thought I made up that last bit, didn't you? But no. He really did. I mean, it sounds like he's saying that therefore those accounts amount to nothing worth examining? But hey! That's okay, because African-American women (and other black women, and other women of color) definitely don't have even more experience with unsafe abortion than white women.)

Gosh, wonder why I feel so tired?