Hungover Feminst Weekly Report – Different Jen Edition

The following is from a very good friend of mine, Jennifer Conrow, who works at a clinic that provides abortions. I’m hoping this post will just be a preview of this important, and usually missing perspective. I can’t speak to whether or not this Jen is currently hungover.
In the wake of the most recent anti-choice ambush of Planned Parenthood, I wanted to take a moment to introduce everyone to the world of independent abortion provision and the philosophy of care that most independent abortion providers strive for. This philosophy often gets lost in all of the hullabaloo surrounding the Big Scary Abortion Debate because most independent providers don’t have the money or time to launch a high profile campaign about the level of care provided within our walls. Our priority is helping the women (and their families) who seek our care while simultaneously trying to navigate the murky waters of public policy and ensuring the safety of our patients as they wade through protesters and have surgery. We are so often put on the defensive, waging never ending legal battles that we rarely have the opportunity to talk about how we care for patients.
My facility is one of only two dedicated abortion providers in my state that provides terminations to 24 weeks and 6 days in a pregnancy (yes, that’s 6 months; a fact that can sometimes challenge even the most pro-choice among us and is not lost on the small percentage of women who have terminations at that stage in pregnancy). What differentiates us from the other provider is our dedication to a holistic approach to abortion care. In our world abortion is not just about the physical removal of a pregnancy from the body, but it’s about the heart and emotional well being of our patients as well.


Virtually all abortion providers have some sort of “informed consent� counseling prior to the abortion procedure. For those of us independent providers that are continually trying to raise the bar for abortion care, this pre-procedure counseling session covers much more than just basic informed consent about procedures and risks. For us, this is an opportunity to ensure that our patient is emotionally prepared for her procedure, that she feels at peace with her decision and that she has a positive support system in place when she leaves our facility, whether that support is in the form of a partner, a parent, a friend or her faith.
With women under the age of 18 especially, this can be challenging. When discussing how she’s come to her decision, many young women know exactly why they’ve come to the abortion clinic: they’re too young, they want to finish high school and go to college, or they feel that they would not be able to handle the emotional distress associated with adoption. But for other young women the decision is not their own. Often, I’m put in a situation where I must inform parents that their daughter does not wish to have an abortion. Many parents believe that they can force their children to undergo an abortion procedure because they are under 18 and are shocked and angry when they discover that this is not the case. The anti’s like to talk about how wonderful parental consent is and it certainly sounds like a good idea on its face, but as an abortion provider, I see the anguish that comes from limiting a young woman’s ability to make her own pregnancy decision. I’m sorry to say that too many times I’ve had to call the state when a minor has been abandoned at the clinic by her parents because she has made the decision to continue her pregnancy.
Certainly, there have also been times when I’ve reported child abuse because a young woman has a much older partner or because of abuse or neglect at home. As medical professionals, we are mandated reporters in our state. However, the laws vary from state to state on what is mandated to be reported. Not every minor woman having sex with an older partner, whether or not he is over the age of 18, qualifies as reportable. It’s the responsibility of every medical provider and mandated reporter to be conscious of the laws of the state and to ensure that they are observed in their practice.
First and foremost the responsibility of an abortion provider (really, any reproductive health provider) is to the patient and to help her through whatever decision she feels is best for her. Sometimes this means sitting on the phone with Medicaid helping a woman get insurance coverage so that she can continue her pregnancy. Sometimes it’s calling one of the three adoption agencies that we work with to help guide a patient through the adoption process. Sometimes it’s talking with a woman through feelings of sadness, shame or even guilt because she feels relieved. All of the time our work is about guiding a woman (and perhaps her partner, best friend or Mom) through her pregnancy or abortion experience. While the type of guidance differs from woman to woman, whether she feels completely comfortable with her decision or is experiencing conflicting emotions, what remains the same is our philosophy: that we honor the woman and her decision about her life and her pregnancy.

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18 Comments

  1. Moxie Hart
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I wish all the anti-choice people who like to paint pro-choicers/abortion providers as callous baby-killers could read something like this.

  2. Posted May 18, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for doing this thankless and emotionally draining job.

  3. Posted May 18, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for doing this thankless and emotionally draining job.

  4. Julia
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Wow, how cool to check out Feministing, as I do every day, and see a piece by Jen Conrow. Jen Conrow, if you’re reading the comments, this is the Julia who’s marrying your HS pal next month and who ate grilled cheese with you a few weeks ago. Thanks for the important words and the even more important work that you’re doing for all of those women.

  5. annajcook
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    It’s sad that, in the mainstream, we don’t hear more of all the good and thankless work that people do in abortion clinics around the country. You have to know where to look for those stories, and the people who need to hear them don’t go hunting.
    Many parents believe that they can force their children to undergo an abortion procedure because they are under 18 and are shocked and angry when they discover that this is not the case.
    Just one example where the anti-abortion narrative of women coerced into abortions by money-hungry doctors breaks down. A good reminder that the pro-choice movement is about reproductive justice and women’s agency, not simply ensuring women have access to safe abortions when they need them.
    Thanks, Jen C. for helping all the women you do. Someday, if/when I face an unplanned pregnancy, I hope there are clinics like yours still there to help me.
    (I know we’re all doing what we can to make sure that’s the case!)

  6. Posted May 18, 2007 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful post; thank you so much.

  7. aurora
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    thank you for the post! As a former clinic escort, it’s great to see the support and the reality of what happens inside the clinics, and a great reminder of why I would get up at 7 am on a Saturday. It’s also such a stark contrast to the lies and hatred spewed by the antis outside.

  8. aurora
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    thank you for the post! As a former clinic escort, it’s great to see the support and the reality of what happens inside the clinics, and a great reminder of why I would get up at 7 am on a Saturday. It’s also such a stark contrast to the lies and hatred spewed by the antis outside.

  9. caiis
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the important work you do.

  10. Mina
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the post!
    “First and foremost the responsibility of an abortion provider (really, any reproductive health provider) is to the patient and to help her through whatever decision she feels is best for her.”
    Really, any health provider, even a dentist helping a patient through a decision about wisdom teeth!

  11. JenLovesPonies
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Wonderful post! Let’s not forget, though, that Planned Parenthood (for me, at least) has always given me the personal help and support I needed. When I had my abortion, they did most of the same or similiar things that this this author speaks of.
    Not that she is necessarily saying that the PP is bad, but I just want to remind people- its good to have a provider with national recognition. Good to hear there are many options, though, the more the better.

  12. werechick
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Six months?!
    I’m a little shocked at that one. Is it special circumstances only (such as a major fetal defect or a woman’s health issue), or is it generally allowed?

  13. EG
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Yes, many thanks for your work.
    Werechick, the issue is not whether six-month abortions are “allowed”–the issue is under what circumstances women choose to abort so late in the game. Women do not generally, at 5.5 months say to themselves “Oh, damn! I knew I’d been forgetting to do something. Good thing that kick reminded me! Abortion, here I come!” When women abort that late in a pregnancy, it is almost always because of a severe defect or health risk, or sometimes because they were denied access to abortion earlier.

  14. JenMC
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to everyone who read and commented on my post here (and to the original hungover Jen for letting me take over this week).
    First– Julia: if there was any doubt in my mind that you weren’t good enough for Kyle it’s gone since you’re a feministing reader (not that there ever was much doubt, we all agree you’re too good for him).
    In response to the 6 month question, I’d like to echo what EG just said: abortion that late in pregnancy is generally rare and comes (in most cases) with a compelling reason to terminate at that stage. In my experience the women who have late 2nd trimester procedures are at or below poverty level and have been trying to scrape together money for weeks or arrange transportation or child care, have been unable to access abortion care earlier b/c of restrictions in their home state, are very young or at the end of their reproductive years (and assuming menopause when they miss periods) or are terminating due to a fetal anomaly. Are there exceptions to this? Yes, of course. But again, these procedures are exceedingly rare; abortion past 20weeks accounts for less than 1.5% off all abortion in this country with 90% of aboritons occuring in the fist 12 -13weeks.
    Also, I’m not hating on Planned Parenthood– PP provides great services for large numbers of women. But, there is a difference in the approach of independent abortion providers and facilities who offer a large array of health services. This is not to say one is better than the other, but they are different and for too long, us independent providers have been relatively silent about the work we do. Some of us are trying to change that now so that there is a greater voice not only from us providers but from the women we serve, who are generally left out of the media coverage and conversation.

  15. Posted May 19, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    this was a great piece. thanks for all you do, jen. :)

  16. Posted May 19, 2007 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    this was a great piece. thanks for all you do, jen. :)

  17. Posted May 21, 2007 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    It’s sad that Jen labels the Metropolitan Medical Associates (the other abortion provider in New Jersey which provides abortions at 24 weeks) as “dedicated.” This is the abortion provider which was shut down by the state health department for more than 2 weeks in February and March because of their filthy facilities.
    Jen also doesn’t mention how her abortion clinic settled a lawsuit with a Pennslyvania teen.

  18. Posted May 24, 2007 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your post. I love your focus on reproductive justice.

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