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 donâ€™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, thatâ€™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 itâ€™s about the heart and emotional well being of our patients as well.
Virtually all abortion providers have some sort of â€œinformed consentâ€? 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 sheâ€™s come to her decision, many young women know exactly why theyâ€™ve come to the abortion clinic: theyâ€™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, Iâ€™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 antiâ€™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 womanâ€™s ability to make her own pregnancy decision. Iâ€™m sorry to say that too many times Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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. Itâ€™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 itâ€™s calling one of the three adoption agencies that we work with to help guide a patient through the adoption process. Sometimes itâ€™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.