I appreciate abortion providers.

#Proud2Provide: Reflections on National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers

Ed. note: This post was originally published on the Community site.

As an obstetrician-gynecologist I provide care for my patients during some of the most important and personal moments of their lives. I might go to the operating room in the morning to remove a mass from a patient’s ovary and that afternoon talk to a patient about the painful intercourse she is experiencing. The following day, I might be on Labor and Delivery and have the honor of being present when a patient delivers her baby. But the work I do that is most important to me is providing abortions.

It may seem strange that I consider this to be the most important part of my job. Out of everything that I do, abortion care is the part of my job that is most stigmatized. Being an abortion provider evokes judgment not only from strangers, but at times also from other doctors, and sometimes even from my own patients. On some days, the negative reactions to my work as an abortion provider can get the better of me and on those days it is nice to know that at least one day each year, I might receive public thanks for this work. That day is today, March 10: National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers.

On the other 364 days of the year when public thanks are elusive, however, private thanks are plentiful. I receive more “thank yous” from my patients at the abortion clinic than anywhere else. It is tempting to think their gratitude is due to the quality of care that I provide. But the sad reality is that, more often than not, I receive these thanks because many people don’t expect to receive compassionate care during an abortion. Because of the stigma around abortion, my patients often fear being judged and shamed for their decision to terminate their pregnancy. When patients receive the respectful care they deserve, their gratitude can be immense.

My intention to be a compassionate reproductive health care provider who trusts that my patients know what is best for them means that, in fact, I can’t not provide abortions. I provide abortion care because I see a part of myself in every patient that I care for. I have had sex in good relationships and bad, both when I have desperately wanted to become pregnant and when I have desperately wanted not to, when I have been ready to parent and when I have not. I have used birth control and experienced contraceptive failures. I have quietly panicked while waiting for my next period. I have seen a home pregnancy test turn positive and felt overwhelmed by the result. I have been pregnant and waited anxiously to hear my genetic testing and ultrasound results for confirmation that my child would most likely be healthy. I am a mother and recognize that the challenges—and rewards—of parenting cannot be overstated. I am a woman with plans and ambitions that an unplanned pregnancy might seriously disrupt.

The numbers tell me that I am indeed not that different from the patients who seek my care. Nationally, 6 out of 10 women seeking abortions already have one or more children. Over half of them used a contraceptive method in the month they got pregnant. I know that but for chance and circumstance, it could be me on the other side of the table, hoping to meet a provider who was kind and compassionate and non-judgmental.

But mostly, I am an abortion provider because I value the lives, health, and dreams of my patients. When safe abortion is not accessible, people resort to unsafe and dangerous methods to end their pregnancies and families suffer. Even though abortion is legal in every U.S. state thanks to Roe v. Wade, it has become increasingly inaccessible for women in many parts of the country. Not only has the number of abortion providers across the U.S. been decreasing over the last two decades, but punitive and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions designed to prevent women from accessing this care are becoming more widespread. I am proud to be able to ensure that my patients have access to safe abortion care when they need it.

On most days, I don’t need National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers to know the difference that I am able to make in individuals’ lives. Still, on that one day, it is truly uplifting to feel the love and support for my work in such a public way.

Sarah Wallett, MD, is a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist and Fellow in Family Planning at the University of Michigan. When she is not taking care of patients, you can find her reading novels, trying out new recipes, and singing silly songs with her children.

March 10 is the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, observed every year on the anniversary of the day in 1993 when Dr. David Gunn was murdered by an anti-choice extremist. Every year, Physicians for Reproductive Health honors the courageous medical practitioners who provide this much-needed service and fight the stigma surrounding this safe, legal medical care. You can find out more at www.prh.org/why.

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