(Trigger warning: semi-graphic depiction of abortion, mention of violent physical and sexual assault)Dr. X
is a physician at a community health center and a medical school faculty member in the Midwest. Health Affairs does not normally publish articles under pseudonyms, but given recent murders of abortion providers and other violent attacks against them, we decided not to publish the physician's real name out of concern for her personal safety. As always, we welcome Narrative Matters essays from varying perspectives.
"This is a clinic where they kill babies!" A woman in a black beret stopped me as I entered an abortion clinic. Pamphlets in hand, she asked me with concern, "Are you pregnant? Do you need help?"
I wasn't pregnant. I was on my way to work.
I went to medical school to promote life. I defined that loosely: I wanted to do what I could to keep individuals healthy so we could be part of loving families and build healthy communities, supporting each other and enjoying being alive. While I was in medical school, a friend became pregnant after date rape, and I supported her through an abortion.
Around that time, I attended a talk at the medical school by the journalist Jack Hitt. He discussed "Who Will Do Abortions Here?" -- his powerful, eye-opening New York Times article from 1998 about the threat to legalized abortion in the United States because of the lack of providers.
Then, as now, the number of abortion providers was dwindling. The number went from 2,680 providers in 1985 to 1,787 in 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available. Hitt described the upcoming retirement of the generation of obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs) who had watched women bleed to death from botched abortions and had responded to those tragedies by staffing clinics when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.
But no new generation of abortion providers was being trained, Hitt told us. When teaching hospitals merged with religious hospitals where abortions were banned, abortions were no longer done -- or taught -- at the teaching institutions. Other programs began to make abortion training optional: OB/GYN or family medicine residents who wanted the training needed to add it to their already heavy loads of required courses. Threats to the lives of abortion providers and their families dissuaded some practitioners from providing these services, even though they were trained to perform them and the procedure is legal. More than half of all abortion practitioners were past retirement age, Hitt said. One elderly practitioner flew his own plane to reach women in four states -- he was the sole abortion provider in North Dakota -- despite regular death threats.
There are now an estimated 1.5 million abortions each year in the United States, making it the most common surgical procedure. Yet there are fewer and fewer abortion providers available. One-quarter of women needing abortions must travel more than fifty miles for the procedure; 6 percent must travel to another state. During my medical training, I saw many women with an unwanted pregnancy, and I witnessed wide variation in the options that doctors offered patients in that situation.( Click for the full essay. )Source
Reposted from this community's LiveJournal counterpart.
This is an issue that's extremely important to me, not only because I'm a feminist. Even though I grew up after Roe v. Wade
, I know too well what the consequences of not having access to safe and legal abortions are. My grandmother was a prenatal surgeon who was relocated by the Chinese government to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution; my mother worked in one of the largest hospitals in Shanghai (the one where I was born in) and, as a pharmacist and clinician, assisted in several medical abortions. After immigrating to the United States, my life would have been very different if, while my family was still struggling to make ends meet as strangers in a strange land, my mother did not have access to a safe, legal, and affordable abortion.
It makes me very sad that a woman's right to choose is even an issue for political debate in this country, which touts itself as the land of the free and home of the brave.