It’s hard for me to pinpoint a particular moment or series of events that led me to pursue this unconventional line of work – being an abortion provider. Frankly, I still don’t think my family and some of my friends fully understand (or even if all of them know) why or what I do for a living. And, I might even still be figuring some of it out myself.
In my choice to become a social worker, I knew I would be underpaid, overworked, and that my efforts would not always be recognized or appreciated in the moment — and that all those things are unfair. Yet, still I chose this profession because I have compassion, empathy, and believe that I should be doing my part to make this world a better place.
The transition to working in abortion care came relatively easy in that respect. It’s no secret that abortion care is a marginalized part of women’s healthcare (even though one in 3 women have an abortion). That to make abortion affordable for women, no abortion provider is going to become a millionaire. And, that women who are pregnant when they don’t want to be can get angry and frustrated at the lengths they must take to control their destiny (and sometimes that anger is directed at me). All those things, too, are unfair. Yet, I know that the decision to end a pregnancy is not taken lightly–it’s complicated. I know that most people can’t imagine supporting abortion rights until they learn that their daughter or sister or friend or coworker had an abortion (have you asked?) or they themselves are faced with an unwanted pregnancy. I know that my empathy and compassion is a skill that allows me to see women through transformative experiences when they often don’t think they deserve to have someone (let alone a stranger) supporting them through it.
What my social work training didn’t necessarily prepare me for is that my workplace (my coworkers, patients, and me) could be a target for domestic terrorism. That I would get training in what to do if the clinic gets anthrax in the mail or one of us finds a bomb. It may be silly that I worry about where I lock my bike after riding to work because I don’t want the protesters to damage my ride home. Or, that I don’t want my mother to read too much about clinic violence because she’ll worry more than she does already. Sadly, though, this is the reality of working in an abortion clinic.
Working in women’s healthcare, as an abortion provider, gives me a voice. I’m tired of old, white men making decisions for me about my own body. I’m angry that some states still criminalize women if they deliver a still birth. I’m frustrated that too many people in this country inserted the word “shame” into the defnition of an abortion experience.
Trust that I was born with a uterus and I’ll know what to do if a pregnancy starts to grow inside it. Trust that I’m a grown-ass woman able to make the big decisions. Trust that life’s complicated and there’s lots of gray areas that an outside onlooker (or protester or Bill O’Reilly) may not fully see or even attempt to see.
I trust the women I see every day in our clinic. I believe them when they say they can’t support another child, that adoption is a more difficult option than terminating the pregnancy, that their stepfather or uncle raped them, or that they’ve learned that the fetus they thought was growing inside them isn’t anymore. I trust that they are making informed decisions about their body and their life so that I can have that same trust for myself.
I am Dr. Tiller.