How Do You Come Out As Working in Abortion Care?

29 Jun

My fellow bloggers and I have talked in the past about the social implications of working in abortion care. I consider myself, first and foremost, an reproductive rights activist, so I am often faced with varying levels of awkwardness when asked what I do for a living. However, in the past few weeks I’ve discovered a whole new layer to that phenomenon. It’s a level up from “What do you do for a living?”, and it’s called “What are you going to do for a living in [city you’re moving to]?”.

Yes, I am moving, and this question has caught me totally off guard. It’s a different kind of situation from just explaining what I do for a living right now, because it really implicates the rest of my life. Suddenly, I will be in a big city where I have more career options: would I really choose to work in an abortion clinic? Or any other job that the people in the conservative town where I currently live can’t easily wrap their brains around?

My partner graduated from law school. We are moving to Toronto because of his articling job. I find myself, quite suddenly, in the simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying position of having no career path, no mandate, and no idea what I want to do for a living. While I’m worried about actually securing a job, I’m excited by the prospect of living in a place where professional activism happens, and where you can work for really awesome organizations that are doing good things. Abortion is still my main focus, and I’ve never considered for a second doing anything “normal”, anything that could be easily explained in a pleasant exchange with a stranger. And I recognize that having that choice is a great privilege.

However, I just don’t know what to say to people. Today I was at the dentist, and the hygienist asked me: “Do you have a job lined up in Toronto?”. It was easiest just to say no. But then she asked “What kind of thing are you looking for?”. Bluurghhhh, I thought. How do I answer that? I would prefer not to offend her if she is anti-abortion, but at the same time, there’s the added element of networking. She had already mentioned people she knew who lived there: what if one of them had a lead for me? In the end, I decided it wasn’t worth it and I just shrugged. But I seem to encounter this same conversation every day. With some people, my friends and (supportive) family members, it’s easy to say I want to keep working as an activist, particularly in women’s rights, and particularly in reproductive rights. But with non-supportive family, strangers, my partner’s grandparents: what then? Finding an apartment in about two hours through the magic of social networking has taught me that opportunities to make mutually beneficial connections with people are everywhere; I would hate to miss one out of the fear of being judged. On the other hand, I am a person who has a lot of trouble with confrontation and I am always afraid to stir the pot. So I try to steer clear of these conversations as much as I can.

I wonder if this is a common problem in this field. I know that it can be hard to talk about working in abortion care, but what about looking for work? It seems to make it that much more difficult to reach out for job search help in our social networks, which in my experience is becoming an exceedingly common method for finding employment. Have any of you faced this issue? How did you deal with it?

3 Responses to “How Do You Come Out As Working in Abortion Care?”

  1. placenta sandwich June 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    “Women’s health,” man. It’s hard to get someone riled up if you say that!

    If they are tuned in to the various possible implications of “women’s health” and particularly care, then yeah they might ask you “does that include abortion” — but in my experience, it’s usually pro-choicey people who do that. People who disagree MOSTLY don’t want to get in a fight with you and will leave that question unasked. I’ve had one or two very unpleasant exceptions to this observation, but that’s it.

    And if they don’t pick up on that set of questions, they still might know someone who works in some aspect of women’s health, and that someone may very well understand what you’re looking for.

    You can also approach this from the advocacy end by saying “women’s rights.” People may ask about employment rights, electoral candidates, etc, and you can choose how far to specify based on what they are saying.

    Anyways… hope that helps a little, and most of all good luck with moving!

  2. Red Deception June 29, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    I work in sexual health.

    A person can take it at face value, inquire more, or be instantly appalled. I have no shame in the care I provide and the work I do, so I feel no need to hide or sugarcoat my profession.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome: Weekly Reader and Apology - November 25, 2012

    […] for the reader this week: two reactions to the maternal health initiative (both lukewarm), and a piece I wrote for Abortion Gang about looking for a job in reproductive health.I hope you all (well, the […]

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