Sometimes working in abortion care is not so different from other parts of the medical field. There are patients you love to work with, who appreciate your expertise and compassionate care, and others who are more frustrating, who require more of your time, energy, and patience. One particular brand of complicated abortion patients is the woman who says some variation of, “I think abortion is murder, but I want to have one anyway” or “I think you should be in jail for working here, but I need a procedure done.” How do you interact with this patient in a way that is healthy and preserves both your rights as a care provider and her rights as a woman?
I recently finished reading Dr. Susan Wicklund’s book This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor. One of the many powerful stories she tells is about her interaction with a patient like the one I described above. Dr. Wicklund had a detailed conversation with the patient about the patient’s view on abortion, and ultimately Dr. Wicklund decides not perform the abortion. This is both for her sanity as well as the emotional health of the patient. Dr. Wicklund explains her decision by saying that the patient has the right to her own opinion on abortion, just as Dr. Wicklund has the right to refuse to see patients who she doesn’t think are making a healthy medical decision, patients who thinks she is a murderer, yet want her to perform the procedure anyway. “I have rights too,” she powerfully declares.
When I read that, I had to put the book down. I never thought about it that way. Does this woman have the right to have an abortion? Absolutely. Does she have the right to violate an abortion provider’s emotional security and moral center? Hell no. I had this conversation with women time and again and was always torn — yes, they deserve to decide what medical care they receive. But do they have the right to tear down my profession in the process, calling us murderers and then demanding services? It’s not exactly something they go over in basic training, is it?
What do you think? I’d love to hear from other abortion land workers as well as pro-choice activists about this one.