For those of you who don’t already know me, I’m a pre-med student working towards getting into the health care field as an abortion provider. In high school, I shocked all of my friends and family (and still am shocking them) by announcing that I chose not to be a music major and am going into health care instead. After getting over that initial shock, it seemed that everyone was outspoken about their opinion of what I should do with my life except for me. My dad wanted me to be an ultrasound technician. My mom wanted me to go back to music. My private violin teacher wanted me to be a cardiac surgeon. One of my professors even tried to convince me to become a plastic surgeon. Is someone’s voice missing from this conversation? Uh, yeah: MINE!
With so many strong opinions out there about what I should do with my life and with so much stigma surrounding my future profession, it’s sometimes difficult to get my voice out there and “come out” as a future abortion provider. I admit, sometimes I toy with the idea of going back to music; no one heckles you for saying “I am a violinist”. It’s never intimidating for me to tell someone that I play the violin. No violinists have been stalked or murdered just for being violinists. Abortion providers, sadly, do have to deal with these things. A lot of abortion providers have a hard time “coming out”, even to their family and friends, for fear of the stigma surrounding abortion care and being treated badly for their work. Even though I’m not an abortion provider yet, I have experienced some of the same things. I live in an area that is plagued by anti-choicers, so I am somewhat alone in my passion for women’s rights. When I “come out” to someone as a future abortion provider, I have no idea what kind of reaction I’ll get. Usually people just avoid me after I tell them (hey, I’m okay with that. Who wants to be friends with an anti, anyway?) I’ve gotten people who try to start arguments with me. I had one friend who responded by saying “Oh my god, really? That’s so awesome!” The wide range of reactions can be intimidating; you never know what you’re going to get when you tell someone of your plans for your life when those plans involve providing abortion.
Sometimes I wonder if being so shy about coming out makes me a bad activist. Obviously, I’m not ashamed about being a future abortion provider, or else I’d go into some less stigmatic field of health care. The thing is, coming out means getting a lot of shit from people and losing a lot of friends. I can and do handle this well, but I shouldn’t have to. As much as I’d like to make myself think so, I’m not superwoman. I am not always in the mood to defend my passion or my career path. I am not always in the mood for fighting it out; I prefer to conserve my energy for more worthwhile battles. I don’t always feel like having to deal with the lady in my orchestra who looks at me funny every rehearsal because she considers me to be some kind of Nazi baby killer. And you know what? That’s okay. I shouldn’t have to fight every time I tell someone what kind of doctor I’m going to be. I shouldn’t have to expend all of my energy explaining to someone every time I’m asked “so what are you going to do?” or “what’s your major?” People in other professions don’t have to.
When we talk about stigma surrounding abortion care, we tend to focus on those who are on the receiving side of abortion care; pregnant people. That is okay, because this is HUGE. However, it’s also vital to discuss the stigma surrounding abortion care. 87% of U.S. counties don’t have an abortion provider, and this needs to change. Saying “I am an abortion provider” should be no more stigmatic than saying “I am a cardiac surgeon”, just like saying “I had an abortion” should be no more stigmatic than saying “I had heart surgery”. All in all, we have a lot of work to do in this country (and many others) when it comes to abortion stigma; all those in and out of abortion care are affected by this in some way, and it does nothing but hurt us. Women deserve better, and for women to receive better, it is absolutely vital that we provide support for our providers.