Valerie’s Story

I am a nurse employed at an excellent abortion clinic and I have been a pro-choice feminist all of my life. As such, I commend all of your readers for not being sorry for taking their lives into their own hands and for being brave enough to speak about it later.

The reason I’m writing though is that it seems that some women have been unsatisfied with their experiences at their clinics, feeling that they were not treated very well. I understand that not all clinics are created equal, and while I realize that everyone at my clinic is treated with respect, I can’t speak for places that I haven’t been employed at. But it does seem like some of your readers don’t have any idea what it’s like to work in an abortion clinic.

We get hate mail and threats every day. We fight past the protesters who shout hateful threatening things every day. We are denied respect and services in our communities because of what we do. Our fellow health professionals think badly of us, i.e., you must be a bad practitioner to work in an abortion clinic (another abortion myth). Our clinics are closed due to arson or acid attacks and the employees aren’t paid, because it’s a choice of paying your employees and not being able to reopen the clinic at all or not paying them and being able to still exist. My doctor has been shot at, twice. My clinic director has been stalked at her home, threatened with a gun. Her children have been targeted because of what their mother does for a living. Antis have chained themselves to our chairs, have blocked the clinic door. There isn’t a day goes by that one of us isn’t called a murderer. Recently, one of our African American employees was called a slave by a protester. I personally was almost denied a home loan due to my place of employment. This is what it’s like for us, everyday.

And yet, we still keep going to work. Trust me, either owning or working at an abortion clinic is not exactly the most profitable endeavor. I’m poor and my bosses have each made considerable donations (we are talking thousands) from their own personal bank accounts to keep the clinic open in times of strife. And some patients (not necessarily that wrote to this site) just don’t understand that. They don’t understand that their friends cannot be with them the whole time because we have no idea if their friend isn’t an anti who would be more than happy to murder me or my doctor or other patients. They seem unwilling to accept that our strict confidentiality rules are there for everyone’s protection. They don’t understand that they were lucky to have student nurse taking their blood, because it’s almost impossible to find pro-choice staff. And yes, girls, sometimes doctors will be cranky and nurses may check their nails. Maybe that doctor was shot at that morning, maybe the nurse was actually ruminating on the fact she had been called a slave when she was looking at those nails. It’s no excuse, but the truth is that as stressful as it can be to be stuck in an unwanted pregnancy, it is just as stressful to be the person with the open hand helping you out of your hole. Because after a girl receives a safe, legal abortion she can go home and recover, repair, heal and restore herself. But the people that provide those services don’t always have that option.

The doctor at my clinic literally hasn’t taken a vacation since he went on his honeymoon years ago. He suffers from several stress induced stomach problems, but he still makes it every single day though he lives hours and hours away. He may be heading to the bathroom to vomit painfully between each and every procedure, stopping the car to vomit on the way the work, but he’s still there. Because to turn anyone away is not an option for any of us. I went to work myself on the morning I found out I had a lifetime debilitating illness. So girls, try to understand that we are all out there trying to do the best we can, and if any of us drop the ball in the courtesy department, try asking us why we’re so upset. After all, we are all human and deserve a second chance. And the fact that abortions providers will give up their well being, their peace of mind and sometimes their lives for other people’s second chances certainly means they should get one every once in a while.

As a side note, if you do feel you’ve been the victim of something besides crankiness, discrimination of any kind, speak up! To the clinic director, to the Planned Parenthood headquarters in your state, to someone at the clinic who treated you kindly. They will listen. But remember to keep speaking up for the right of other women to have abortions. Vote, give money or time to local pro-choice organizations, and talk to your friends about birth control. Even though it should be, the right to have an abortion is not inherent in human rights in this country and it’s possible that we are going to end up without that right if people don’t start using their voices. Better yet, go to nursing school or medical school and become an abortion provider. We need you, as much as you needed us.