By Caroline Vu
“This is the last time I will go around the block before the clinic starts thinking I am one of these protesters,” I finally decided. I was about to begin my internship with South Wind Women’s Center in Oklahoma City, when a wave of apprehension hit me so strong I wasn’t sure if I would ever have the courage to drive past the cluster of protesters swinging their plastic babies and posters of inaccurate portrayal of abortion procedures in the air. Science isn’t real in certain parts of America.
This was in the summer of 2015, when legislation restricting abortion was skyrocketing with nearly 400 bills introduced that year. I had just finished my first year in medical school and as an aspiring obstetrician/gynecologist I wanted to learn more about abortion, a simple medical procedure that is purposefully left out in the majority of medical school curricula. I always knew that I’d practice in underserved rural areas of America, but I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to be an abortion provider as well. The next logical step was to do an internship in one of the most restricted and hostile states in the country to see if I could handle the pressure of being constantly scrutinized by anti-abortionists. I took a deep breath, held my head high, and finally turned into the lot, making sure not to lock eyes with anyone who already despised everything about me. It was all or nothing at this point.
My stance towards abortion had been relatively low-key during the Pre-Trump era. Like religion and politics, it simply was not a topic within the realm of persuasion; people took a position on the matter and firmly held on to it. My efforts as a declared pro-choice individual included a lot of reading, keeping track of reproductive healthcare legislature, and seeking out training in my own time. I couldn’t persuade everyone to be pro-choice but that did not stop me from getting the skills and knowledge to ensure that every woman has the opportunity to make an informed choice about her body. It was an indirect and less vocal, yet still effective, way of fighting against the anti-choice group. I simply did my part and there was nothing else to be said, I thought. Simple, right?
The night Trump and Pence won the election reaffirmed for some that the world was black and white, that men know best, and that what is white is right. The election results changed my life immediately. My heart felt violently torn apart and my hope for a better America was lost. I felt becoming an abortion provider during this time seemed more irresponsible than helpful now that everyone dear to me would be put in harm’s way. I was numb. I was terrified. I felt incredibly alone. We have entered an era where accountability for one’s actions cease to exist, where it’s okay to be openly racist, where classism and sexism play a huge role in spewing hate towards people who are deemed unworthy. Hate and intolerance prevailed in America that night.
I ended up spending three weeks with South Wind Women’s Center. I started my internship knowing that I will most likely pursue abortion training and left deciding to become a late-term abortion provider in a state that does not have a single provider. The harmful legislation that gets passed is not a joke. Frustrated patients often asked why a five minute procedure takes almost eight hours of their day and why couldn’t they get the procedure done on the same day. I felt helpless — it was not in my control.
Politics have continued to make women feel like second class citizens who are nothing but trouble makers. When women own their sexuality, the world seems to start spinning out of control. America cannot handle a woman who’s proud of her pussy — it’s unruly, it’s unlady-like! Women aren’t to use sex for pleasure, just conception, our father Congress exclaims. And then I wondered, “is it apathy and complacency within my generation that has permitted misogyny to progress this far?” If so, we must take a stand and say enough is enough! The anti-choice and anti-woman rhetoric has silenced us for long enough.
As a woman of color, first generation American, and scientist I have had enough of the antiquated patriarchy mansplaining what is best for women. I cannot simply just ‘be’ an abortion provider without talking about abortion and what it means to me. I must be loud and proud about it. I will not let fear and hate control my life. I will not hide how excited I am for pursuing training to become a late term abortion provider any longer. So it starts now — with me, you, and everyone who believes every human being has the right to live the life that they were involuntarily given.
There are a lot of ways to fight for reproductive health justice besides giving a financial contribution to reproductive health non-profit organizations. Staying up to date with reproductive health legislation is an important first step. Guttmacher Institute provides the most current articles in regards to that. Get familiarized with and contact your state representatives to express concern over harmful scientifically unsound legislative proposals. Go to public hearings and voice your concerns. Create a widespread discussion: talk about abortion, actively listen to abortion stories, express your disdain for harmful gag orders, the federal funding cuts, the hospital affiliation and other ridiculous medical facility requirements, and the nth attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Don’t just sit there and stew, TALK ABOUT IT.
Start off by learning how to say abortion without hesitation or fear. Some of the most important things in life are the hardest to talk about. It’s scary to open a discussion about something that many may not agree with. But I believe that the core of the problem in the fight for safe and accessible abortion exists just there. Fear, misunderstanding, and concession to the anti-choice rhetoric have prevented us from having overdue healthy and positive conversations about abortion. I am not saying that every discussion will end on an agreeable note — most likely there will be little change in regards to personal opinions about the matter. What conversations do is give others a chance to develop different perspectives and educate others, reinforcing the importance of appreciating how complex the world and her inhabitants are. The more conversations that are had, the closer we are to destigmatizing abortion. The ability to keep abortion legal and safe is right at the tip of our tongues.
I was feeling less than stellar when I got to Washington, D.C. on the morning of the Women’s March. My long term relationship had just ended and becoming an abortion provider was a contributing factor. I questioned it all — my journey, my beliefs, the sacrifices I have and will continue to make in order to advocate for safe and accessible abortion and the prevention of marginalizing women. And then without even realizing it, the questioning stopped. The loneliness slowly dissipated as I watched marchers with their signs of contempt for government interference and vibrant pink knitted pussy caps start to cover the grounds and proudly walk past me. A huge weight was taken off my heart and I started to believe in myself once again. There were roughly four million people that came out on that cold January morning to fight for Roe v. Wade’s existence. I was reminded that I am never and will never be alone in this journey to becoming an abortion provider. I am aware that this is an uphill battle, and I may lose some people along the way. There will be lonely times ahead in which I may feel overwhelmed with despair. But to have been surrounded by such a magnitude of support for abortion rights in a single day made me firmly believe fear and hate will ultimately succumb to our efforts for a better world and the rewards of being a provider will always overweigh the risks. Becoming a late term abortion provider is my very own attempt to live a life worth living. For those who have been conversing about abortion and supporting safe and accessible abortion, please keep it up. I am more appreciative of the support than you will ever realize — your support is my life line. For those who haven’t started yet, it’s never too late to initiate a dialogue and show your support. Now let’s continue to fight the good hard fight in order to live the lives that each one of us more than deserves.
Nash, Elizabeth, Rachel Benson Gold, Gwendolyn Rathbun, and Zohra Ansari-Thomas. “Laws Affecting Reproductive Health and Rights: 2015 State Policy Review.” Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher Institute, 17 May 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.