The past two years I have spent working at an abortion clinic have been without question challenging, rewarding and life-altering. My patients set my moral compass and inspire me on a daily basis. As a reproductive justice advocate and doula I feel it is my duty to constantly evolve my skills to better serve and work with my patients. I also believe I am obligated to learn from each woman I interact with to help answer age-old “social justice” questions. Recently, my girlfriend rekindled a question I have not formally visited in too long: How do I work with women in a way that is not solely political?
As a white, upper middle class woman I find myself constantly evaluating the politics of my privilege and harking back to my roots in women’s studies and its teachings of oppression and power. Most will agree that we cannot take the “political” out of abortion care. The government and our society at large have instilled a need to politicize everything women do. As advocates, is it possible for us to transcend the political for our patients to view our interactions as human, personal and essential? I always see the political in conversations I have with low-income women who cannot use their Medicaid to cover their abortions in Virginia. I also see the political in situations where patients cannot access childcare two days in a row to come for their ultrasound at least twenty-four hours before their abortion. It is also political that most of the low-income women I obtain abortion funding for are women of color. Systems of racism, classism and sexism are a harsh reality for too many in our society. To ignore or normalize these oppressions is, in many ways, to perpetuate them.
Working to eradicate these systems is one of the main reasons I work in abortion care, but it is not the only one. I show up to work every day because I truly love and respect every woman who walks through our doors. I respect their stories, their strength, their families, their passions, their goals, etc. As an abortion doula, I am allowed into the intimate space of a woman’s abortion and establish a connection with her that is unique, often times spiritual and always human. At its most essential place, I do this work because I believe every woman has a story that deserves to be heard and the ability to make a contribution to our society. I hope to continue to learn from my patients and fellow activists to find the best way to balance the human and political elements of our work to push for a better, more just world for women and their families.