Latest blog post up over at Nursing Students For Choice about the work the abortion community is doing, with intention and passion, to unite and affect change. To humbly quote Queen Bey, we are getting in abortion formation.
Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Image credit: Allison Shelley/Getty Images
Valentine’s weekend I attended a party at a midwife friend’s house. She and I know each other to be #abortionpositive, and could wax poetic on the topics of midwives, abortion, immigrant rights, failures in public aid systems, feminist healthcare models, etc. regardless of the location or audience. One would assume that any vocal, activist reproductive justice clinician surrounds themself with people of the same soapbox persuasion, or at least I assume that of my own friends, and have yet to be proven wrong. Thus, even though I did not personally know anyone else at the party, I could assume that I was among good people, or what I affectionately call, “the community.”
Another attendee arrived who seemed not to know others at the party. My friend, Rachel, introduced Cheryl, describing how they bonded immediately over an impromptu conversation at the gym about intrauterine devices (IUDs). The reference to contraception prompted the other party-goers to ask Cheryl her profession, and she responded, “I’m an abortion provider.”
One of my favorite things about abortion is the community. (Note: I have many favorite things about abortion, ahem > Nursing Students for Choice < ahem > Dr. Willie Parker < ahem > Women on Web < ahem > full spectrum birth and abortion clinics > ahem < the Midwives for Sexual and Reproductive Health group > ahem.) I am always pleasantly surprised to meet someone else who bests me in being the first to say “abortion” in a group or at an event, to be validated in knowing that the cohort of pro-abortion / abortion positive people exists in impressive numbers. Many of us, particularly After Daleidan (AD), feel particularly guarded in advertising ourselves, quietly acknowledging that our once-stable foundation and safe inner circle cracked deep to the core after such violation. Now, though, Post Scalia (PS), with some momentum moving forward in the legal landscape, energy is on the rise, and I can feel the community re-forming again in public spheres.
There is a fantastic body of work underway in the abortion world around clinical practice, provider education, international access, intentional language, ongoing and future research, funding needs, and political negotiations. This work continued regardless of the aggressive social environment and political attacks, but is only now hitting its stride in more mainstream sources due to its public presence and the culmination of the latest case to hit the Supreme Court. The community, as it reforms publicly, recognizes the multitudes, and the powers, needed to keep abortion legal. Only with the joining of forces will we get this work done, and here are a few examples of the most recent forces of this work:
On fighting back against politicians using BLM language to restrict abortion access via things like the “All Lives Matter Act”
La’Tasha D. Mayes: We look at Cleveland where we see the deaths of Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson, and then to co-opt our language in talking about access to abortion is absolutely insulting. And so when billboards [employing negative messaging about abortion] come up in our communities, in the past what we’ve been able to do is get those billboards taken down. But we believe it’s necessary to take a proactive approach in changing the culture and stigma around Black woman and abortion, and so in that way we have used similar tactics. So we put up our own billboards with affirming messages—like we did in Cleveland—that talk about parents having the right to have children and parent their children without fear that he or she will be hurt or killed and that freedom form violence is reproductive justice. And so we can use our messaging that actually speaks to our constituents in a way that we talk about the complexity of life, the complexity of living as a Black person in America, or the complexity of the intersection with poverty and violence.”
“It felt as if, for the first time in history, the gender playing field at the high court was finally leveled, and as a consequence the court’s female justices were emboldened to just ignore the rules. Time limits were flouted to such a degree that Chief Justice John Roberts pretty much gave up enforcing them. I counted two instances in which Roberts tried to get advocates to wrap up as Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor simply blew past him with more questions. There was something wonderful and symbolic about Roberts losing almost complete control over the court’s indignant women, who are just not inclined to play nice anymore.”
“Reproductive Health Advocacy Fellow Dr. Pratima Gupta said: “When we stand against these sham laws we are standing up for women who have the least access to care, who face the most discrimination, and who are least likely to be able to travel to the only open clinic that may now be hundreds of miles away. We need to ensure that ALL women, no matter their zip code, have access to the care they need and deserve.”
You can watch the entire rally, which features speeches from Dr. Gupta, our board chair-elect Dr. Willie Parker, and Leadership Training Academy alums Dr. Sara Imershein and Dr. Bhavik Kumar, on YouTube.
Finally, we would like to share a wonderful video that was submitted as part of our “Why I Provide/Why I Support” project by Vanessa Cullins, MD, MPH, MBA, who is Vice President for External Medical Affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In this beautiful video, she talks about why she provided abortions as a physician and why she supports all abortion providers and all women who seek abortion care.”
If I may be so bold as to co-opt Queen Bey’s social philosophy and political swagger, I have an overwhelming, bursting excitement that our community is getting in abortion formation. We are united and connected and impassioned by the bonds formed by our collective body of work. We are founded within the recognition of the political and social aggression against abortion as a healthcare and human right, and the fact that the fights for abortion access focus most prominently in low income neighborhoods and for people of color. Abortion access affects all of us, but from a reproductive justice perspective (which in my opinion should be the default perspective going forward), lack of abortion access is a racial, infrastructural, political, financial, educational, and issue. To mangle a quote from the infamous RBG, wealthy women will never have a problem with abortion access, the whole point of the fight is for low income people. To fight and change and affect in formation is the only way to do so. Period.
Dr. Chastine and I had never met. We did not know each other’s faces or names. It was only because she openly advertised her work that we connected, and we were able to bolster each other’s spirits in the work we are doing as part of the global community. And now we are connected in stronger ways, and our work will continue separately but together, forming the body of work to which we are all contributing, every day.
So what does that mean to me? It means that we need to continue to advertise our community. We need to know each other’s faces* and names and lives. We need to say abortion out loud in every context, until it’s normalized and out of the legal agenda and accessible to everyone. We need to continue to intentionally mold this abortion community, and organize our formation to affect the greatest change.
Today is International Women’s Day. Bolster each other today by reaching out with love and support, in promotion of the work we are all doing toward the work of women and trans people’s fights for reproductive and sexual health access. This Thursday, March 10th is Abortion Provider Appreciation Day. Reach out to an abortion provider, to a clinic escort, to a reproductive justice blogger, to an abortion writer, and to each other. Talk about abortion all day, to everyone you meet, to normalize our work, to advertise your support of our community, and to join together, in abortion formation.
Interested in blogging for Nursing Students for Choice? Contact Stephanie@nursingstudentsforchoice.org.
*For any abortion provider who chooses to remain anonymous by face or name, I fully support that. Since Dr. Tiller’s death, shootings at clinic such as in Colorado Springs, CO, and the most recent defaming of the façade of a clinic in Columbus, OH, I completely understand those looking to protect their lives and their families. For those looking to advertise themselves and their work, I fully support that as well.
Stephanie Tillman is a midwife at the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital and the federally qualified health center clinic in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. She completed her undergraduate degree in Global Health and Medical Anthropology at the University of Michigan, and her graduate degree in midwifery at Yale University. She serves on the Boards of Directors of the American College of Nurse Midwives and Nursing Students for Choice. Stephanie blogs under the name Feminist Midwife, and through that blog and her clinical practice seeks to comment, critique, and challenge institutions that shape healthcare and society and affect the way people experience their health and well-being. She is passionate about providing a safe space for affirming, empowering, and supporting all people in their sexual and reproductive health decisions. Find her on social media @FeministMidwife.