Abortions, especially second trimester ones, can be emotional and complex. But for me, condemning a person to an unwanted pregnancy is worse.
When I train my family medicine residents in abortion care, we look at different scenarios as to why patients might have abortions: because they are too old or too young to have a child, because they have been raped , because they have professional ambitions that do not This does not include raising children, because they cannot afford another child, because they have too many children, because they do not don’t want children, because their fetus has abnormalities. It is important to go through these scenarios so residents can clarify their values and examine their biases.
But after 10 years of work, I realized that it is not for me, or anyone else, to demand justification for why someone chooses to terminate a pregnancy. When I was a resident, I admitted patients with heart attacks to the hospital. Some had faulty genes. Others had poorly controlled diabetes or hypertension. Others had used methamphetamine. It was not my job to decide based on life circumstances who deserved medical treatment. It was, and still is, my professional and ethical obligation to treat people before me for the sole reason that they need help and that I can help them.
In the end, all possible reasons for seeking an abortion boil down to one: they don’t want to carry this pregnancy to term. They don’t want to give birth to a baby. That’s enough for me. If we want to say that we trust people to make decisions about their bodily autonomy, we have to trust them completely.
“Is it okay to be sad?” asks one of the Oklahoma patients I see as soon as her second-trimester procedure is complete. “Of course, there is nothing wrong with being sad” the staff and I tell him. “You have the right to feel whatever you feel.”
Later, I’m going for a walk along the Oklahoma River. The sky is a vivid spring cornflower blue, but the leafless trees and dry, dull grass still hold out tenaciously through the winter. I look up at the trees, and their spreading branches remind me of human anatomy, arteries dividing into arterioles and capillaries, branching into ever finer points.
The natural world has all kinds of these redundancies, where life echoes life. I feel a deep wonder at the beauty of the natural world and the complexity of the human experience within it. And I feel gratitude that, at least for now, I can continue to provide.
Dr. Alison Block is a family physician, abortionist, and executive producer of “The Nocturnists” podcast. She’s working on her first novel, about an abortion provider in red.