A week ago, the doctor and staff at the only abortion clinic in Mississippi faced an unimaginable medical emergency: a woman who was receiving an ultrasound gave birth to a full-term baby. When our doctor realized the infant was in the crowning stage of birth, they informed the staff and the patient that she was having a baby right then and right there. The staff reacted calmly on their feet, called an ambulance, and stood by to watch as within minutes our doctor safely and skillfully delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl.
The protesters outside were whipped into a frenzy when they saw the ambulance and proceeded to call the local newspaper to have them “investigate” why a “live birth” had occurred at our facility. Seeing that the protesters were intent on warping this situation, we answered basic questions to the media and thought to ourselves: Finally! The world will see that abortion providers don’t have an opinion on whether someone should have an abortion, we just want to provide women with quality medical care without judgement or shame.
Of course, that’s not how the narrative went, so our staff would like to share some lessons we hope the general public will learn from this event:
- The protesters standing outside, screaming unimaginable things at our patients, are eagerly awaiting, with cameras, any kind of call for an ambulance – abortion related or not – from our facility. The virulently anti-abortion site Operation Rescue is already bragging online about how they “filed a formal complaint yesterday with the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure seeking an investigation “into our facility. This should boggle the mind of anyone reading right now. How could anti-abortion protesters turn something clearly demonstrating our medical abilities and caring sensitivities into something that should be a complaint filed with the Board of Medicine? THIS is the life we lead as abortion providers. We have a constant target on our backs. We know if an ambulance is called to our facility for any reason – maybe a patient’s guest had a seizure in the lobby, maybe a staff member had a concussion and got dizzy while working, or maybe there is an actual known, rare, abortion complication – any reason will be an excuse to launch a campaign of calls and complaints against us.
Which brings me to my second point:
- For decades, abortion providers have existed as the moving targets of American medicine. For twenty years, a doctor I work with who I admire for his bed-side manner, great skill, and humanity would look at me almost daily and say, “no good deed goes unpunished”. Our every move is not only under intense scrutiny, but can and will be misconstrued publicly to affect a national movement to eradicate abortion in America. If it sounds like a gigantic burden for a few people to carry on their shoulders, it was and is. Abortion clinic workers are literal moving targets as doctors and staff have been publicly harassed, stalked, and assassinated. We are figurative moving targets as our motives are under constant scrutiny by the public, society at large, and other members of the medical community.
Which brings me to my final point:
- We are an independent, local clinic. We are our community. When our staff sees a young woman suddenly deliver a baby in front of their eyes because she received no prenatal care and had no idea how far in the pregnancy she was, they see their sisters, mothers, neighbors, selves. Our staff know, if only in the back of their minds, that their state has the highest infant mortality rate in the country and one of the highest maternal mortality rates. This is our reality, which makes us even more proud when we know that for one woman and one baby we were able to impact those numbers in the positive – even if we will never get recognized for it.
So as the weeks go on, we slowly forget about the good deed we were given to perform. We still smile with some pride, but we also wait and remember the caveat: in the world of abortion provision, no good deed goes unpunished.