Trigger Warning: This story talks about abortions.
In 2005, I got an abortion. Still a kid myself, in many ways, new to New York City with my parents paying my rent so I could pursue my dreams of becoming a writer, I was in no position to be a mother. I’m still, 15 years later, in no position to be a mother, but for different reasons: Motherhood isn’t for me.
Although I rarely think about my abortion, when it does cross my mind or comes up in conversation with friends who have also had abortions, I always say it was the best decision of my life. I have zero regrets, I never second-guessed my choice, and—most importantly—I have the life, the career, that I always wanted. Without my abortion, that would not be the case.
So every year when Abortion Provider Appreciation Day rolls around, I pause and think about everything that doctor gave me when he conducted the procedure that cold day in March 2005. If you didn’t know that today is Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, below is a complete breakdown of this holiday, what you need to know about abortions, and how you can help.
What is Abortion Provider Appreciation Day?
Although Roe v. Wade was passed 47 years ago this past January 22, abortion still remains a controversial subject—most especially among those who feel that women shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions about their own body. A woman’s right to bodily autonomy is constantly at stake and will continue to be so as long as anti-choice groups fight for the rights of a fetus, over the rights of a woman.
As many good things do, Physicians for Reproductive Health started as a grassroots movement in 1992. The mission of this group of physicians is to educate other physicians about abortions and how to safely perform them, how to advocate, and how to talk to patients about their reproductive rights, all while establishing themselves as a go-to source for facts about abortion in a country that would rather turn a blind eye to facts.
In honor of Dr. David Gunn, who was fatally shot on March 10, 1993, making him the first abortion provider killed, 1996 became the first year that Abortion Provider Appreciation Day was celebrated.
Even if you haven’t had an abortion, these brave people who perform this procedure—especially in this political climate—deserve not just recognition, but appreciation.
“I am an OB/GYN and I specialize in abortion services in California,” Amir G Nasseri, MD, FACOG, Specialty Board Training and Certification: OB/GYN, American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, tells HelloGiggles. “Every day I view it [as] my obligation and privilege to provide abortion access to the women of my community. I also try to educate and negate peoples’ misconceptions about abortion.”
Dr. Nasseri also makes sure that every single patient who walks into his office knows their options, the facts, how the procedure is done, and why women choose to have an abortion, so no one feels alone.
What you need to know about abortions
Although the amount of people who seek abortions varies every year, the Center for Disease Control reported that 623,471 had been performed in 2016. The number is the lowest it’s been since the early ’80s when, in 1982 alone, 1.57 million legal abortions were performed. Much of this has to do with education and access to birth control—another thing that is constantly on the chopping block for those who oppose women’s reproductive rights.
“I present the option of an abortion in an unbiased and non-judgmental way, the same way I present the option of continuation of the pregnancy,” Dr. Nasseri says. “It is key to be empathetic to my patients’ predicament, and to be emotionally supportive. I always tell my patients that only they can make that difficult decision and that decision is to be respected by all.”
As Dr. Nasseri points out, there’s no wrong decision; it’s all about what the patient feels is right for them.
“I always explain the various reasons that people have for getting abortions, and show commonality in thought among everyone,” says Dr. Nasseri. “I find this to be very important, because most women that are faced with this decision feel isolated and misunderstood. They do not know that they share the same fears, concerns, and motivations as millions of other women. Once they know that they are not alone in this plight, a huge load can be taken off their shoulders.”
But as Dr. Nasseri also points out, throughout history abortion has been mislabeled as immoral by not just politicians, but religious authorities. Basically, anyone in power who feels they have any right to dictate control over a woman’s body has tried to do just that. Because this is nothing new, neither is the fight.
How do we destigmatize abortion?
As is the case with any taboo subject and, tragically, abortion is still a taboo subject, we need to talk about it, we need to tackle the topic, we need to stop whispering the word “abortion” as if it’s something dirty, immoral, or wrong. Because it isn’t.
“[Abortion] is a sensitive topic that incites intense feelings and comments,” Steven W. Tucker, MD, a medical advisor for eMediHealth, tells HelloGiggles. “Regardless of your position, it does not help to inflame the social anger of people holding a differing opinion. Best to avoid the controversy and stick to the facts.”
Dr. Tucker suggests presenting material that represents the concerns of both sides of the conversation, especially noting the historical consequences of when abortion was illegal versus now, when it is legal—at least in some remaining states.
“Emphasize that abortion rights are one of the most intimate of all rights—the right to determine what you do with your own body,” Dr. Tucker says.
While Dr. Tucker tells HelloGiggles that he’s skeptical that the abortion stigma will ever go away, even mentioning that “maybe 30% to 50% of [his patients who have had abortions] will drop their voice and/or their head, reflecting their feelings about having had abortions,” when he asks about previous pregnancies, Dr. Nasseri feels differently about kicking the stigma to the curb.
“Stigmas are broken by bringing abortion into the light,” says Dr. Nasseri. “Other than working with individual women and patients to break the stigma of abortions, we must also work with the general public to sway opinion. We do so by attending public events and especially health fairs in our community, educating public members about the common and legitimate reasons women have for seeking abortions, safety record of legal access to abortion, and the commonality of abortion. Historically abortion was placed in the shadows by ignorance. With communication, and by spreading knowledge, education, and sympathy, we can bring it back into the light and break its stigma.”
What can we do as individuals to help?
First of all, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve had an abortion, or even if you’ve never met someone who’s had one: Don’t whisper the word “abortion.” Say it out loud. Research abortion laws not just in your state, but other states, too. Stay informed (perfect example: Learn about the Louisiana Abortion Law that could be the beginning of abolishing Roe v. Wade), so you know when certain laws that will further restrict access to abortion are about to hit the Republican-dominated Senate. Educate not just yourself, but others. If you can, donate money or your time to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Abortion Federation, National Organization for Women, and other political advocacy groups that you can.
And last, but certainly not least, because we are talking about Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, if you know a provider, thank them. Let them know you support the work they’re doing and you’re grateful for what they’re giving women, the thing that politicians and religious leaders don’t want to: The right to choose.