Credit: World Can't Wait/Debra Sweet on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).
(WOMENSENEWS)-- Abortion training in this country is basically done by "apprenticeship." If you're an MD/DO, you're supposed to learn in residency, but that doesn't happen so often, so there are organizations like Medical Students for Choice to connect people to training or fellowships like the Ryan that you can take on your own time.
As a nurse practitioner (or a physician's assistant or a midwife), what we're allowed to do depends on where and when we're practicing. We can provide medication abortion (mifepristone and misoprostol) in more than 15 states but surgical abortion in far fewer, even though the actual procedure is exactly the same as other ones (like completing a failed miscarriage) that are solidly within our scope of practice almost everywhere.
The actual hands-on training is straightforward, because first-trimester surgical abortion is a very technically simple procedure. Completing 100 to 300 procedures is considered achieving competency, and the reason it takes that many procedures is because complications (like infection) happen so infrequently that it takes that many to see even a single one.
When I started I knew intellectually that half the country wished I hadn't gone to work that day, and a smaller percentage probably wished I hadn't even woken up, but pro-life was never part of my life until I actually took on the job. The idea of "sin" had eroded out of my parents' Catholicism so that the only part they passed on was the punishment style ("I want to let you know that if you have sex you can get a yeast infection in your eyes and you would deserve it").
Bringing Lunch to Stay Inside
I am lucky to be training in a liberal Northeastern state: the biggest impact of "antis" on my training is that I have to bring my lunch every day because it's not really a good idea to go outside more than you have to. The protesters only figured out that I was a clinician-in-training and not a nightmarishly fertile young woman by my third or fourth visit. When they called me "babykiller," I was like "No way, I'm still working on ultrasound technique!" A couple weeks later I finally got it together to look directly at them and I saw that they were (A) a scraggly group of five or so and (B) all old white dudes, historically the least likely demographic to spiritually or morally lead me. Relief!
I had spent most of my life thinking that "following politics" was like being the sports fan who makes sure to watch every game her team plays and always wears the jersey on game day. Yeah, I want us to win too, duh, but you know, does it really matter if I'm sitting there? I'll check it out if they get to the playoffs or whatever.
'The News is Me'
But now that the news is me, I understand the value of a stupid tie with team colors. I saw that South Dakota bill and I cried. I wanted to call up my friends and say, "Hello! So, at least a couple people in South Dakota want to make it so that it kind of wouldn't be illegal to kill an abortion provider. Like, me, your friend who does abortions. I'm an abortion provider and I'm your friend. So it would become legal for someone to kill me, your abortion-providing friend. So please, please, please help me do something about this."
Up until recently I'd come out of any closet I found myself in--queer, non-monogamous, I love the band Tool still, whatever. Not that I live to hear the drink-choking sound, but because, to me, coming out was just one of the ways I could pay back the privileges that had been arbitrarily bestowed upon me (educated! white-appearing! "normal!").
But training as an abortion provider is the first thing in my life that I hold back on spilling about. At the core of it, there's a huge gap between saying "I had one" and saying "I do them." I don't want to alienate people. And nothing else I've ever done or been has felt like a direct invitation to a motivated someone out there to kill me and get away with it.
From "Get Out of My Crotch! Twenty-One Writers Respond to America's War on Women's Rights and Reproductive Health," edited by Kim Wyatt and Sari Botton. Copyright 2012 by Bona Fide Books/Cherry Bomb Books. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. A percentage of the proceeds from this book will go to Planned Parenthood.
This essay originally appeared in The Hairpin.
Dolores P. is a nurse practitioner in New York working in family planning and community health. She still really, really, really loves her job. Sari Botton is a writer whose articles and essays have appeared in publications including the New York Times, Harper's Bazaar, New York Magazine, Marie Claire and the New York Daily News. She's taught at SUNY Albany and is a partner in the TMI Project, a nonprofit storytelling workshop that empowers teens and adults in underserved communities. Kim Wyatt is the publisher of Bona Fide Books and Cherry Bomb Books. She has worked in most facets of publishing, including journalism, textbook development, manuscript evaluation and as managing editor at print and online publications. Wyatt holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.
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