Blog of Rights

Fellow Travelers

By Galen Sherwin, ACLU Women's Rights Project at 12:04pm

I represented Dr. M. on a case, and I will never forget what he told me about how he came to the work of providing abortion care. He was working as an OB-GYN at a hospital in upstate New York, performing a few abortions a year after the only other local abortion provider retired. Through NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Abortion Federation, he connected with other abortion providers, and “got inspired” to step up to fill the gap. He opened a small outpatient clinic connected to the hospital, and eventually made the move to a full-time family planning clinic, where he has practiced for six years.

When I asked him what sustains him — despite the protests, threats, and daily emotional challenges of the work — he said it was the stories of his patients, whom he regards as “fellow travelers.” Dr. M. has seen patients who have terminated wanted pregnancies due to life-threatening medical conditions, women in poverty who could not provide for another child, and victims of sexual abuse. As an adult survivor of child sexual abuse himself, Dr. M. tries to “bring that sensitivity” to his practice. “It’s important to let my patients know that [abortion] is not just a theory that I’m sympathetic about,” he told me. Instead, Dr. M. aims to draw parallels between his own issues and struggles in life and those of his patients, and to also bring that energy into his work.

Dr. M. has provided compassionate and professional health care to his patients, has constantly advocated to expand available services in his region, and has been an outspoken champion for his staff and the women he serves. He is a true inspiration.

Yesterday was the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. ACLU staff honored those men and women with a series of tributes yesterday.

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