Why I Provide

Dr. Jane Smith

The best gift I could give to honor Dr. Tiller's life is to "come out" as an abortion provider to friends and family, to identify myself and the work I do with pride.

Jane Smith, MD, is a pseudonym
for the abortion provider and member of Physicians
for Reproductive Choice and Health

who wrote this post.

On May 31, 2009, Dr. George
Tiller was fatally shot in the foyer of the Reformation Lutheran Church
in Wichita, Kansas. For many Americans, this story was likely a news
brief that came and went. But not for me.

I am an abortion provider.

My colleagues and I comprise
a small, close knit community of abortion providers and advocates across
the nation. As we mourned Dr. Tiller’s loss, we also struggled to
understand what his death meant for our own lives. Reading tributes
to Dr. Tiller and his career, I was humbled. I was also embarrassed
by my own silence. Outside my chosen professional community, I’ve
kept my work a secret.

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I thought about sending a card
to the Tiller family or making a donation in his name. Then I realized
the best gift I could give to honor his life is to "come out" to
friends and family, to identify myself and the work I do with pride.
So I did. I emailed or called more than a hundred friends, family members,
and acquaintances and told them that I am an abortion provider.

I was tired of the awkward
silences (awkward in my mind, at least) when people asked about my job.
"Women’s health" or "family planning" often sufficed, but
when pressed, I usually switched the subject. There were a thousand
reasons I didn’t want to identify as an abortion provider. I wondered,
will she never speak to me again? Will our kids get picked on? Will
play dates cease? Will our family members stop calling? Worse yet, could
we become the targets of harassment and violence? Yet when I revealed
this part of my job, none of these concerns became reality. Many of
my confidants expressed their support for my work. Some opened up about
their own abortions.

By remaining silent about abortion,
I contributed to the marginalization of abortion and, more important,
the women who have had abortions. These women are our neighbors and
teachers; members of our churches, synagogues, and mosques; sisters,
mothers, and daughters. All of us know women who have had abortions
(one in three women will have had an abortion by the age of 45). If
you are not aware of any, it is only because they choose not to share
their stories. It is also because we don’t ask or provide safe spaces
in which to tell.

I didn’t "come out" to
change anyone’s political views on abortion. I wanted to share a side
of my life that I find hard to discuss under ordinary circumstances.
And I would be lying if I did not admit that I hoped my letters and
calls would open up thoughtful conversations about the meaning of pregnancy,
unwanted pregnancy, parenting, and yes, abortion. Conversations that
went beyond overly simplistic stereotypes and hurtful words.

Telling the truth about what
I do was incredibly rewarding. I suspect some of my friends and family
are struggling with the news that I provide abortions, but the responses
I heard have all been positive. This is an important start for me, and
I have farther to go – I am using a pseudonym for this post because
I am not yet ready to be widely known as an abortion provider. I share
the story of my progress so far in hopes that it will encourage other
providers to reveal their secret. If each of us had the "coming out"
conversation with a hundred friends and colleagues, thousands of conversations
would begin about the need for abortion and the rewards of offering
women this service.

I never planned to be an abortion
provider. There is nothing glamorous or lucrative about this career
path. As a family doctor, I provide a breadth of care across the life
cycle; offering abortions in my own practice has been the most satisfying
part of my career. There are days when working in our current health
care "system" does not seem worthwhile, but I can honestly say that
providing women the full range of reproductive health care sustains
my passion and gets me to work every day.

Women come to me asking for
abortions for so many reasons: partners leaving them, condoms breaking,
not having insurance to pay for the most effective contraceptives, ambivalence
about pregnancy and parenting-I could go on. Most recently, the economy
has been a major driving force. Many of the women and men I care for
are losing their jobs and struggling to care for the children they already

Some stories I find more compelling
than others. All stories are rich and highly personal; they challenge
and push me every day to continually uphold one of the core ethical
principals in medicine: "respect [patient] autonomy." This is the
nature of my work, which reflects the nature of being human in an increasingly
complex world. I cannot claim to understand women’s choices all the
time – whether they decide to become parents, end the pregnancy, or
make an adoption plan – but I trust that they are doing what is best
for them and their families at that certain place and that certain time
in their lives.

In Dr. Tiller’s own words:
"Abortion is not a cerebral or a reproductive issue. Abortion is a
matter of the heart. For until one understands the heart of a woman,
nothing else about abortion makes any sense at all."

By telling the truth about
my professional life, I hope I’ve helped my friends and family understand
my own heart, and my patients’ hearts, a little better.

News Human Rights

Feds Prep for Second Mass Deportation of Asylum Seekers in Three Months

Tina Vasquez

Those asylum seekers include Mahbubur Rahman, the leader of #FreedomGiving, the nationwide hunger strike that spanned nine detention centers last year and ended when an Alabama judge ordered one of the hunger strikers to be force fed.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for the second time in three months, will conduct a mass deportation of at least four dozen South Asian asylum seekers.

Those asylum seekers include Mahbubur Rahman, the leader of #FreedomGiving, the nationwide hunger strike that spanned nine detention centers last year and ended when an Alabama judge ordered one of the hunger strikers to be force-fed.

Rahman’s case is moving quickly. The asylum seeker had an emergency stay pending with the immigration appeals court, but on Monday morning, Fahd Ahmed, executive director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), a New York-based organization of youth and low-wage South Asian immigrant workers, told Rewire that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer called Rahman’s attorney saying Rahman would be deported within 48 hours. As of 4 p.m. Monday, Rahman’s attorney told Ahmed that Rahman was on a plane to be deported.

As of Monday afternoon, Rahman’s emergency stay was granted while his appeal was still pending, which meant he wouldn’t be deported until the appeal decision. Ahmed told Rewire earlier Monday that an appeal decision could come at any moment, and concerns about the process, and Rahman’s case, remain.

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An online petition was created in hopes of saving Rahman from deportation.

ICE has yet to confirm that a mass deportation of South Asian asylum seekers is set to take place this week. Katherine Weathers, a visitor volunteer with the Etowah Visitation Project, an organization that enables community members to visit with men in detention at the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, told Rewire that last week eight South Asian men were moved from Etowah to Louisiana, the same transfer route made in April when 85 mostly Muslim South Asian asylum seekers were deported.

One of the men in detention told Weathers that an ICE officer said to him a “mass deportation was being arranged.” The South Asian asylum seeker who contacted Weathers lived in the United States for more than 20 years before being detained. He said he would call her Monday morning if he wasn’t transferred out of Etowah for deportation. He never called.

In the weeks following the mass deportation in April, it was alleged by the deported South Asian migrants that ICE forcefully placed them in “body bags” and that officers shocked them with Tasers. DRUM has been in touch with some of the Bangladeshis who were deported. Ahmed said many returned to Bangladesh, but there were others who remain in hiding.

“There are a few of them [who were deported] who despite being in Bangladesh for three months, have not returned to their homes because their homes keep getting visited by police or intelligence,” Ahmed said.

The Bangladeshi men escaped to the United States because of their affiliations and activities with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the opposition party in Bangladesh, as Rewire reported in April. Being affiliated with this party, advocates said, has made them targets of the Bangladesh Awami League, the country’s governing party.

DHS last year adopted the position that BNP, the second largest political party in Bangladesh, is an “undesignated ‘Tier III’ terrorist organization” and that members of the BNP are ineligible for asylum or withholding of removal due to alleged engagement in terrorist activities. It is unclear how many of the estimated four dozen men who will be deported this week are from Bangladesh.

Ahmed said that mass deportations of a particular group are not unusual. When there are many migrants from the same country who are going to be deported, DHS arranges large charter flights. However, South Asian asylum seekers appear to be targeted in a different way. After two years in detention, the four dozen men set to be deported have been denied due process for their asylum requests, according to Ahmed.

“South Asians are coming here and being locked in detention for indefinite periods and the ability for anybody, but especially smaller communities, to win their asylum cases while inside detention is nearly impossible,” Ahmed told Rewire. “South Asians also continue to get the highest bond amounts, from $20,000 to $50,000. All of this prevents them from being able to properly present their asylum cases. The fact that those who have been deported back to Bangladesh are still afraid to go back to their homes proves that they were in the United States because they feared for their safety. They don’t get a chance to properly file their cases while in detention.”

Winning an asylum claim while in detention is rare. Access to legal counsel is limited inside detention centers, which are often in remote, rural areas.

As the Tahirih Justice Center reported, attorneys face “enormous hurdles in representing their clients, such as difficulty communicating regularly, prohibitions on meeting with and accompanying clients to appointments with immigration officials, restrictions on the use of office equipment in client meetings, and other difficulties would not exist if refugees were free to attend meetings in attorneys’ offices.”

“I worry about the situation they’re returning to and how they fear for their lives,” Ahmed said. “They’ve been identified by the government they were trying to escape and because of their participation in the hunger strike, they are believed to have dishonored their country. These men fear for their lives.”

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Republicans Can’t Help But Play Politics With the Judiciary

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Republicans have a good grip on the courts and are fighting hard to keep it that way.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

Linda Greenhouse has another don’t-miss column in the New York Times on how the GOP outsourced the judicial nomination process to the National Rifle Association.

Meanwhile, Dahlia Lithwick has this smart piece on how we know the U.S. Supreme Court is the biggest election issue this year: The Republicans refuse to talk about it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging doctors to fill in the blanks left by “abstinence-centric” sex education and talk to their young patients about issues including sexual consent and gender identity.

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Good news from Alaska, where the state’s supreme court struck down its parental notification law.

Bad news from Virginia, though, where the supreme court struck down Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 felons.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will leave behind one of the most politicized state supreme courts in modern history.

Turns out all those health gadgets and apps leave their users vulnerable to inadvertently disclosing private health data.

Julie Rovner breaks down the strategies anti-choice advocates are considering after their Supreme Court loss in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.   

Finally, Becca Andrews at Mother Jones writes that Texas intends to keep passing abortion restrictions based on junk science, despite its loss in Whole Woman’s Health.