Commentary Abortion

The Day After the Election, I Went Back to Work as an Abortion Provider, and I Won’t Stop

Diana Friedman

A patient asked me during her abortion procedure how I felt about the election outcome. The word “sad” just slipped past my lips. We must organize now to fight like hell for the next four years to protect women’s basic rights.

I woke up last Wednesday, November 9, like many Americans, with feelings of emptiness and dread in my stomach, my eyelids crusted from tears and a night of restless sleep.

After about an hour of self-indulgent scrolling through social media posts and news articles, I moved forward. I had a shift scheduled at the abortion clinic where I work as a physician. And I knew that my patients, the clinic administration, reproductive rights advocates, and Hillary Clinton would want me to get out of bed and go, and to do what I had set out to do.

On my drive to work, I sobbed all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge as I listened to Hillary’s concession speech. The bright blue sky and majestic red bridge felt oppressively beautiful, incongruous with the sadness of the day. I couldn’t believe that, given the options, our country had chosen a record of exclusivity and regression over empathy and progress.

When I arrived at work, there was a communal despondence in the air, as all of us—the medical assistants, the nurses, and the doctors—shared wordless hugs and knowing glances from pink, puffy eyes.

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The subject of the election came up with a few of my patients. One young couple asked what a Trump presidency would mean for the right to an abortion. I had to admit that I didn’t know, but that, at least today, her right to end a pregnancy was still intact.

Another patient asked me during her abortion procedure how I felt about the election outcome. Without pausing to reflect on whether it was inappropriate to answer this question honestly, the word “sad” just slipped past my lips. An awkward silence followed, and I asked how she felt. She stated that she didn’t really care, as she didn’t like either candidate and didn’t feel like there was a difference between them.

I shuddered with the realization that many women and men of this country do not understand the extent to which reproductive freedom will likely be under attack in the new administration. I thought about how often I have heard Trump promising actions that might overturn Roe v. Wade or affect access to the very procedure I was performing, even possibly jailing patients like her and providers like me if abortion is made illegal.

My thoughts drifted to my 2-year-old daughter, whom I assumed would spend her early childhood years under the leadership of our nation’s first female president.  Instead, she will almost certainly grow up in a culture where the president degrades women, where politicians try to control our lives and bodies. That morning before work, when I walked into her room, she beamed up at me, still hot from her sweaty toddler sleep. I immediately teared up at her sheer innocence, her innate desire to express and receive kindness. When she asked, “Are you a little bit sad, Mommy?” I struggled with how to respond.

On the day after Donald Trump won the presidency, my patients were similar to any other day. There was a 24-year-old Black mother of two, who, until calling out sick for this procedure, hadn’t taken a day off of work since her baby was born six months ago. Then, there was a 19-year-old student who had just started college, the first member of her family to attend a university. One patient was a recent immigrant who had an ankle monitor in place, at high risk of being deported in the coming months and separated from her husband and two children.

All day, in between patients, I glanced at social media and opinion pieces that made two distinct points about the path forward. The first spoke of coming together, of healing our nation from this vociferous election that has divided us so dramatically, of finding compromise with our fellow Americans.

This message does not resonate with me. I am confident in this moment that I share no ideological common ground with Donald Trump and those of his supporters who wish to severely restrict reproductive rights in a presidency ruled by misogyny.

The other type of message, the one that began to pull me out of my depressive funk, was that of resilience. I received email messages from friends, colleagues, and all the reproductive health organizations that I support. In just two short months, it seems safe to say our work and values will be under attack by Republican-controlled executive and legislative branches of government. We will need to organize now to fight like hell for the next four years to protect women’s basic rights.

At the end of my day, as I drove back across the bridge in the golden glow of sunset, I resolved to do just that. I’ll continue to fight for the rights that I believe in and support, and to reject the kind of hatred and fear that landed Mr. Trump in the White House. As Hillary implored, I will “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

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