Story No. 551: Dr. Alhambra from Pennsylvania

“I don’t believe in abortion,” explained Jessica (name changed) as she told me why she found herself in my office seeking an abortion.

“I’ve been trying to find a way, but I just can’t have this baby. My son is seven, and I just got a new job. I really need it to work out so I can make a better life for him.” Jessica, like the majority of women having abortions in the U.S., is a mother.

The women I take care of all have one thing in common: they are making thoughtful decisions, prioritizing the the families they already have.

I performed Jessica’s abortion, and I thought I would never see her again. I almost never see my patients again. Abortion is so safe that they rarely come back with any concerns about their recovery. But Jessica did come back. Not because of concerns about her physical recovery, but because she had no one to talk to to help process her abortion experience.

Everyone in her life feels, much like she had, that abortion is morally wrong. She returned to my office so that we could talk openly about the decision she had made. I offered her support, assured her that she knew, and loved, other people who had made the same decision, since 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will have an abortion. I explained that, unfortunately, the rhetoric surrounding abortion has stigmatized women into feeling that they cannot share their experiences, and they are often shamed into processing in isolation. We talked about her religious beliefs and how this impacted her feelings around her decision. I asked her to be kind to herself and assured her that there was not a doubt in my mind that the decision she had made was out of love, love for the son and family she had.

Many women, like Jessica, never envision finding themselves in my office, needing an abortion. But when they do, they deserve the same autonomy that they would have over any other health care decision. They deserve the dignity and respect to decide what is best for themselves. I will probably never know if Jessica’s new job worked out, but every person deserves a shot at the opportunities they have afforded themselves. And every mother deserves the chance to take care of her family.