When I told my Mormon mother I was going to work at an abortion clinic, I could’ve heard a pin drop. She was confused, didn’t really know exactly what to think, and was wondering what she did wrong to make me work in such a place. Mostly, she tried not to say anything about it, but occasionally she would ask me when I was going to get a ‘real job.’ She was certain I was just going through a phase. That was 16 years ago.
I could’ve never anticipated how my work would change my life, my philosophy. I went straight from a very patriarchal upbringing, landing hard and fast into a very feminist organization. It couldn’t have been any more different. Over years, I had been taught not to rely or trust my own feelings or intuition; and that in fact, my intuition wasn’t really ever my own. All of a sudden, I heard a different message: that women can and should be trusted; that as women, we know what is best for us at any given time; and that when applied to abortion work, it was never, ever our place to question a woman’s decision whether to or not to continue a pregnancy. She knew best. We were there to provide information, so she could make a choice that was in her best interest. We were not to be guides, knowing what was best for her, quietly helping her make the ‘right’ decision. We were there to trust her. To support her. To listen, and to provide a service to her. With dignity. With respect. Without judgment.
I was hired as an abortion counselor. Quickly, I felt incredibly honored to listen to women’s stories, to gain strength from them, and even have the opportunity to learn about myself. I have been privy to quite possibly one of the most private moments of many women’s life. Sometimes, no one else in their life would know about her abortion.
16 years on, I have not forgotten how special it is to be part of a woman’s abortion. What takes place in counseling is sacred ground and I am grateful to the women who have touched my life, and continue to do so, with their infinite courage and strength.