This past February, I spent a whirlwind month as a visiting scholar at the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care. The four-week elective in Washington DC solidified my interest in research; my one day of lobbying reinforced my commitment to advocacy. Thanks to encouragement from co-residents, attendings, and TEACH faculty, I joined a Lobby day with Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH) and the National Abortion Federation (NAF). As part of the group, my role was to discuss how a 20-week abortion ban and a repeal of Roe vs. Wade would impact my patients. Having had numerous advance training days with TEACH, countless reproductive health related clinic visits, and working in a safety-net clinic, one would think that coming up with a single anecdote would be quite easy, but I found myself really struggling with what patient anecdote would be appropriate, meaningful and powerful to share with Senate staffers. How does one pick from the hundreds of clinical encounters that are all meaningful and powerful in their own way? How can one speak to the multitude of social injustices that our patients face? I felt like a complete novice; it was the first time I was serving as an abortion provider representative, but I was well supported by the group members, and it was an amazing opportunity that I would highly recommend!
In the first meeting, I discussed a clinic patient who was struggling to care for her infant while in an abusive relationship. She made the difficult decision to have a medication abortion, wanting to focus on her young family and enable her to leave her violent partner. In another, I talked about my 16-year-old patient who wanted a family in the future, but was focusing on finishing school and building her life for that family in the future. In the last meeting, I discussed difficulties with birth control access. I recalled a patient, during my time in medical school, who was getting a planned repeat C-section, but was ineligible for many forms of birth control due to co-morbidities, and therefore wanted a tubal ligation. Unfortunately, because this patient was being cared for at a catholic hospital, she would need a separate operation, at a different hospital, if she wanted a tubal ligation.
Ultimately, we did not come close to discussing the breadth of reasons women choose to get abortions, but the need for powerful patient anecdotes to help inform discussions and politics is clear. All of the stories were well received, and staffers seemed keen to have specific narratives to take back to their Senators. All of our patients deserve the right to choose, and I hope to continue serving my patients and providing comprehensive care, while working to protect access and health equity. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to speak on behalf of providers and patients, and to have mentors, such as through TEACH, to help guide me through advocacy. I hope to become an even stronger voice for reproductive rights and invite you to join me in this important work.
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