Andrea Grimes interviews abortion provider Dr. Cheryl Chastine on what it means to her, and what it costs her, to be an abortion provider in the United States: "An Abortion Provider Speaks Out: 'I'll Do Whatever My Conscience Tells Me I Must'."
In American culture, work is such a big part of who we are that "What do you do for a living?" is an incredibly common small talk question. So with every encounter like that, I have to decide whether I want to bring it up. Should I say, "I provide abortions," to my airplane seatmate? My hairdresser? The woman on the treadmill next to me at the gym? I don't want to perpetuate abortion stigma by not talking about it, and I'm proud as hell to do what I do. So I usually talk about it, and people are usually supportive. I feel like confronting people with the work that I do, and the need for that work, is a political act.Read the whole thing.
At the same time, though, you never know who might be anti-abortion. Now, I'm not worried about upsetting anyone. But I do have to think about whether, say, my hairdresser might call up the groups that harass me and tell them where and when I go there. Then I have to worry that they might start picketing my haircut appointments, or calling the salon and threatening to boycott or protest them if they continue seeing me, or even that at my next appointment there could be someone waiting outside with a gun.
It's absurd and appalling that I have to think about that. But I make those sorts of calculations every day.
...I have no regrets about my path. This is even more important, and more rewarding, than I'd thought it could be. Every day I go to work, I can make it possible for someone to leave an abusive relationship, care for their children, continue their education, deal with an illness. Every day, my patients hug me and thank me and tell me I've helped them get their life back.
Cheryl is a friend of mine (which I'm disclosing with her permission). I've had the pleasure of spending time with her in person, and she is every bit as awesome as you'd imagine from reading this interview, and even more. She is deeply kind.
I've said before that I don't have heroes, because it has always seemed such an unfair thing, to me, to call someone a hero—to put someone on a pedestal from which they cannot escape and lionize them to the virtual point of dehumanization. It's such a terrible way to recognize the rarity of a person whose work and example are so meaningful that I aspire to follow their lead, this instinct to ignore their complex humanity (lest one spy a flaw, oh dear), when their humanity is a fundamental part of what makes them admirable in the first place.
After all, they live in the same shitty world that we all do, and have the same human foibles, but manage to be kind and wise despite the cultural cacophony of disincentives to be either.
So I don't have heroes.
But if I did, Dr. Cheryl Chastine would be at the top of that list.