An Abortion Provider Explains Unsafe Clinics

In honor of yesterday's National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, we talked to retired provider Dr. Suzanne Poppema about the future of abortion care, the potential consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood, and how the climate of shame around abortion actually leads to more unsafe clinics.

Dr. Poppema is the immediate past chair of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and she shared her thoughts on some of the most pressing issues affecting abortion rights today. Below, a sampling:

On the need for abortion

No matter what kind of blocks are placed in the way of women getting abortions, the need to have an abortion is such a strong, driving need that women are virtually willing to walk over broken glass and hot rocks in order to have an abortion if that's what they need to do. [...] If women can't choose when and if to become mothers, very little else amounts to a hill of beans.

On the next generation of abortion providers

With the establishment of Medical Students for Choice and now the family planning residencies and fellowships both in ob-gyn and family medicine, and the quality of the people who are filling those positions — there are more people who want to do it than there are positions — makes me feel much more confident about young people being there to do the work.

On the psychological effects of the anti-choice movement

One of the best effects — or best bad effects — that the anti-abortion movement has had is to create shame around abortion, when in fact you're showing intellectual honesty and moral capability and tremendous responsibility. My favorite myth is that only irresponsible women have abortions, [when] of course you're being the most responsible you absolutely can be when you say, I understand what it means to be a parent, and I understand the kind of parent that I want to be, and I cannot be a mother right now.

On how to fight against unsafe clinics like Kermit Gosnell's

The way to prevent that is to make abortion and good reproductive healthcare more available to more people. People go to a clinic like that because they think it's cheaper, and so I think that all insurance and all Medicaid [...] should cover both birth control and abortion. [...] And abortion is so regulated that we've had patients who came and said, "I know this is illegal but I still need to have this done." [...] So if you think it's illegal anyway, then you might as well go to a cheap one, so then we're back to the cost issue. [...] And then because women think it's a bad thing, and it's shameful, etc., they go to a clinic that looks awful, that doesn't seem professional at all, and they're not scared away. [...] Women don't expect to be treated with compassion, intelligence, professionalism, and good care when they're seeking abortion care. That's not okay.

On what will happen if Planned Parenthood is defunded

What's going to happen is a lot of women will no longer be able to get reproductive healthcare and the number of abortions will have to go up, because they're not going to suddenly be able to be moms even though they can't get healthcare — they're just going to get pregnant more often. And then we're going to see more and more bad clinics come up, and people getting really bad care.

On what she'd like anti-choicers to know

I would like them to know that this is medical work that is intellectually demanding and emotionally incredibly rewarding because it's one of the few times in medicine where people come to you with a known problem and ninety-nine times out of a hundred when they leave your office you've solved that problem. [...] I've always felt privileged that I was able to be with women as they took a huge step on the right path in their lives, for them at that time.

Physicians For Reproductive Choice And Health [Official Site]