Title: Why I Am An Abortion Doctor
Author: Suzanne T. Poppema, M.D. and Mike Henderson
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Provides human face to debate about legal abortions
Explains what it is like for abortion providers to live under fear of death
Tells personal history of how and why someone might perform abortions
Inside look at the life and working conditions of an abortion provider
Argument for why providing abortions is both moral and necessary
Shows how anti-abortion violence impacts legal abortion services
When she was young, Suzanne Poppema told her parents she was interested in studying medicine. She originally imagined going into nursing, but they asked why not go on and become a doctor? Female doctors were unusual, but she went the distance and earned her M.D. at Harvard, taking a residency in family medicine.
Raised as a Catholic in a rural setting, she nevertheless resisted tradition and sought her own path in life. She became a committed feminist, rejecting paternalistic teachings about the role of women in family and society.
She is the sort of woman most feared and most hated by the Religious Right: self-confident and self-assured, she has made a professional life for herself and works to make sure that womens options remain as open as possible.
For a time, she divided her attention between a regular family practice and work at an abortion clinic. Eventually, however, she purchased her own clinic in Seattle where she has been practicing for the past nine years. She had discovered that poor people, particularly poor women, didnt always receive the best treatment available, and she wanted to work to change that.
Most of the abortions performed in her clinic are of the standard surgical type, but she has also experimented with RU 486, which she has found very effective with early pregnancies.
Over the course of her career, she has performed about 20,000 abortions and intends to continue. But she doesnt do it for just anyone who walks through he doors she has counseled women to go back home and think about their decision and future for a while before continuing. Most return, and a few dont but what is important is that she wants women to be sure that they are making the right decision for their lives.
Despite that, she vehemently opposes informed consent laws which tell women that they must wait an additional 24 hours before having an abortion performed, and even then only after reading literature provided by the state.
She rightly points out that such laws presume that all women cant possibly know whats best for their own bodies so were going to insist that they sit and listen to what the state thinks they should hear. Anti-abortion activists complain regularly about abortion on demand, but Poppema responds:
- What would the alternative be? Abortion by prayer? By edict? Upon seeking consensus? After groveling? Women have thought long and hard about this decision before they ever get to my clinic. In fact, most of them have been agonizing for days or even weeks, some to the extent of rescheduling their appointments several times.
On the other hand, the Supreme Court has pointed out that the government does have a legitimate interest in promoting the general interests of life. Ensuring that women are adequately informed and have time to consider such information has been considered a part of that.
She is fortunate in that her clinic is located right by a hospital the general medical surroundings prevent her from being noticed and discourage serious protests. Nevertheless, she fears violence and has purachased a bullet-proof vest. She is also lucky that the police have been very responsive and supportive.
Why would a woman seek an abortion? Dr. Poppema addresses that difficult question as well:
- Even to pose that question is to denigrate women and to deny what they have known about themselves for thousands of years. Historically women have known about pregnancy and about the social acceptability of being pregnant at a given time or in specific circumstances. For thousands of years women have taken risks real or imagined to avoid or abort pregnancies that they know they cant support.
This is especially true of the youngest women who come to her they show courage, but its derived from desperation. They cannot imagine a life with a baby they are unable to care for or support. Because of this, they are willing to do almost anything to abort it. When abortions were illegal, they risked their lives and their fertility. Today, at least, they can find abortions which are safe and legal.
But for how much longer?