Sarah's Story
My internship at a clinic

I am 18 years old, and in the fall I will start my sophomore year at a small women's college. Like many of my friends, I chose to do an internship this summer. Mine was a bit different, though: I was a counselor at an abortion clinic.

I've always been pro-choice, I was raised as a feminist, and I am a socialist who believes that abortion is an option that should be open to every women, regardless of age, class, marital status, and other factors. I began working at the clinic because I wanted to do more than just speak in favor of choice. I wanted to give women actual, concrete help.

My experience in the past two months has been incredibly rewarding. I have found very caring, intelligent, dedicated people working there. It's not your average McJob, and working there really does require a good deal of dedication.

I know it sounds odd- helping to perform abortions is rewarding? My patients ask me all the time if I find it depressing. The reason I find it rewarding is that I really do connect with my patients. They come for so many different reasons. Some can't handle another child; some are too young to handle one. Some would like a child, but are not emotionally or financially ready. Others have prohibitive medical problems. Some women confidently tell me that they know they're making the right choice; others have mixed emotions, but feel that abortion is the best option right now, or perhaps the only one which is reasonably available right now.

I don't judge them. My job is to give them support, provide them with answers to their questions, and make sure that they really do want an abortion, and aren't being pressured into it by someone else. If I feel that a woman is not ready for an abortion, or if she has other significant problems that will affect her decision (she's being abused, etc.), I immediately refer her to the professional counselor on staff.

Most of the women I talk to are nervous. Most want to know if it will hurt. I am with them during the procedure, talking to them and helping them to relax, and I can tell you that it really is different with everyone. I've had women who've been in severe pain, and I've had women who didn't feel a thing. I had one woman who read a magazine during her procedure, and her face didn't flinch the entire time. Very few women cry. By the time they're actually in the room, ready to go through with it, they are resolved in their decisions. Some want to talk about completely unrelated subjects in their lives, and I've actually learned quite a few things from conversations with patients. Some want to know about me, and what I'm doing there. Very few of them want to talk about their decision. Lots of women tell me about their kids. I treat them as if I know them, but respectfully. In turn, they reach out to me, as another woman who can sympathize, hold their hands, wipe their tears, and help them to make sense of what's going on . I respect them. I do what I think I would want a counselor to do if I were in this situation. I listen, and I explain, without condescending. I have had patients stop to thank me on their way out of the clinic. I consider it an honor.

I hope that some of the women reading this find that it helps. Maybe this can help you to put a face on the clinic staff, and ease any fears you may be having about the people you will deal with should you choose abortion.

Reading your stories has been quite moving and inspiring. Thank you.

17 July 1999

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"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."
-Eleanor Roosevelt