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From Patient to Abortion Equity Provider

Ashia George, RN is an abortion care nurse, labor and delivery nurse, board member at Abortion Care Network, and co-leader for the Michigan cluster of Reproductive Health Access project. This month we talked to Ashia about her journey into the SRH field, abortion equity, and the ways COVID-19 has impacted her work. 


Tell us about your decision to become an abortion provider: How did you end up in this role?


My journey to becoming an abortion provider started with my own abortion story. I was raised in a Catholic household, went to Catholic school, and at an early age was taught that abortion was a selfish and evil act. In high school, I transitioned from private to public school. At 17, I started working as a medical assistant for a family and internal medicine practice. At 19, I became pregnant with my first child and had a very difficult labor that ended in an emergency C-section. My son was born, and my life changed overnight. A year later, I became pregnant again. I immediately knew I didn’t want to be pregnant; I didn’t want to risk another C-section; I didn’t want to have another baby at that time. I realized everything I was taught about abortion was wrong. I knew having an abortion was the best decision for myself and my family. I made an appointment with an abortion provider near my home and had my first abortion on my 21st birthday. At my appointment, I remember feeling so thankful to have the service available to me, and when it was finished, I felt so relieved. After my birth and abortion experience, I knew I wanted to work in sexual and reproductive health. In 2013, I was hired as a clinical assistant at Scotsdale Women’s Center, an independent abortion clinic in Detroit. In 2014, I gave birth to my daughter, and the next year I had my 2nd abortion. At the clinic, I worked my way up to a leadership position and also became a Registered Nurse. Now I am a manager at Scotsdale Women’s Center, a staff nurse on Labor and Delivery, a board member of the Abortion Care Network, and co-leader for the Michigan cluster of the Reproductive Health Access project.

 

 

What is your day-to-day like in your job?


At the clinic, it is my job to ensure every patient is prepared for their medical or surgical abortion. I am also responsible for ensuring patient safety. I perform assessments, ultrasounds, lab testing, administer medications, and I counsel patients. I am knowledgeable and efficient in all clinic areas, and I am able to step in wherever needed. I help supervise and teach staff, and I also help create and update clinic policies and procedures. At a hospital in the same community, I work on labor and delivery. There I care for pregnant people during labor and birth, and I also provide newborn and postpartum care.


How has your work changed during the pandemic? 


Work during the pandemic in general has been different. It has been stressful, scary, enlightening, productive, and grounding all at the same time. In the beginning, resources were critically low, and there were so many unknowns; everyone was paranoid about getting sick. In worst cases, some states tried to block abortion access, and some clinics had to close. Social distancing has been a big change because we are so used to holding hands, sharing hugs and wiping tears. On a positive note, even with all the changes and fear, we were still able to provide exceptional abortion care to patients in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 really showed me how resilient and dedicated abortion providers are. When faced with adversity, abortion providers are leaders and innovators who are capable of all things.


What are some things you’ve learned in your line of work?


During my career I’ve learned that everyone is on a different but important life path. Bodily autonomy and reproductive justice are essential for individuals and communities to heal, thrive, and be healthy. Spiritually, my career has affirmed my belief that birth and abortion are normal cycles of life. I believe there are diverse levels of consciousness, and life continues after physical death. Energy doesn’t die, it transforms. When we experience physical death, we transform into a higher level of consciousness, free of ego, pain, fear and despair.  


What do you love about being involved in this kind of work and activism?

  

What I love most about being involved in this work and activism is the validation it provides. I feel a strong sense of community service and social justice. Everyday at work I feel like I’m helping make a difference in someone’s life. Every patient I care for is special and important, and they all have their own story. It is an honor and privilege to care for people during some of their most sacred and vulnerable experiences.


What does equity in abortion care mean to you?


To me equity in abortion care means intentional, intersectional and accurate representation and support for pregnant people in need of abortion care. With special recognition and resources for underserved groups and communities.  


How do you take care of yourself/practice self-care?


Nurses are known for putting the needs of others before our own. There is no doubt self-care has been a challenge for me over the years, but I am getting better at making time and space for myself. I realize I am not able to help others well if I am physically or mentally breaking down. I find that staying hydrated, getting adequate rest and laughter helps me feel calmer and less stressed. I also enjoy being outdoors, meditating and breathing fresh air, it helps me relax. 


Do you have a story to tell? We welcome you to submit your story or blog idea to us so we can feature you in our newsletter or on our blog. Email us at [email protected] or message us on social media @NursesforSRH.

Black History Month Media List

By La Rainne Pasion

This month we're starting a media list of Black-led healthcare and reproductive justice podcasts or news outlets that we LOVE to listen to and learn from. Will you help us? Send us your favorites to [email protected] or tag us (@NursesforSRH) on social media, and we'll add them to this blog!

Podcasts

  • Coochie Business: “Podcast that discusses coochies in general, and Black Coochies in particular”
  • NATAL: “Podcast docuseries about having a baby while Black in the United States”
  • The Sex Agenda: “Created by Decolonising Contraception collective, an interdisciplinary collective of Black and people of colour, working across sexual and reproductive health (SRH); each episode gives a round up of sexual health news, social justice issues and focuses on the work of those addressing inequalities within our sector”
  • Therapy for Black Girls: “A weekly chat about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves”
  • Black Feminist Rants: “Conversations on Reproductive Justice and Activism is a podcast that centers the experiences of Black women and femmes navigating social justice spaces and the world”
  • Black Voices in Healthcare: “Over 200 Black healthcare workers from across the country signed up to participate in this project, which aired for ten weeks from June through September 2020, and highlighted stories of racism in the workplace, as well of stories of Black joy, Black love, and Black excellence”
  • Birth Justice NYC: “A space for dialogue and debate addressing one of New York City’s most pressing public health and racial justice issues: birth”

News outlets and websites

  • 21Ninety Wellness: “Part of Blavity's network, 21Ninety’s Wellness page provides health news for African-American millennial women”
  • Black Health Matters: “Provides information about health and well-being from a service-oriented perspective–with lots of upbeat, positive solutions and tips, including: Health, Beauty, Mind & Body, Nutrition & Fitness
  • MadameNoire Health: “Black women seek information on a wide variety of topics including African-American hair care, health issues, relationship advice and career trends - and MadameNoire provides all of that”
  • Black Voice News: “With a focus on advocacy, solutions-oriented and data-driven reporting, the Black Voice has addressed issues from disparities in health, education and wealth to police violence, social justice, and civil rights battles”
  • The Black OBGYN Project: “We are Black ObGyn doctors on our journey through residency while promoting anti-racism, equity & inclusion partnerships:”

Self-Care Through Art Journaling

By La Rainne Pasion

Debbie Bamberger is a WHNP-BC with over 30 years of experience and a member of NSRH's Board of Directors. This February, we talked to Debbie about her love of SRH provision and how she uses her creativity for self-care:

What is your role in sexual and reproductive health?

I am a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner by training, but these days I prefer to refer to myself as a Sexual and Reproductive Health Nurse Practitioner, since I take care of people of all genders. I graduated from UCSF in 1994 and have been providing SRH services since then and even before. I am aspiration-abortion trained and provide in-clinic abortion services at Planned Parenthood in Oakland. I've also done extensive training of clinicians in providing IUDs and implants, and I helped work on the new law in California that will mandate that all public universities provide medication abortion in their student health centers by 2023. 

What do you love about being involved in this kind of work/activism?

I love providing this type of care to people. Taking care of people's sexual and reproductive health needs incorporates justice in many forms--reproductive justice, of course, but also racial justice, social justice and more. Providing abortion care is also an intimate and powerful moment in which to meet my patients where they are on their journeys. 

I recently completed my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, and I hope to find a way to bring restorative justice practices to the SRH workforce.

You’re also an artist. What inspires your art?

I started art journaling five years ago, having no prior art practice, and I found it completely transformative. Art journaling is journaling through art, in a book. I use it to process, spew, express, forgive and connect. 

How do you see art-making as a form of pleasure? Or as a form of self-care?

I art journal for pleasure and for self-care. I love making a page that looks beautiful, but the process of making it is extraordinarily cathartic.

Do you have a story to tell? We welcome you to submit your story or blog idea to us so we can feature you in our newsletter or on our blog. Email us at [email protected].

Pleasure in Re-member-ing

By Lina Buffington, PhD, NSRH Executive Director

Each month we will highlight and explore one of our values; it is apropos that we should start in February with a focus on pleasure, and not because of Valentine's Day. As most folks know, February, which also happens to be the darkest, coldest, shortest month of the year, is also the month officially designated as "Black History Month". Throughout this month, corporations, organizations, and the media will often spotlight civil rights leaders and activists as well as exemplars in the arts, sports, education, and industry by hosting festivals, exhibitions, and television specials. Black authors are highlighted in bookstores and libraries while companies like Amazon might highlight Black entrepreneurs on their platform. Though the history and achievements of Black people are inextricable from the history, wealth, and culture of the US, this month provides a small window of opportunity to shine a light on what has remained a gaping absence. 
But what does all of this have to do with pleasure? What does Black History Month have to do with pleasure when so often the focus of this month is on struggle--the struggle for freedom, for humanity, for civil rights, for justice, for equity? I do not believe that Black History Month is the only month for folks to finally finish that copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, or watch the film Roots, or make a trip down to their local museum of African American arts/history/etc. I believe that the history of ALL peoples of this Nation are worthy of continuous study. I believe that Black History Month is a time for celebration, and at the heart of celebration there is pleasure. While I do not wait until a government designated time to celebrate my ancestors, I see this month as a time of collective celebration, of collective remembrance. It is through this act of re-member-ing that we keep those we have lost alive and present.


For this month each year we call their names as a collective: Harriet Tubman, Anna Julia Cooper, Sojourner Truth, Mary Edmonia Lewis, Zora Neal Hurston, Octavia Butler, Winnie Madikizela- Mandela, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison…we say their names and in that act of re-member-ing they live again. We share images of them and stories, we read their words, and look at their art, we listen to their music and watch their plays. Through these acts of re-member-ing, we introduce them to our children, carrying forward their work into the next generation, and the next. There is tremendous pleasure in the cultivation and nurturance of this connection to our ancestors. When I think about Harriet Tubman, who I think about a lot, I reflect on her words:

 

 

 

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

 

 

 

 

In the face of some challenge, often one so much smaller than any of the challenges that Harriet faced, I think of her and marvel that this woman had the audacity to dream. She had the audacity to follow the stars when all around her was darkness. I marvel that some small seed of that magnificent human being lives in me and I draw from that. I call that up in myself and keep moving forward. Harriet Tubman is worthy of remembrance and of celebration, and if there are those who only hear her name or think of her in February, so be it. The contributions of Black people in this country are worthy of celebration. The fact that we made it through and over and continue to live is worthy of celebration, and so I happily claim this cold, dark, month for Harriet, and Malcolm, and Micheaux, and all of them. For me, there is tremendous pleasure in that.