By Andrea Chiavarini, MD
As an Ob/Gyn and abortion provider in Portland, Wichita, and Oklahoma City, I share my personal story and how my experience as an MSFC member led me to my current practice in a new documentary looking at the lives of abortion providers, featuring a number of MSFC alumni physicians and long-time MSFC mentors. Our Bodies Our Doctors shows doctors from different generations who came to train in Oregon, the only state with no legal restrictions on abortion. The filmmaker Jan Haaken, a former nurse and Clinical Psychology Professor at Portland State University ,focuses on providers’ personal and political experiences and how these experiences inform our approach to patient care.
This film began as a short film called Being There, which was an anti-stigma research project at the University of Michigan. The film explored how stigma is created by assigning shame to abortion providers, and the way abortion providers are impugned as behaving outside the bounds of normalcy. These documentaries, including this one, hope to counter this stigma by showing how abortion is part of the spectrum of vital reproductive health care services. We show how hospitals and doctors that refuse to perform abortions depend on those physicians and clinics that do provide these services.
Despite all of the threats to abortion providers, particularly in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and the fear that there would be a shortage of providers, a quiet rebellion took place in the field of medicine as many doctors became trained to provide abortions. MSFC played a significant role in this movement and its successes.
I practice and live in Portland, Oregon, but I also travel to Oklahoma and Kansas to provide abortion services. The film shows the providers as we work in multiple settings, including my travel to provide abortions in less hospitable environments. Viewers will see the stark differences, as well as the commonalities, with the care provided in these settings.
In the past, I have hesitated to be public about my career as an abortion provider. I agreed to work with Jan and her team because I believe strongly (and now more than ever) that we have a positive message to share about what we do as doctors. I want to show people a side of abortion care that is uplifting and that emphasizes what is right about this field of medicine. Medical Students for Choice taught me the skills to stand up for what is right and to use the evidence in my favor. It also taught me to use my privilege as a physician to help women in whatever way I can. I hope that by telling my story, I will inspire others and show the general public that those of us who provide abortions are nurturing, happy, pro-woman, smart, talented practitioners. The more positive we are about what we do, the more people will understand that abortion is a routine part of healthcare and not a dirty word to be whispered in the hospital corridor.
This film is being funded entirely by donations, small and large!