My Life as an Abortion Provider: 'It's Actually one of the Safest Medical Procedures That We Can Perform'

As state legislatures across the U.S. debate bills restricting access to abortions, people like Dr. Meera Shah are on the ground providing reproductive health care which she describes as a "basic human right."

So what is it like to be an abortion provider at a time when, according to research by the National Abortion Federation published last year, anti-abortion campaigners have been emboldened by the current political climate to ramp up attacks against providers?

In 2017, a bombing of a clinic was attempted for the first time in years; threats of death and harm doubled; trespassing tripled, and incidents of obstruction climbed from 580 in 2016 to 1,700.

Shah, who is also a Fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, is resolute she wouldn't be in any other field, and while she respects protesters outside her clinic are entitled to exercise their first amendment rights, she says doesn't engage with them. "[I'm] just trying to do my job," the family medicine physician and advocate for women's medical rights based in New York tells Newsweek. "I honestly can't see myself doing any other type of work," she says, adding: "I am proud to be an abortion provider and advocate for this important service because abortion care is health care period."

She first became interested in abortion care when she started residency as a doctor, enabling her to work more closely with patients.

As well as tending to patients, Shah also finds herself spending time debunking myths surrounding the procedure, from the incorrect notions it causes breast cancer to fears of infertility. And as one if four American women have an abortion in their lifetime, her patients don't come from one demographic, but rather "represent the broad spectrum of humanity."

Attempting to demystify the procedure, Shah explains abortions in early pregnancy involve taking pills, while later terminations see medics opening the cervix and emptying the uterus. Both approaches take just a few minutes, rarely cause complications, and are "completely safe," she says.

"There's a lot of inflammatory language and myths being discussed in the media," argues Shah.

"The words that I hear are 'post-birth abortion' or 'late-term abortion' and there are not real medical terms, these were all just made up," she warns. This type of vocabulary is often used in debates surrounding abortion laws,which in recent months have centered around so-called heartbeat bills, relating to when a fetal heartbeat can be detected rather than its viability.

"Abortion care is incredibly safe and it's actually one of the safest medical procedures that we can perform," she says, pointing to a recent study by the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

"The same study actually proved that the biggest threat to safe abortion is the litany of regulations that prevent access to abortion care, it raises cost of abortion care, delays procedures and actually these regulations end up being harmful to patients and their health."

Shah encountered such obstructions when she practiced in Texas, she says.

"I truly believe that reproductive health care is a basic human right. It shouldn't be considered a privilege to just some. Unfortunately in the United States, the type of care that you receive, really depends on the zip code in which you live.

"For a brief period I was working in Texas and if a patient came to get an abortion, I wasn't able to provide that care that day. Instead I would have to do an ultrasound, whether or not if it's medically indicated. I had to describe the ultrasound to the patient whether they wanted to hear it or not. I had to read a statement and a script, which included some misinformation such as abortion causes breast cancer, and then I had to send them away and have them return at least 24 hours later to receive an abortion.

"Now, none of these rules, none of these laws are founded in science are evidence based, they are all down to an ideology and do nothing to save our reproductive health, only harm patients."

By talking openly about her work, Shah says she hopes to normalize the procedure so it is regarded as "just another part of health care."

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Pregnancies can be terminated using drugs. Getty Images
My Life as an Abortion Provider: 'It's Actually one of the Safest Medical Procedures That We Can Perform' | Health