As the Supreme Court considers a Mississippi abortion ban that, if ruled constitutional, will erode Roe v Wade, and accessing abortion care after 6 weeks gestation is now illegal in the second largest state in the country, anti-abortion rights advocates continue to follow a decades-old narrative: Arguing that access to reproductive health care is an abortion vs. motherhood debate.
But most people who have or seek abortion services have at least one child at home. They are parents who know what it is like to birth and raise a child. And many abortion care workers don't just hold the title of "doctor," "nurse," "administrator" or "doula" — they're also called "mom."
In many instances, moms are helping other moms walk through the sea of anti-abortion protestors outside of clinics. Moms are holding moms' hands through what can be a brief in-office procedure. Moms are walking parents through the process of an at-home medication abortion.
TODAY Parents spoke to four moms who work in abortion care, and who say they are proof abortion is not at odds with motherhood. Instead, they argue that being a mother not only makes them better health care providers, but is a reminder of how parenting and the personal decision to end a pregnancy often go hand-in-hand.
Their comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Dr. Aisha Wagner, family medicine physician in California
Dr. Wagner is a mom of two, ages 3 and 9 months. She always knew she'd be a mom, but she didn't always know she'd be an abortion provider. It wasn't until after medical school and spending time in San Francisco that she says she fell in love with the practice.
"I was pregnant not too long ago, and I will say that I felt very proud to be a pregnant person in a space with people who are seeking abortion.
"I make it a point with most people to ask them about their children — it's nice to talk about that with other parents. And I think especially in that space, when there is so much stigma going into it. When you understand that for those people who do have children already, they're making this decision for their children, I think it's really important to bring up and acknowledge those children in that space.
"As a mother, I definitely have a much deeper understanding of what it means to parent, of course. So there's that core level of understanding of why someone might not want to parent, or parent another child, that's ever present."
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, OB-GYN and abortion provider in Texas and Oklahoma
Dr. Moayedi is an abortion provider, founder of Pegasus Health Justice Center, and mom of one, age 7. She didn't know she wanted to become a mom until she met her partner in medical school. But for 18 years, she has fully known she wanted to provide abortion care.
"Showing up as both a mom and an abortion provider is critically important to me. As a provider, I know that people who choose abortion are also making parenting decisions. I see that every single day — whether or not they're currently parenting a child, choosing an abortion is, at its heart, a parenting decision. And so I have really seen and experienced the love that pregnant people have for the pregnancies that they are choosing to end. And those two things are not opposites — people can have love and deep compassion and care for their pregnancy, and know it's not the right time.
"At the core of being an abortion provider is a respect of autonomy, the individual self and consent, and that really shows up in my parenting as well. How I teach my child about their own autonomy; their own right to their body; my partner and I taught them about consent very early on and continue to.
"And unlike many other areas of health care, I take care of everyone. You could be a general OB-GYN and really only take care of a small slice of your community. But as an abortion provider, especially in a place like Texas, I take care of everyone. I really see everything — all of the highs and all of the lows of my community. So your heart has to be really open to constantly show up and take care of people skillfully, and that compassion and patience really translates into my parenting as well."
Hannah Matthews, abortion doula and clinic worker based in Maine
Matthews has been working in abortion care since 2017, as a doula, clinic staff member, organizer, and abortion fund volunteer. She is the mother of a 1-year-old son, with plans to have more children in the future. She always wanted to be a mom, but didn't know if it would be possible after a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis.
"Because I’ve been pregnant, given birth, and have had both a medication abortion and an in-clinic abortion, I feel a deep connection to my patients and clients and community members regardless of their circumstances, choices, and pregnancy outcomes. I have traveled the full spectrum of a reproductive lifespan (aside from menopause, of course, and that one’s coming for all of us eventually), and I feel in my body how connected all of these things are to one another.
"I often connect with abortion patients around our children, or if we’ve had similar pregnancy and birth experiences. And in my own abortion, motherhood was always with me: from my ultrasound, where the nurse smiled and said, 'Oh, there’s your c-section scar!' to my aspiration procedure, where the health care worker assisting the midwife asked me questions about my baby; what games I was going to play with him later; if he’s crawling yet... things like that.
"I feel as much joy and sorrow working in abortion care as I would working on a labor and delivery unit or in a birthing center. It is all about working intimately with messy, complicated, beautiful human beings, and how they are choosing to create futures and families and lives for themselves."
Dr. Anna Whelan, OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine physician in Rhode Island
Dr. Whelan is currently in her sixth year of residency and has spent two years providing abortion services. She is the mother to an 18 month old, and as the oldest of three always knew she wanted to be a mother. She had dreams of being a doctor since she was 14, with the goal of helping young women feel confident in their body.
"Being a mom, I'm now able to connect more with my patients. I have that personal experience of what it really means to be a parent and take care of a child, as well as all the difficulties that come with that.
"I had my son while I was finishing up residency at the beginning of the pandemic, when there was no personal protective equipment. I had to decide what would happen if I died, and if my husband had to take care of our son. I think that experience alone made it easier for me to connect with my patients and understand what they're going through.
"I remember when I was pregnant I was really nervous while I was providing abortions — that my patients would judge me or be uncomfortable. But it's only ever been something we can connect on. And particularly now, as my son becomes older, I talk to my patients about their kids. Or they ask me about my kids, and I will always talk about my family. I think that's something that connects us all."