The moment that the Supreme Court was overturned Roe v. WadeMany abortion clinics were forced to close. Over half of U.S. statesThey were expected to ban all abortions or most of them. over a dozenIt was done quickly. In the first month alone following the Court’s decision, at least 43 clinics in 11 different statesStop offering abortion care
The most vulnerable to this loss of access are those who have abortions. However, clinic workers are also experiencing difficult times. Many workers in states that ban abortion have lost their jobs and are now faced with two options: they can move to another state to continue their work in abortion care or they can stay in their communities to transition to other careers. In some in-between states — where clinics have opened and shut multiple times as abortion bans are litigated, or where most but not all abortions have been banned — workers don’t know how many hours they will work from one week to another, or whether their jobs will exist next month, let alone in six months or a year. Finally, there are the workers in so-called “safe haven” states, many of whom say they were already burned out and underpaid, and are now caring for a tidal wave of out-of-state patients without enough help.
Some abortion care workers across the country feel abandoned by national organizations. Many of these organizations claim they did not take any steps to prepare for the labor crisis.
“The lack of a plan was incredibly disappointing, even if not entirely surprising. Larger organizations with multimillion dollars budgets had the staff and budget bandwidth necessary to put together a plan. We knew this was possible for years, and it was confirmed by the leak in May. Yet, here we are scrambling, with workers and people seeking abortions left behind,” said the workers behind ReproJobsAn anonymous interview with Truthout. ReproJobs advocates for better working conditions in the reproductive rights, justice and health movements. Its founders remain anonymous, their website says, “to de-center ourselves and instead, focus on what we’re here to do: push organizations, foundations, and even individual hiring managers in our movement to live their values.” A representative of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, whose network of affiliates is the largest single provider of abortion care in the United States, did not respond to a request for comment by the deadline for this article.
ReproJobs was established to help smaller, more established organizations. Repro Worker Aid FundThe Supreme Court released its decision in early July, and applications were open. An anonymous donor donated $200,000 to establish the fund. Additional support has been received from foundations, individuals, and a movement group. ReproJobs currently has 119 applications from workers who have lost their jobs due to the recession. Dobbs v. Jackson decision. The majority of applicants are from Texas and Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Tennessee.
Anyone who works in an abortion clinic can have a lot of experience that could be transferred to other settings. However, abortion care has been largely isolated from the rest of medicine by stigma and legal restrictions for decades. People who work at abortion clinics often have their training and experience at no cost and are highly dedicated to the job.
“I genuinely do not think I could ever go into a different field of health care now that I have experience and have learned how to care for somebody who is having an abortion,” Abigail Brick told Truthout. Brick was fired in August from her job as an abortionist in Ohio. Days after the Supreme Court’s ruling, an Ohio law banning abortion once Around six weeks into a pregnancy, embryonic cardiac activity is detectable. went into effect. Brick’s clinic remained open, but the patient volume has dropped dramatically. Brick stated that she saw only five patients in the weeks leading to her layoff. She would have seen 30 patients in the same shifts. Roe’s overturn.
Brick offered to be laid off, as she was already planning on returning to nursing school in January. “A lot of my former coworkers are single parents,” she said. “I felt fortunate to be in a position where I could volunteer to be laid off so that hopefully I could save one of my amazing coworkers their job.” Because she was employed at one of only a handful of unionized abortion clinics in the country, Brick left her job with three months’ severance pay and fully covered COBRA — an unusually generous severance package. To keep her from starting nursing school in January, she has taken on another position outside of the field. “But that’s not what I want to be doing,” she said. “I want to help people who want abortions.”
Brick’s goal after pursuing her nursing degree is to return to working in abortion care. Brick would like to do this in Ohio, but with the help of her husband. lawmakers poised to ban abortion entirely, she’s not sure if that will be possible. And this uncertainty will persist: “Every time there’s an election now, a state could flip to having completely different abortion laws,” said Brick.
Colleen Damerell, a former colleague of Brick, stated that the remaining staff are facing similar dilemmas. She is still employed at the clinic. Damerell isn’t sure how much longer her job will exist — but she doesn’t want to leave Ohio. “I think that people need to stay in states like this. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” she said. Abortion clinics have the ability to provide contraception, general and reproductive health care, as well as treatment for pregnancy complications, even if abortion is illegal. However, there are many clinics that want to stay open for these purposes. struggling to stay afloat. If clinics close, or are forced to close, there will not be anyone available to provide abortion care, even if restrictions have been lifted.
A judge was appointed on September 14. granted Ohio abortion providers’ requestA temporary restraining order is granted against the ban to allow abortion to continue legal until 21 weeks after birth, at least temporarily. But following the layoffs, Damerell worries that her clinic won’t be as prepared for an increase in patient volumes as they’d like. “We’ve never really turned people away, even when we had long wait times. We do our best to try to see everybody who needs to be seen,” she said. “Now we’re thinking, are we going to be able to do that [when] we are able to go back to what our normal was before?”
Clinics in safe haven countries are being overwhelmed by the influx of patients from ban states. Crystal Grabowski is a unionized abortion worker in Western Pennsylvania. She said that the clinic where her work is booked up to six weeks in advance. “Patients call us and they’re only ten weeks along, but then we end up having to book them at 16 weeks so that they unnecessarily become second trimester procedures,” Grabowski told Truthout.
Grabowski and her coworkers were faced with underpayment and chronic understaffing. They decided to organize a union in 2019. Their union was successful, however. UE Local 696Although he was recognized in March 2021, contract negotiations have dragged on since then. Wages are a major problem. Grabowski says that the starting wage for medical assistants is $16 an hour and that management has been reluctant offer more than $17.
“So, it’s $16 and $17 an hour for a job where you are absolutely being traumatized. It’s just an incredibly difficult job. Protesters often harass you when you go to work. You can’t even talk about your job when you’re out going about your daily activities, like getting a haircut or getting in an Uber and they ask you what you do. And on top of that, you’re so understaffed and you don’t even know if your clinic is going to be open in a year,” she said.
Grabowski says that understaffing is so severe, she said she often fills what should have been three or four roles in one shift. Since Roe’s fall, Grabowski said only one new medical assistant has been hired.
Damerell is disappointed that more reproductive health, rights and justice organizations aren’t proactively trying to hire clinic workers. She points to the Ohio Repro Reemployment Job Board, a project of Ohio Women’s Alliance, as a model for what national organizations could be doing. Abortion care workers who wish to remain in their community could be hired for jobs that they can do remotely. Any who are willing to move could be connected with safe haven clinics, where their expertise will be in demand. Although some organizations have tried to facilitate these moves, there hasn’t been a coordinated, national effort.
“We had a bunch of what were called ‘Roe contingency planning meetings,’ but none of that ever came to fruition,” said Grabowski. Interventions that would have made a difference, she said, include hiring more call center staff, medical assistants and doctors trained in the clinic’s procedures and electronic medical records system ahead of time. None of this happened.
Despite the struggles, Grabowski said her coworkers are “more committed than ever.” Damerell agreed. “This is historic. It’It is a crisis. It’s like working in disaster response,” she said. “As much as you might need a break, as much as you might need to take care of yourself, you’re also in this mode of, if not now, when? We have to do this.”
However, workers can only go so far with their resolve. It is not surprising that more abortion care workers are seeking to unionize. Recently, more than 400 workers in five states joined the union. voted to unionizePlanned Parenthood North Central States
“These are human rights abuses. It is a moral offense to both those seeking and those providing health care. It’s inhumane. It’s violent. And we need to be paid more to be doing it,” Grabowski said.