Whatever religion or spiritual belief you subscribe to, the holiday season is a great time to be reflective and appreciate that all you have to be grateful for. Of course, this can also be an especially difficult time of year for anyone struggling with major life changes, like an unintended pregnancy. 2015 saw strict legislation regarding abortion implemented, but in southern states in particular, abortion care is so restricted, it can be almost impossible to access. If you want to support one pro-choice charity this holiday season that is fighting to change the deeply ingrained social stigma of abortion, Provide is an amazing organization that is working to ensure women who are seeking abortions get the supportive and compassionate care they need.
Jenny O'Donnell, deputy operations manager for Provide, explains to Bustle: "We're really focused on ensuring that the system of care is more responsive to women around their needs accessing abortion care. The domestic violence counseling services in Kentucky, the substance abuse counseling service in North Carolina, the family safety net service in West Virginia — we want to work with them to leave them with an institutional culture and the knowledge and skills to sit with that one woman in that one moment and be a facilitator rather than a barrier to access."
The organization was founded in 1992 as the Abortion Access Project in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and accomplished huge victories for reproductive rights in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. Some of Provide's early accomplishments included training new abortion providers, innovating miscarriage care with their Miscarriage Management Training Initiative, and supporting the foundation of the organization Nursing Students For Choice, which supports the holistic education of nursing students on reproductive rights.
But when Provide's 15th anniversary approached, the organization decided to shift focus and work harder to reach areas of the country that were still underserved. Eight years later, Provide is working throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Alabama to support rural communities and end stigma against abortion.
Primarily, Provide holds training for public health professionals — physicians, nurses, social workers, case managers — and educates them on how to help pregnant women make the right choice for their own lives, whether that means seeking prenatal care or an abortion provider. The organization operates on a philosophy of moral relativism and acceptance. Religious beliefs and ideologies are never discouraged, but rather, providers are trained how to support a woman in the choices she makes for herself no matter what they believe personally.
"We find that there's actually a really valuable place that a lot of people can come to when you start talking about what your professional role is in the context of abortion access," O'Donnell says.
"We have people [who come to our trainings] who are deeply uncomfortable personally with the idea of abortion, or have just never, ever talked about it out loud, and you can really see amazing shifts in people's perspectives — not necessarily in how they personally feel about abortion, but their understanding of what each of them, as a professional, can do in that moment when a woman is coming to them not wanting to continue a pregnancy."
Many different types of professionals, such as social workers, case managers, and healthcare providers, attend Provide trainings. By learning constructively how to separate personal beliefs from their patients' needs, trainees are empowered to help women make the right choice for their lives and get help in the best possible form.
O'Donnell says this education in patient-focused care can help trainees in other situations besides abortion referrals, such as substance abuse and domestic violence cases. "We specifically focus on abortion and abortion referrals, [...but our evaluation data suggests that] the perspective that we bring in helping all the people in our trainings be professional and compassionate towards the women they serve can help them in a lot of other different cases."
Provide subsists on individual and corporate donations that make their trainings possible, and with enough support, the organization is hoping to begin work in more states in 2016. Even if you don't live in the areas that are served, Provide's grassroots approach to promoting reproductive rights is part of a radical change in thinking about abortion that ultimately is moving the entire country forward.
In a society that often resorts to telling others what to think and do, Provide teaches healthcare providers how to support others' decisions and help women make the best choice for their own lives. Abortion rights are a complex and divisive issue, but Provide's focus on patient care and empowerment of choice is a cause worth getting behind.
You can donate to Provide via their website.