3 Abortion Clinic Volunteers Share What They Want You To Know About Their Jobs

Ad failed to load

The Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States in 1973 — 45 years ago this Jan. 22. Today, abortion providers and office staff work courageously (and tirelessly) to make sure patients seeking abortions feel comfortable enough to receive the medical services they need. However, the unsung heroes of abortion clinics — who play an essential role in protecting patients seeking abortions — are their volunteers. Bustle spoke with three abortion clinic volunteers about what they want you to know about volunteering at these licensed medical centers.

Though Roe v. Wade was passed over four decades ago, reproductive rights — and abortion in particular — are still under constant political attack in the United States. In 2017 alone, 431 anti-abortion bills were filed by state legislators across the country. Luckily, the legislative attacks on abortion by this administration — which is widely considered to be the most anti-choice in American history — largely have not played out.

Unfortunately, those who work and volunteer at abortion clinics often face the brunt of the backlash from anti-abortion protestors. Volunteers face potential violence because of their positions, and confrontation is almost guaranteed. However, those who volunteer also find the work extremely rewarding, and they help hundreds of people receive reproductive health care. This is what they wish you knew about their jobs.

Ad failed to load

1There is real, potential danger for staff and patients of abortion clinics

Since 1993, at least eleven people have been killed in attacks carried out against abortion clinics in America. Hundreds of more instances of violence at clinics have also been recorded since 1977. Though many anti-choice protesters simply stand outside the clinics with graphic posters and bother patients in non-violent ways, their is a a very real threat to being a patient, staff member, or volunteer at an abortion clinic.

"The protestors would actually take pictures of the employee license plates parked in the lot, and post them to their 'Pro-life' Facebook sites to spread awareness on who is 'murdering babies,'" Melissa, a college student who volunteered at an abortion clinic in a Chicago suburb for two years, tells Bustle. "I once was randomly called out at a grocery store by some ignorant anti-choicer who must have been protesting at the clinic. They get pretty invasive, so the least interaction at the site, the better." Abortion clinic volunteers brave both risks of violence and invasion of privacy when working at clinics.

2Counter-protesting can be harmful

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Counter-protesting at abortion clinics — aka, when pro-choice actvists protest against anti-choice demonstrators — can actually increase the risk of potential danger, and can make the environment more stressful for patients. "When we think about a counter-protest happening, even folks with the best intentions, all it takes one person to react to an ‘anti’ and things can escalate very quickly," Adrienne Verrilli, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood of New York City, told Cosmopolitan in 2017.

"It's best to go to pro-choice rallies and events like that where you can fight with the protestors in a more public area with more people surrounding you," says Melissa. "Trying to take on a solo mission and explain your side to the protestors outside of clinics is a lost cause at best."

3One of the main duties of volunteering is escorting patients to the clinic

It may seem obvious, but it's important to note that volunteers don't perform medical duties. One of their primary duties is to escort patients to and from the abortion clinic. "Depending on the location of the clinic and where protesters are permitted, we often need to literally get between the protesters and the patient," Cinda tells Bustle, who has volunteered at abortion clinics for about six years. "A lot of the escort role is to talk directly to the patient and keep her distracted from these foul comments as she makes her way to the front door."

Cinda adds that because of how volatile some anti-choice protesters can be, the volunteers and escorts must follow pretty strict rules. "Escorts may not talk back to protesters. When it rains, we cannot even use umbrellas lest we be accused of carrying weapons. We cannot touch protesters in any way because they have in the past accused escorts of assault for minor touches," she explains. "Protesters tend to push the limits on exactly how close they may get to the clinic door. They will claim the county right of way allows them closer to the front door than what the property owner has dictated. Escorts cannot fight with them about this — we can only say 'please step back.'" Being an abortion clinics escort isn't easy, and it requires a lot of patience.

Ad failed to load

5Not all patients are women

It's commonly thought that only women seek out abortions, but abortion volunteers are actively working to debunk that cisnormative mindset. Not all patients of abortion clinics are women, or gender-conforming. "It is important to me to support Planned Parenthood, because as a transgender man, it's often the only available source of gender affirming treatment," says Judah, an activist and Planned Parenthood volunteer who organized a rally to support of a Washington clinic that was firebombed in 2015. "The folks that showed up to the rally were of a huge variety of ages, genders, classes, sexualities, races, and educational backgrounds." When talking about abortion, it's important to make your language gender-inclusive, and remind people that not just women receive abortions.

4But also, not all patients are teenagers


Despite what mid-2000s television would lead you to believe, the majority of abortion clinic patients in the United States are not teenagers. In fact, the Guttmacher Institute estimated in 2014 that patients between the ages of 20 and 24 made up 34 percent of abortions, while patients between 25 and 29 obtained 27 percent of abortions. Their study estimates one in four women have an abortion by age 45.

Moreover, Guttmacher Institute also found in 2014 that 59 percent of abortion patients already had at least one child. "It is surprising how many women with children come in for abortions. They are keenly aware that another child could affect the wellbeing of the entire family," says Cinda. Abortion can and does impact everyone: There is no one type of person who may receive an abortion, despite the stereotypes that exist.

6The volunteer and staff try to make the clinic kid- friendly.


Patients sometimes have to bring their children to the clinic — especially if they are a working-class parent or traveling to receive an abortion — but Judah says volunteers and staff go out of their way to make the clinic child-friendly. "I once took my 10-year-old nephew to meet Governor Kate Brown at a Planned Parenthood event, and on our way out, [anti-choice protesters] tried to stop and pray over our car," says Judah. "But inside the building my nephew was given snacks, age-appropriate activities, and there were other children happily running around." Abortion clinics get a bad rep thanks to anti-abortion propaganda, but people who work at these health care centers are family-oriented.

Ad failed to load

7They love volunteering

Despite the possible challenges of volunteering at an abortion clinic, volunteers help to ensure the patients have a safe and comfortable experience overall — even in the face of anti-choice protesters. They are on the frontline in the fight for reproductive justice. "I fought the abortion and birth control battles in the 1960s, and want to do my part now to retain those rights," says Cinda. "If the [anti-choicers] can brave the cold and give their time, you’d better believe I’m going to be out there helping patients get past all that negativity."

Abortion clinic volunteers, though not often recognized, play an important role at these health centers. So on this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, don't forget to thank abortion clinic staff and volunteers who help make sure every person has access to safe reproductive health care.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Here Are The Exact Steps To Take If You Want To Travel All The Time & Work Remotely

When I first decided I wanted to become a digital nomad — someone who travels non-stop while working remotely — I was terrified and unsure if I would actually go through with it. I worried my work would suffer from all the travel and time zone change…
By Suzannah Weiss

Here’s Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In April

As the virtual shelf life for non-original Netflix programs grows shorter and shorter, fans of the streaming service are bidding woeful goodbyes to their favorite titles left and right. So, for those who need some time to prepare, here's everything l…
By Angelica Florio

11 Ways To Stay Positive When Dating Feels Like The Worst, According To Matchmakers

With every first date that leads to nowhere or every non-relationship that ends up being a waste of your time, finding love can seem far from possible. It can also be pretty rough on your self-esteem if you continually put a lot of effort into dating…
By Kristine Fellizar

7 Ways To Celebrate Your 30th Birthday That Are Feminist AF

Turning 30 is a pretty major milestone; it's one of those birthdays where large parties, floods of presents and many bouquets from besotted admirers seem to be in order. And as a woman and a feminist, I'm here to offer some additional 30th birthday i…
By JR Thorpe

Is Amazon's Alexa Making Our Relationships Weird?

Earlier this year, I started dating a guy who was in a very codependent relationship with Alexa. Alexa helped this guy (I'll call him "Paul") decide where to eat dinner and reminded him to work out. Alexa handled his to-do lists, restocked his toile…
By Sophie Saint Thomas

You Can Get Too Faced Mascara & Tarte Lipstick For HALF OFF At Ulta This Month

It's finally here! Ulta's 21 Days of Beauty Sale runs from now through Saturday, April 7 and is the retailer's epic "event" of the year. The promotion features "Beauty Steals," which means 50 percent off specific products for a single day. It also in…
By Amy Sciarretto

7 Things My 20s Taught Me About Toxic Relationships

I'll be turning 30 in less than a week, and while I'm trying to get all the habits of my twenties out of the way ASAP, I'm also reflecting on the what I learned over the past decade. And top of the list is the lessons I learned about toxic relationsh…
By JR Thorpe

7 Surprising Things That Happened When I Went A Month Without Drinking

If someone asked you if you could take a break from drinking alcohol, would you be able to do it? You may think it’s no big deal to take a month off from drinking, or you may think it’s a *huge* deal, as alcohol seems to be the center of many social …
By Natalia Lusinski

I Wore 'Dad Shoes' For A Week & They Were SO Much Cooler Than I Thought They’d Be

It’s no secret that fashion loves a good polarizing trend. Not too long ago, Birkenstocks made their high fashion runway appearance at Céline and Crocs followed suit on the runways of Christopher Kane and Balenciaga. Now, it’s time for the "ugly" sne…
By Dale Arden Chong

8 Ways Younger Millennials Communicate That Older Millennials Don’t Get

When comparing the ways our parents grew up communicating and the way we all grew up communicating, it seems like their generation and ours grew up in a different world. The technology our parents grew up with was so basic, it's ancient in comparison…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

This Is The ONE Sign That Won’t Be Affected By Mercury Retrograde This Month

It really doesn't seem fair that one astrological sign can ever enjoy the benefit of escaping the wrath of Mercury retrograde — that is, of course, unless that sign is your own — but it happens. Occasionally, the stars just align in the right way for…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

Why My Boyfriend & I Started Couples Counseling 6 Months Into Our Relationship

Right away, Kurt and I agreed on almost everything. We had met through a mutual friend in 2015, but we didn't start dating until we came across each other on Bumble a few years later. That's when we discovered that we were on the same page when it ca…
By Rachel Simon

This Primer & Mascara Combo Literally Doubles The Length Of My Eyelashes

Even as someone who loves beauty, I was never been particularly passionate about finding the perfect mascara. And then I got lash extensions for the first time. While I enjoy the long, full lashes that lash extensions provide, I always found myself j…
By Olivia Muenter

I Accidentally Fell In Love With My Friend With Benefits & It's Painful

Against my better judgment, I have fallen in love with my friend with benefits. I think I may have fallen in love with him month ago, but being stubborn AF, I fought against those feelings, tooth and nail, and, when it was suggested by a couple close…
By Amanda Chatel

This Viral Post About A Woman Breastfeeding In Public Actually Has A Happy Ending For Once

And today in things that will warm even the coldest of hearts, we have this: A story recently posted to the r/TwoXChromosome subreddit about a dad’s response to his daughter shaming a breastfeeding parent is everything. Posted by Redditor u/starsonwi…
By Lucia Peters

These March Beauty Launches Require Your Immediate Attention

I write one of these beauty editorials every month (feel free to check out January and February 2018 if you're in need of even more products to shower yourself with). Sometimes, I get worried that there won't be enough newness to share — especially b…
By Amanda Richards

Here's How You’re Most Likely To Get Your Heart Broken, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Getting your heart broken can be one of the most painful experiences you can have in your life. But if you're into astrology, being familiar with your zodiac sign can be pretty helpful. For instance, when you know the ways you're likely to get your h…
By Kristine Fellizar

Finger Piercings Are Trending & The Internet Is Very Divided About Them

A new "accessories" trend is asserting itself on Instagram and it's subversive, non-traditional, and so darn precious. It also looks a tad painful but the end result is worth it. Dermal diamond finger piercings are a thing and they may make actual ri…
By Amy Sciarretto

How I Learned Losing Your Job Isn't The End Of The World

Two and a half years ago, I was taking a day off from my marketing job at a San Francisco tech startup to host a friend when I got a call from the CEO. Apparently, I'd missed a pretty big day: 80 percent of the company, including the whole sales and …
By Suzannah Weiss

Meghan Markle's First Appearance With The Queen Included An Homage To Princess Diana

Fashion pundits love keeping a close eye on what the women of the monarchy are wearing, especially when there's an overlap with Princess Diana's sense of style. We're nothing but nostalgic when it comes to Princess Di and her on-point aesthetic. Find…
By Marlen Komar

Why Arizona's Exit From 'Grey's Anatomy' Is A Huge Blow To The LGBTQ Community

Whenever I re-watch Grey's Anatomy, I don't start with Derek Shepherd waking up in Meredith's apartment after their first hookup. I start with Season 5, when Callie first meets Arizona in a bar. I start here, because I want to watch someone like me f…
By Martha Sorren

I Couldn't Find A Beauty Campaign With Plus Size Models, So I Made One Myself

In the fall of 2015, I visited relatives in my hometown, a small suburb of New Jersey. There isn't much to do there, apart from dining at Applebee's or hitting the mall. As a plus size woman, cruising through a shopping mall is a mixed bag. Certain d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

The 21 New Books That Goodreads Users Are Most Excited About This Spring

Despite the fact the Northeast is being pummeled by yet another storm that threatens to trap the region in snow and ice for eternity, winter is finally almost over, and you know what that means. No, I'm not talking about April showers or May flowers …
By Sadie Trombetta

If You’re Addicted To Rewatching ‘The Office,' There’s An Actual Reason For That

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that I was looking for fans of The Office who can't stop, won't stop rewatching the series, and that they should email me if they'd like to contribute to an article about their obsession. By the next morning, I had 32 messa…
By Lia Beck