Dr. Kim M.*, the clinic administrator for Feminist Women’s Health Center, spoke with Better Georgia about what it’s really like inside a clinic that provides healthcare to women, including providing abortions.
Dr. Kim was a gynecologist with her own practice, when she realized she had a passion (and a knack) for keeping medical practices running smoothly. When she and her family moved back to Georgia, she decided to go full time into that work, hoping, too, to have a more predictable schedule and spend more time with her family.
“I’ve been working with women’s healthcare for over 15 years now. And one of the biggest things that I found with a lot of women was that they don’t, I feel like a lot of women don’t have a full voice when it comes to their healthcare,” Dr. Kim said in an interview. “And with Feminist [Women’s Health Center] we actually pride ourselves on, we want women to be able to make the decisions for what’s appropriate for them at that times in their life.”
Dr. Kim coordinates all the folks involved in providing abortion care and the other gynecological services Feminist Women’s Health Center offers. It takes a team of trained, professional staff to provide high-quality care. In addition to the medical doctors on staff that actually perform the procedure, there are health educators, nurses, patient advocates, sonographers and pathologists.
But unlike many other medical facilities, they also have security on staff.
“One of the things that is unfortunate with the history of abortion is there are providers who have been killed, there are clinics that have been attacked,” Dr. Kim said. “Unfortunately our history with abortion does actually cause us to be cautious.”
Eleven people have been killed in attacks on abortion clinics and providers since the early 1990s, in addition to 26 other attempted murders of doctors and staff. This includes doctors who have been targeted and attacked in their own homes. In Georgia, two abortion clinics were targeted with bombs back in 1997. There are also open investigations into two separate arson attacks that occurred at Georgia clinics back in 2012.
There are regular protesters outside the clinic, and while in Dr. Kim’s time there haven’t been any incidents, it is always a concern.
“Everybody should be able to speak what they believe in, but we don’t believe that anybody’s personal space or rights should be compromised for that freedom,” Dr. Kim explained. She added that if women are coming to the clinic, to get an abortion or any other care, “she can come safely and know that she is in good hands, [and] that if she does deal with protesters that they are not going to harm her or cause any ill will.”
Dr. Kim said when patients walk through their doors, “The safety of patients and the health of women is our primary goal.”
By the time most patients come to Feminist Women’s Health Center, they’re pretty educated about what getting an abortion is like and pretty clear what they want to do. Patients have had time to do research on the internet, talk to folks in their support network, have conversations with their OB/GYN or primary care provider, and they’ve called the clinic and talked with health educators about their questions.
“Our front access station staff actually do a really good job of educating a lot of the patients before they come in the door. So our front staff our double-trained as educators,” Dr. Kim explained.
The caveat, unfortunately, is that anti-abortion groups work hard to perpetuate medically inaccurate information about getting an abortion. And so health educators do end up having conversations with women to dispel these myths.
Regardless of what information a woman walks in with, every person seeking an abortion sits down with a health educator to have an open conversation, before moving forward with getting an abortion.
“And so our job, we educate them based upon the questions that they have,” Dr. Kim said. “So what does it look like when the patients, when they talk to anybody on our side? We actually sit down and it’s a nonjudgemental environment. We accept patients where they are. We try to allow them to have an open conversation [where] they can discuss sensitive information.”
She added, “Once we have a conversation, the patients actually are able to make their own decisions.” Sometimes that means patients decide not to get an abortion, sometimes it means Feminist Women’s Health Center connects them with additional resources, and it can also mean patients move forward with getting an abortion.
“My biggest motivation [for doing this work], is that I just believe that women should have choices for their lives,” Dr. Kim said. “That means you have to make the decisions that are best for you in that point of time in your life.”
*Due to the threat of violence against abortion providers, Better Georgia is not publishing Dr. Kim’s full name.