by Amy Hagstrom Miller

I am an abortion-care provider. When I talk about my work, people are often pretty quiet. Eventually, when they feel comfortable enough, they ask, "why abortion care?" or "how can you do this work?"-even pro-choice supporters.

Anti-abortion groups target providers with personal harassment, intimidation tactics and restrictive laws that have little to do with safety and much to do with a clear agenda: Outlaw abortion. The path? Reduce access. Reduce providers. Without providers, there is no choice.

We still stand. The women on my staff ROCK. They are dedicated, strong, compassionate, empathetic and amazing. The work we do is profound and we are very, very proud to be abortion-care providers.

Throughout time, women have made decisions to control their own fertility. Women have always had abortions. Sometimes the available choices are safe. Sometimes they are not.

An unplanned pregnancy experience shines a bright light on a woman's life. The experience challenges her to look at everything-her hopes and her dreams, her relationship choices, her ideas about family and career, her plans for the future, her intentions. For many women, abortion can be a transformational experience- one where she actively chooses what she wants for her life, one where she is in charge.

Standing by women and their families in this process is amazingly powerful. We get to listen to women. We hear their dreams, we hear what is truly in their hearts. We invite the difficult conversations and the conflicts that often accompany the abortion experience.

The late Dr. George Tiller said it best, "Abortion is not a cerebral or a reproductive issue. Abortion is a matter of the heart. For until one understands the heart of a woman, nothing else about abortion makes any sense at all."

For me, providing abortion care with the dignity and respect women deserve is a calling.

Making an abortion decision is a time when a woman acts with intention; when she chooses a path for her life and the direction she will travel. I want to NOTICE that moment of acting with intention and hold it up high for the woman to notice and to feel and own as hers. I invite her to experience her life as though she were in charge of it. There are many times in a woman's life where "life happens to them." Abortion stands out as a time when I can support a woman to be the actor in her own life, the chooser, not a victim. This changes the world. For the better. And this is why I provide abortions.

How many of you have either had an abortion or know someone who has? Thirty-eight percent of American women will have an abortion by the age of 45. That is over one-third of the women you know. And every abortion involves more than one person-the woman's partner, husband, boyfriend, best friend, mom, sister, dad, aunt.

Why does an experience shared by so many in our culture still carry the stigma that abortion does? Abortion is nearly always accompanied by SILENCE, and all too often by shame and guilt. Good women have abortions and yet, stigma creates self-doubt and is reinforced. When you have an abortion, no one brings a casserole over to your house, there is no Hallmark card to send. It is my life's work to end the stigma around abortion.

Many of our patients believe that they are the only woman they know who has had an abortion-the only Christian who has had an abortion, the only mom, the only lawyer.

I invite you to break the silence and deconstruct the stigma every time you are given the opportunity. I encourage you to speak from your heart and demand to be heard. I challenge you to activism like you have never done. There is a reason we are right here right now in this country and we get to decide what we will do with this opportunity. I invite you to speak out and tell your own story, or talk about how access to abortion changed the life of a woman you know and love.

We have an opportunity right here and right now to stand and make a real difference.

Amy Hagstrom Miller is the president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health.

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