Sandra has only been in the abortion care field for 7 months, but she’s already making her mark. She is the Patient Advocate for Whole Woman’s Health of South Bend, an independent, nonprofit abortion clinic in Indiana. Sandra met Clinic Manager Stacie in college, where they served as co-presidents of the feminist student union. She went on to build a career in social work, working in youth shelters and domestic violence shelters, but felt lost in her calling. That was until the clinic had an opening and Stacie knew Sandra was the person for the job.
WWH of South Bend has a lean staff of 5 people and the majority of their doctors travel hundreds of miles to provide care. They’re a small and passionate team, and, as Sandra explains, “it’s become a cliché work family. We also really care about this work and believe this work matters.”
For Sandra, it’s been a dream position. “I’ve always been able to connect with people and make them feel that I’m safe to talk to,” she shares. “I show up for patients in a meaningful way and at a difficult time in their lives. Many of our patients come in with shame and fear. To see the change when they leave is what lights a spark in me. It keeps me feeling connected to my community and I know deep down that the work I’m doing is important.” she shares.
Aggressive anti-abortion protestors harass patients as they walk to the door, so visiting Whole Woman’s Health of South Bend can be a stigmatizing experience. Indiana is also a state where abortion restrictions are rife, many of which WWHA is fighting to take down. Legislators have also promised to introduce copycat legislation of Texas’ Senate Bill 8.
But Sandra is here to help patients walk a little taller and feel less alone in their decision. “It takes a lot of strength to even come to the door, and we recognize that. There’s all this noise and chatter in society and culture about what abortion is, but the reality is that nobody knows until they are faced with the choice. This is a totally safe place to come and get information with no expectations or requirements of them.”
Creating a safe space in a state politically hostile to abortion care is not easy. With clinic staff like Sandra, we’re helping patients reclaim power of their bodies and lives. But we can’t do it alone.