I did my growing up where summer days are thick with humidity and the cicadas are the background noise to every night. A place where the accents are sweet and the drawls are long. I am a Georgia Bulldawg through and through and bleed red and black. My happy place is a warm fall day sitting on a covered porch with a ceiling fan, TV playing college football, and a cold beer in my hand.
I am a Southerner, but I am also a brown woman who provides abortion care, and those identities came to a head in June 2022. I was made a doctor by the South, completing most of my medical training southeast of the Mississippi. After completing fellowship, I went “home” to Tennessee. I wanted to serve the community that made me who I am. I wanted to care for families who I could talk about rival football teams with and who would describe our time together as a “minute.” I also knew I would be providing abortion care to a community that wouldn’t otherwise have that care. After the Dobbs decision overturned a 50-year abortion care precedent across the country, the trigger ban that had been passed in 2019 in Tennessee went into effect, banning most abortion care. It became abundantly clear that the place I had called home for more than 20 years, where I had met my husband, had my children, and grown as a physician and person, was turning against me.
In the weeks that followed, I relived the decision with patients as they realized that the pregnancy they had put all their hopes and dreams into wouldn’t result in a live child, but that wasn’t a “good enough” reason to end the suffering of their child in Tennessee. I cried with families, I took on the brunt of their anger, and I worked hard with colleagues across the South to find places for patients to get the care they needed. I’ve never backed down from a fight for patient access, but this felt insurmountable.
Ultimately, I made the devastating decision to leave. I knew when I made that decision that I was leaving a community without access to essential health care. I still struggle with the guilt of leaving. But I first must do no harm to myself. I needed to be in a place where I could make a difference without putting my own safety and freedoms at risk. I miss the South, my colleagues, my patients, and my home every day, but I know I am where I need to be, even if my part of my heart still lives in the beautiful hills of Tennessee. Tennessee: thank you for making me who I am.
Disclaimer: Published submissions reflect the experiences of individual ACOG members and may not represent official organizational opinions of ACOG. This information is designed as an educational resource to aid clinicians in providing obstetric and gynecologic care, and use of this information is voluntary. It does not constitute legal advice; clinicians should be familiar with and comply with federal, state, and local restrictions on abortion, including medication abortion, and are encouraged to consult with a lawyer when navigating local abortion laws and regulations. This information should not be considered as inclusive of all proper treatments or methods of care or as a statement of the standard of care. It is not intended to substitute for the independent professional judgment of a treating clinician.
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