A Distortion of Care

Abortion providers aren’t criminals, bodyguards, saviors, or travel agents

Kate Green Tripp
5 min readJul 1, 2022


Photo: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

Twenty years ago, I was granted an intimate privilege at an incredibly difficult moment in the life of a stranger.

Early one morning I stood, masked and gowned, in the corner of an operating room and watched a physician perform an abortion on a woman I’d never seen before and would likely never see again.

The procedure — a dilation and curettage (D&C) — followed standard protocol: insertion and removal of gradually larger dilators into the patient’s cervix, entered at a cadence designed to allow access to the uterus. Once granted, the uterine lining was gently scraped clean by a serene doctor.

Patience and careful technique were involved, blood was certainly present (as per usual), and things went smoothly. There were no complications. The early stage pregnancy was safely (and legally) terminated and after the necessary stretch of hours in recovery, the patient exited the clinic and resumed, or so I like to imagine, the familiar hum of her life.

I, however, failed to match her stoicism.

Midway through the procedure, I passed out cold. Watching the body of a female human being respond as intended to a set of carefully orchestrated steps designed to alleviate a condition she could not manage undid me. Awed, I crumpled into a pile of clammy flesh and paper fabric.

I stood (and fell) in the room that day as part of my training with Planned Parenthood of Australia. I was, at the time, a social policy grad student keen to devote volunteer hours to patient support at a local clinic. The staff were equal parts happy to have me and decidedly no-nonsense about exposing me to what it was I was poised to support women through: surgical abortion.

Although today abortion is legal across all Australian states and territories, it wasn't then. Twenty years ago, surgical abortion was permitted in New South Wales only if a physician deemed the pregnancy a “serious risk” to the mother’s health. Medical abortions were not legal. A maze of legislation and case law, akin to the matrix of confusion now unfolding state by state in post-Roe America, ruled the day. And yet public opinion lined up in one clear…



Kate Green Tripp

Writer / Editor / Strategist. Comms Director, Stanford Impact Labs. I chase ideas & shape stories about science, society & innovation. Mostly, I belong outside.