By: Lauren MacDonald
The snapshot of our last Salon Series: a living room full of learners looking up to and engaged with Dr. Shelley Sella’s humble and thorough accounts of her journey working with people in need of reproductive health services, specifically abortion.
Dr. Sella is an honored, awaited guest speaker to the Salon Series. She is one of the four late term abortion care providers working today in the United States. She works at Southwestern Women’s Options Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, offering first, second and third trimester abortions.
Dr. Sella reports she has been interested in abortion work since even before her medical school journey began. After school and several years of practice as an OBGYN she went to work alongside Dr. Tiller in 2009. She was featured in, After Tiller, a documentary that follows the four remaining late term abortion providers in the United States.
The first question that she offered to explore with us was “Why does someone wait so long to have an abortion?” When answering that question, she differentiated between patients with fetal indications, those who are ending the pregnancy because there is something very wrong with their baby, and patients with maternal indications, those ending the pregnancy to preserve their own life and health.
Dr. Sella painted a realistic view of a clinic day in which three third trimester abortion patients were laboring. One was an 18 year old victim of date rape, another, a 23 year old mother of three in an abusive relationship who left after being hit in the abdomen, and finally, a 12 year old victim of incest.
The outpatient center where Dr. Sella works serves an international cohort of people seeking reproductive health services including first, second and third trimester abortions. The stand out description of the services provided was the incorporation of counseling and supportive services with medical services.
Dr. Sella briefly described what an abortion looks like clinically, for each trimester. She emphasized the well roundedness of their program. She explained that counseling happens with a person during their first intake. The first visit with the doctor is always with the patient clothed. There is low lighting, calm music, continuity of care with counselor from intake to post procedure, a small staff and quiet interactions between staff, pain management support, and peer support groups.
With the hard and complex work that she does we inquired how Dr. Sella takes care of herself. She reports that the clinic staff is so supportive and they incorporate processing of cases into their weekly meetings. She also gave gratitude to her international abortion care community and providers as well as her home and personal friends and family including her wife, Julie who joined us at the salon.
Thank you Dr. Sella for the information you shared with us and the wisdom you imparted about your journey and the work you are doing.