In the U.S., abortions are performed in hospitals, private doctor’s offices, Planned Parenthood, and independent abortion clinics. Independent clinics provide the majority of abortions every year — even though they only makeup 25% of all providers — and are located in some of the most “politically hostile” areas in the country. Three out of five people who have abortions do so at independent clinics, but since 2012, the number of independent providers has decreased by 32%.
In addition to abortion care, many of these clinics provide a spectrum of other reproductive health services and advocate on behalf of their patients in court when challenging unjust anti-abortion restrictions. Still, they lack the “institutional support, visibility, name recognition, or fundraising capacity of national health centers and hospitals, making it especially difficult for these community-based providers to garner the resources they need to provide care in their communities.”
Austin Women’s Health Center is proud to be one of two independent clinics in Austin, and we’re grateful for all of our staff who make it possible. This National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, we’re putting the spotlight on Dr. Jessica Rubino, M.D., one of our trusted doctors! Check out this interview to get to know your provider better, and if you want to know something we didn’t ask, just ask us by submitting the form below!
AWHC: Have you always been pro-choice?
AWHC: What is your earliest memory of supporting our right to choose?
JR: I was in high school, in a freshman or sophomore pottery class, and one of my classmates was talking about abortion. I asked her to explain what that was to me and she was explaining how she was against it. I remember feeling very confused and replied that it made no sense to be against something someone else chooses for their body and their future. Since then, I’ve always known, bodily autonomy is one of our most precious rights and everyone deserves that right.
AWHC: How long have you been an abortion provider?
JR: I have been providing abortion care full-time for nearly 2 years. Prior to that, I was providing abortion care part-time for about a year.
AWHC: What medicine did you practice before transitioning into abortion care?
JR: I am a board-certified Family Medicine physician and did part-time Family Medicine care in addition to part-time abortion care once I finished residency.
AWHC: Was there a specific instance that made you want to provide abortions?
JR: I have been a politically-minded person since high school, and have been pro-choice since I learned what that meant. I was a member of the Medical Students for Choice group and was outspoken about my belief in bodily autonomy.
When I started residency in Family Medicine, I planned to do full-spectrum care, including obstetrics. But when I began my second year of residency, I learned that in Texas there are very few providers and terrible wait-times to get in to see an abortion provider. I learned that while abortion care should just be part of the normal spectrum of healthcare, in Texas and many other states, it isn’t.
So, I did an elective rotation observing abortion procedures and learning more about it. I knew then this is what I wanted to do. I have always felt that if there are no providers, there is no choice. I had found my calling. I can be the answer to the lack of providers. I knew I was capable of learning to provide safe, excellent abortion care in this state where we really need it.
AWHC: Did you receive training on abortion in Texas?
JR: Yes! This is something that is hard to do and we do not have any institutions in Texas that provide a fellowship (after-residency training) in abortion care. So I did some training in residency, then spent months working with a local provider in Texas learning to do first-trimester abortion care. Later, I worked with our clinic’s gynecologist to learn abortion care for up to 18 weeks. I took this “apprentice” approach to learning so I wouldn’t have to leave the state for 1-2 years before providing here.
AWHC: What languages do you speak?
JR: I speak English and Spanish. Spanish was one of my majors in college because I knew I wanted to provide bilingual healthcare in the future. I spent 6 months living in Spain during college, and a month in Mexico during medical school to help me prepare. It has served me well!
AWHC: Anti-abortion violence is still happening across the nation. Have you experienced any harassment or threats to your safety? If not, what are some ways you work through the emotions those risks may bring up for you?
JR: The worst harassment I’ve experienced is a few comments on my prior Family Medicine clinic’s Facebook page. The protestor had actually met me personally and posted that, despite being an abortion provider, I was a “very nice young lady”. So at least he liked me! Day to day, I keep my wits about me. I pay attention to people in my surroundings and watch that our clinic follows good safety protocol. The same methods I use to keep myself safe as a woman I use in this setting as well.
AWHC: What do you love most about being an abortion provider?
JR: My best days are when our patients express their gratitude for our care. I love the hugs I get from patients thanking me and reminding me it’s so important I do what I do. That’s all the motivation I need to keep up this work for the rest of my life.
AWHC: Anti-choice lawmakers in Louisiana believe abortion providers don’t have their patient’s best interest in mind, and that they shouldn’t be able to argue restrictions on their behalf in court. What do you think about that, as someone who provides abortions?
JR: I think it’s laughable. There is no monetary or prestige incentive in this country to be an abortion provider. If I didn’t care about access and the patients I serve, I wouldn’t be an abortion provider. My patient’s best interest is the only thing I have in mind when I go to work every day. I am also keenly aware of the difficulties abortion restrictions cause for my patients. I help them navigate those difficulties every single day.
AWHC: What’s a random fact about you that we don’t know, like a secret talent or hobby that you have?
I am a PADI-certified scuba diver! I have always thought it would be neat to be a rescue diver, maybe what I’ll do someday when I’m retired. If I ever retire…
AWHC: What do you want patients to know about the care you provide at Austin Women’s Health Center?
JR: The care we provide at AWHC is compassionate and safe. We work to make our patients’ lives better. We work to always maintain the highest quality of care while showing deep empathy and love for our patients. We know for some this is a difficult decision, for some, it’s not. We know for some this decision allows them to feed their other children, for some it allows them to complete their schooling, for some, it allows them freedom from an abuser. We know everyone brings their complicated lives to our doors and we are here to make this process as smooth as possible, as safe as possible and as loving as possible. There is nothing else we would rather be doing.