“What do you do for a living?” is a common question, especially in DC when even your barista is asking. In this city, it’s a question that’s almost as second nature as asking the type of milk you want in your latte.
Having fielded this question many times before, Anne Cavett has an answer prepared for days she doesn't feel like talking.
“I'm a Nurse Practitioner. And then when they ask, ‘Where do you work?’ I say, ‘I work in Sexual and Reproductive Health.’ And often there are no followup questions with that.”
She adds that just saying, “sexual and reproductive care” can make people, “red from here on up,” gesturing to her face on a laggy zoom call.
Anne is the Clinical Services Coordinator at PPMW. It’s not a job that can be summed into a sentence, despite numerous attempts. She does a lot.
“My primary responsibility is to supervise the abortion nursess. I handle all of their training, onboarding, and supervision. I also am very involved in the surgical abortion service line in terms of flow and staff support. I work really closely with the managers at the Fourth Street Clinic.” Among other things, Anne trains staff in ultrasound and other aspects of care, does quality improvement work, helps roll out new projects, writes policies and procedures, and provides direct patient care.
Anne's career path found her exploring many avenues before landing at Planned Parenthood. Her undergrad degree was in East Asian Studies and Religious Studies — Chinese mysticism was “her thing.” She taught English in Taiwan for a “hot second,” moved back to the US, and then she became a massage therapist and a doula. At this point, she decided to look into public health and nursing. She started out in primary care but realized her passion lay in sexual and reproductive health. “I can talk about sex all day. And then I realized, why aren't I just talking about sex all day? In the back of my head, I was always like, ‘I should work at Planned Parenthood.’”
At PPMW, Anne is unapologetically proud to provide essential abortion care, but as she notes, “Sometimes I just don’t want to be an activist every second of the day. But at other times, I am very willing to say, this is what I do. Let's talk about it.” Unfortunately, the lies and stigma surrounding abortion in society today can litter even the most mundane small talk, such as “What do you do for a living?”, with unforeseen landmines.
“There is... a stigma to providing the care. When you asked me to do this interview, I had a moment of thinking, well, it's one thing for Dr. Montoya to put his picture on the website because he provides primary care” she says. “I'm a hard lean-in to the abortion services here, and I'm proud to provide that care.”
While Anne knows there are people who disagree with what she does, some to the extent that they may threaten her, she is committed to continuing to provide important health care and decreasing the judgment and misinformation surrounding contraception and abortion care.
“Often, everything [patients have] heard about abortion, is all misinformation. And so they think it's a procedure that it’s not, and they expect to be treated poorly... I think one of the most gratifying parts of this care is how easy it is to do this care well and with compassion, and...it breaks my heart just because we live in this misogynistic culture and feel like we need to punish people who have uteruses.”
Depending on the study that you read, one in three to one in four people with a uterus have an abortion at least once in their lifetime. The majority of people who have abortions are already parents, but this is not the message we often get from the media.
“I often find myself talking to patients who feel so isolated and alone, who don’t realize that abortion care is a normal part of reproductive health care. Because it is stigmatized, people don’t talk about it, so abortion patients are often surprised to hear how common it actually is. On the other hand, sometimes it’s only when a patient shares their plans to come to Planned Parenthood that they learn their mom, their aunt, or their sister had a previous abortion.”
Anne wants patients to know they are not alone, that abortion care is a part of reproductive health care, and patients deserve to be treated with respect and compassion while receiving high quality care.
“It’s the same for the other care we provide at PPMW, we aim to provide high quality non judgemental care.”
She likes that Planned Parenthood takes a thorough assessment of one’s health by asking social history questions many other providers are too afraid to ask. At her own recent mammogram appointment with an outside physician, Anne was only asked if she vaped. “Why ask about vaping and no other social history questions or other social determinants of health?” Anne is proud that Planned Parenthood does not shy away from talking about bodies, sex, partners, safety, and pleasure.
When asked about the “typical” Planned Parenthood patient, Anne says there isn’t one. She has seen older cis men working on K Street coming for STI testing, middle age people looking for mammograms and pap smears, transgender people seeking hormone therapy, teens wanting birth control, insured and uninsured folks. Regardless of who they are, patients can be assured that at Planned Parenthood they will receive non judgemental, high quality care.
While she may not always want to go into the details of her work over the coffee counter, Anne is always proud to provide essential healthcare to the DC community.
“The work we do is really impactful, and it's incredibly amazing to hear people's stories and to be a part of that care.”