Have You Thanked an Abortion Provider Today?

Robin Marty

March 10th was "National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers," a day to remember the people who make the right to choose "real." But we need to be mindful every day of what providers do and what they sacrifice.

March 10th was “National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers,” a day to remember the people without which the right to choose would mean nothing. 

As Cara at Feministe noted:

In a different world, doctors who provide abortions would just be regular doctors. In this one, they — along with the nurses, administrative staff, and volunteers who work along side them — are uniquely courageous. For providing routine medical care, abortion providers face harassment, ostracization, protesters, threats, violence, and as with Dr. George Tiller, even murder. Giving up their jobs would be far, far easier than doing them.

But legalization of abortion is absolutely nothing without access. Just like those who try to frighten them out of their work, abortion providers know this. And so they continue, even in the face of danger. They do the best they can, in spite of the restrictions they must adhere to and the roadblocks thrown in their patients’ way, to ensure that everyone has a right to their own body, and that no one is forced to carry a pregnancy to term when they cannot or do not want to. Abortion providers are, quite frankly, heroes.

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Even with Roe v. Wade still the law of the land, access to abortion care becomes harder and harder to find, as states pass a proliferation of laws meant to restrict access to abortion care, and more providers retire without new colleagues to replace them.

Obama’s victory may protect Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court, but state legislatures are doing their best to pile on the obstacles and restrictions: mandatory ultrasounds are the latest fad, with bills being considered in eleven states ( because apparently women are so stupid they might not realize they’re having an abortion because they’re pregnant). And then, as Michael Winerip reported in an unusually thorough piece in Sunday’s New York Times (in the Style section, sigh, along with the rest of the girlynews), the women’s health activists who form the backbone of many clinic staffs are retiring and proving hard to replace in the more conservative and rural regions, like upstate New York, the South and Midwest. Doctors, nurses and technicians are reluctant to work in clinics in anti-choice places where they will be picketed, socially ostracized and forced to protect themselves daily against possible violence.

Why are there so many less providers than before?  This article from the MNDaily shows many of the struggles interning physicans go through to try and get abortion training, leaving some students to chose not to learn the procedures at all. 

Ani Kolasa-Lenarz often faced protestors when entering her summer internship. One of five students from the University of Minnesota who participated in Reproductive Health Externships,” Kolasa-Lenarz, a second-year medical student and president of Medical Students for Choice, knew the challenges involved in working at an abortion clinic.

Students are told not to wear their white coat until after they are inside the clinic, said Stacey Burns, who helped Medical Students for Choice arrange the internships through her former job at the Abortion Provider Expansion Project. Protestors target physicians entering the clinic, calling them “baby killers … evil, the devil, they yell at physicians,” Kolasa-Lenarz said. But she said the internship was worth it, providing an experience commonly missed at many medical schools.

Considering that much of the techniques used to perform abortions are used to manage miscarriages as well, that can be a frightening gap in knowledge down the road.

There are just too many reasons to say thank you–not just on the one day that honors the anniversary of the death of Dr. David Gunn and now also acts as a day of remembrancefor the work of Dr. George Tiller–but every day. 

On March 10, 1993, an anti-choice extremist murdered Dr. David Gunn outside of his workplace. In honor of him, Dr. George Tiller, and the others who lost their lives because they performed abortions, we pay tribute to abortion providers today, on the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. The National Abortion Federation is collecting names and messages in support for those who dedicate their lives to providing women with safe abortion care. You can leave a message at the NAF website.

87% of counties in the U.S. lack an abortion provider. Legal abortion means nothing without access. Thank you to the health professionals who go out of their way to bring safe abortion care to areas without providers. Thank you for risking harassment–and worse–every day in order to give women access to their right to choose.

But recognition isn’t just about mourning those that have been murdered trying to provide women safe access to legal healthcare.  It’s a chance to reflect on all of the issues that face these providers daily as they attempt to care for women, as Dr. Linda Prine of Physicians for Choice reminds us.

As we do every year, we will reflect on the obstacles we face in caring for the women who need us. For some, it is the health insurance plans and the federal government that fail to cover the cost of this legal medical procedure, making it nearly impossible for some women to obtain care. For others, it is colleagues or administrators who create obstacles—for instance, prohibiting a health center from purchasing and prescribing the abortion pill for women. And for some, it is the endless harassment that stops them from providing abortions, despite the training they sought during residency and their commitment to this care. But for most of us who think about the Day of Appreciation, we will focus on the dedicated clinicians who continue to beat the odds.

Looking for a way to show your appreciation?  One simple way to provide your support for these brave health care providers who offer legal and safe abortions in the face of criticism, harassment, and even physical harm and death is to sign the National Abortion Federation’s petition of appreciation for providers here.

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