Thank Goodness for Abortion Doctors

March 10 is National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day.  To help us observe the occasion, DC Abortion Fund volunteer Colleen C. posts on how we fight right-wing attacks on reproductive freedom. 

Dr. David Gunn: Murdered on March 10, 1993.
Dr. Barnett Slepian: Murdered on October 23, 1998.
Dr. George Tiller: Murdered on May 31, 2009.

The list goes on. These men are just three of many abortion providers who have suffered at the hands of anti-choice extremism. Unlike other medical practitioners, abortion providers are under a constant – and very real – threat.

Doctors have been harassed at their offices and homes, their neighborhoods littered with fliers espousing their “murderous” proclivities. In some cases, the anti-choicers have even gone after the businesses that the doctors used, intimidating bystanders like dry cleaners, mechanics and restaurants.

Abortion providers are also under increasing legislative attack. Last year, state legislatures enacted 69 restrictions on abortion access. These include abortion bans, mandatory ultrasound laws, parental notification requirements, and targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws.

TRAP bills, as the acronym suggests, saddle abortion providers with unnecessary regulations like the size of janitorial closets and door sizes. They have no basis in medicine, instead aiming to drive doctors out of business. Indeed, such a law passed last year in Virginia.

For these reasons and more, an astonishing 87% of counties in the United States, where abortion is a legal medical procedure, do not have an abortion provider. This number rises to 97% in non-metropolitan areas. To make matters worse, there is also a “graying” of abortion providers, with 57% over the age of 50. There are organizations working to correct this, like Medical Students for Choice, but we need to do more. Without providers there is no abortion. At least not the safe kind.

As a former clinic staffer, I can say from experience that the work these doctors do is incredibly undervalued. Here in D.C., it’s not as bad as other places. For all its faults, the general climate of the area is resoundingly pro-choice. Still, providers, patients, and passersby are accosted by protesters when they go to work. Doctors and staff are encouraged to wear street clothes to blend in and avoid confrontational protestors when entering the clinic.

For a procedure that is legal, routine, and accessed by about 1 in 3 American women, such vitriolic and vocal hatred seems woefully out of step with reality. Yet, it continues. Indeed, those who oppose abortion always seem to find the time to make their voices heard.

We need to counter this by doing more to positively recognize those who provide abortion services. March 10 is National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day. If you know a doctor or clinic staffer who provides this much-needed and beleaguered service, please thank him or her.

How you do it doesn’t really matter. Send a text message saying thanks, buy a round of drinks, or stand outside the clinic next Saturday with a giant thank-you card.

If you don’t know a provider, consider making a donation to a pro-choice organization like DC Abortion Fund. In fact, this is a great time to donate to DCAF, because we are participating in the National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon HOLE-a-Thon fundraiser!  If you’re feeling really jazzed and are ready to take action, start your own HOLE-a-Thon fundraising team! Silly names and Twitter trash talking are strongly encouraged.

Our ability to exercise our right to have an abortion only goes as far as our access, and without abortion providers, our access recedes to the back alley. Let’s make sure that doesn’t ever happen again.