Abortion Provider Appreciation: Health Care Professionals Make Choice a Reality

Vicki Saporta is the President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF).

March 10 is the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. The abortion provider community is made up of medical professionals who are both highly skilled and uniquely dedicated to protecting the lives and health of women by providing them with quality reproductive health care.

But abortion providers are much more than highly trained medical professionals: they are also heroes.

Abortion providers are on the front lines of the critical struggle to ensure that abortion is safe and accessible. They regularly defend women's lives and health against aggressive abortion extremists seeking to deprive women of access to safe abortion care. Putting their lives on the line, abortion providers are the ones who make choice a reality for women. In the face of past assassinations and ongoing violence and threats, abortion providers continue to display steadfast bravery and unwavering dedication to preserving women's lives and health.

March 10 was designated as the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers in 1996 to commemorate the 1993 assassination of Dr. David Gunn, the first provider murdered by an anti-abortion extremist. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) has been compiling statistics on violence and disruption against abortion providers since 1977. During this time seven providers have been murdered and there have been 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings, and 173 arsons.

NAF was instrumental in advocating for the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and the creation of the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers. FACE was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, and prohibits the use of "force, threat of force or physical obstruction" to prevent someone from providing or receiving reproductive health services. Attorney General Janet Reno established the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers in 1998 following the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian. The Task Force coordinates national investigation and prosecution of incidents of abortion violence with a focus on connections that may exist between individuals involved in criminal anti-abortion activities; serves as a clearinghouse for information relating to acts of violence against abortion providers, and collects and coordinates data identifying national trends related to clinic violence; and works to enhance training of federal, state, and local law enforcement on clinic violence issues.

The enforcement of the FACE Act and improved law enforcement response to clinic violence has led to a decrease in major acts of violence against abortion providers in recent years. However, anti-abortion extremists continue to harass and intimidate providers and clinic staff, often targeting them at home. Many anti-abortion extremists still believe that it is justifiable to murder doctors because they provide women with safe and legal abortion care. We must continue to send a clear message that violence against abortion providers will not be tolerated and perpetrators of such crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

NAF represents physicians, advanced practice clinicians, nurses, counselors, administrators, and other health care professionals at more than 400 facilities in 47 states and 8 Canadian provinces. Throughout the year, and especially this month, we want to let our members know that we understand and appreciate their sacrifices and dedication. Please take a moment to show your support for the men and women who dedicate their lives to providing women with quality abortion care by signing NAF's petition to let them know how much you appreciate their commitment to ensuring women's reproductive freedom.

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