Recognizing Abortion Providers


Fourteen years ago, the pro-choice community chose March 10 as the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. This date—the anniversary of the death of David Gunn, MD, an abortion provider who was shot and killed in 1993—is a time to honor those of us who continue our work despite the harassment meant to drive us away.

This year, we will also mourn the murder of the kindest, most humble and bravest physician many of us have ever met: George Tiller. We will reflect on the risks he took to serve women, the sacrifices he and his family made while living under siege. We will think of his mottoes, especially “Trust women”—the guiding principle that kept him focused on his patients’ needs.

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.

On March 10, we will remember that the life of an abortion provider, even Dr. Tiller’s, is so much more than struggle and obstacles. I am a family physician, as he was, and abortion care is just one of many services that my colleagues and I perform. We get to know our patients and meet their needs throughout their lives. We perform adult checkups, well child care, treat diabetes and hypertension, provide contraception, prenatal care, sick visits, and everything in between. We coach men and women to improve their health; we treat illnesses and nurture families through deaths.

Within the rewards of family medicine, performing abortions holds a special place. I have talked with many colleagues about this, and we share the same experience: the thank-yous we receive from our patients after an abortion are more common and more heartfelt than for any other care we provide. Somehow, our society has shamed women so badly that when they come to us for an abortion, and are treated with understanding and respect, they are incredibly grateful. This response cuts across all ages and circumstances, from the teenager who wants to finish high school to the woman whose health can’t handle a pregnancy to the mother of three who knows she can’t care for another child. We allow women’s decisions to occur in the safety and privacy of their doctor’s office.

Dr. Tiller found his patients’ gratitude so inspiring that he covered his clinic’s walls with framed thank-you notes. He quoted them in the clinic brochure: “Thank you for everything you and your staff did for me during one of the darkest moments in my life.” Another reads, “Dr. Tiller, you will be in our hearts and our minds for the rest of our lives.”

In the bigger picture of women’s lives, we have helped them through a tough time. By making an abortion possible we say, “Here, you can have your goals and dreams back.” Or “Now you can get back to taking care of the children you already have.” Dr. Tiller summed up the significance of our work: “Abortion is about women’s hopes, dreams, potential: the rest of their lives.” As a physician, I rarely am able to make such a difference for women and their families, and I feel very lucky to be able to provide this care.

That is our paradox. Every day when I’m with patients is Abortion Provider Appreciation Day. Every day I feel the significance of a woman’s need to make her own decision about her pregnancy. Every day I am the beneficiary of her deep gratitude for a safe, legal, and usually simple medical procedure.

But every day the news, an email, a billboard, something reminds me that a few of my fellow citizens are trying to make it impossible for women to seek my help.

Through the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, we try to put an end to the harassment and violence against physicians and their patients. I wish we didn’t need this day. I have to believe that some day we won’t.

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  • angelbuns

    I can’t imagine why anyone who is against abortion because they feel it is murder can also be glad or even participate in the murder of an already-born human being. Truthfully, its rather hypocritical. You are against murder, so you are happy someone else was murdered, or you are willing to participate in a murder? That makes no sense.

     

    I have never needed, and I hope to never need, an abortion. I can’t know what I would do if I found myself pregnant and for whatever reason not being able to or not wanting to keep the child or go through the pregnancy. But, I don’t like the idea of such a choice being taken away from me.

     

    I don’t have any problem with people who disagree with abortion. That is their right and I believe they should be allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, just like women who might or who already have or who already want to seek an abortion should be. For many people this is a moral issue, and I don’t feel that anyone should force their morals onto anyone else.

     

    Allowing abortion does not force one person’s morals onto another person’s. No one who is pro-choice would ever (as far as I know) attempt to force someone to have an abortion simply because it is an option. So, I don’t think that its right for anyone else to force people to have that option taken away from them just simply because it is not something they agree with. Every woman should be allowed to make her own decision.

     

    For some reason, people paint abortion providers as if they are some kind of evil breed of people, and women who want abortions as some kind of evil creatures. This is not the case. Women do not use abortion simply as birth control, and women do not make this decision lightly or easily.

     

    Violence only begets more violence. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. And, violence is the tool of the ignorant. These are all sayings that I feel aptly apply to anyone who has or has thought of or has endorsed/supported anyone who wants to harm abortion providers or women seeking abortions.

     

    And, finally, before I hit “save” I wanted to thank you very much for continuing to provide women with this option and with this type of reproductive health care. I know that it takes guts to stand up to the opposition sometimes, especially when it has proven that it can and will be violent on occasion to get its point across.

     

    Maybe one day we will all realize that the way things are now between pro-choice and anti-choice people isn’t how it has to be.

  • sylvie

    I had to have an illegal abortion while living in Portugal in 1979. Every woman should have access to legal abortion. It still makes me mad that I had to put my life in danger by going underground to have an abortion.  Why can people understand that I am the owner of own body and only me can make the decisions affecting it and no one can dictate in my own body. Thank you to all doctors and nurses that understand this and put themselves in danger to help women like me.

    http://www.womenonweb.org/attachment-2767-en.html

     

  • concernedmom

    What made you feel you needed to sacrifice an innocent life rather than allow him/her to be born & given to a qualified couple who would of raised that child, instead? Were you thinking only about YOUR inconvenience, YOUR best interests? Once a child is conccieved, he/she is a new, seperate life, given to you from God. Have you considered how He will look upon this ‘choice’ you made? I pray He will forgive you.

  • prochoiceferret

    Were you thinking only about YOUR inconvenience, YOUR best interests?

    And HER health, HER time, HER expense, HER family, and HER going through labor for a child she didn’t even want, I’ll bet. Oh my gosh! She committed the TERRIBLE SIN of looking after her own best interests, and not turning into Mother Teresa for nine months!

    Once a child is conccieved, he/she is a new, seperate life, given to you from God. Have you considered how He will look upon this ‘choice’ you made? I pray He will forgive you.

    I don’t think Sylvie particularly cares what your sock-puppet god thinks.

  • concernedmom

    By the way, wuts with all the ‘dooks’?? I know you deny the existance of God… But why??? How do you explain how fearfully & wonderfully made you are? That every seed just “knows” how to push forward into an adult of its species? That there is such amazing complexity in every cell in your body? Is it all “random chance” in your eyes? Didn’t every living thing come from a DESIGNER??
    But okay…denial is not just a river in Egypt, is it? :)

  • prochoiceferret

    By the way, wuts with all the ‘dooks’??

    Ferrets do that when we’re having fun!

    I know you deny the existance of God… But why???

    Why do you deny the existence of billions of gods?

    How do you explain how fearfully & wonderfully made you are?

    Energy from the sun, and billions of years of natural selection do it for me.

    That every seed just “knows” how to push forward into an adult of its species?

    If a seed didn’t “know” how to push forward into an adult of its species, would we ever know about its descendants?

    That there is such amazing complexity in every cell in your body?

    Billions of years is a long, long time.

    Is it all “random chance” in your eyes?

    Mostly random mutations, combined with (decidedly not-random) natural selection.

    Didn’t every living thing come from a DESIGNER??

    If they did, then much like human designers, this designer sure made a lot of mistakes. (Why didn’t he just leave out the appendix altogether?)

  • ahunt

    If they did, then much like human designers, this designer sure made a lot of mistakes.

    Indeed…and consider the positioning of the clitoris. What’s up with that?

  • concernedmom

    A lot of mistakes”? Well I guess if He made human beings with Free Will so they can choose to either accept or reject Him, people such as yourself who deny His existence, are going to be mighty surprised when you discover someday that it was YOU who made the mistake! :)