Today, we give thanks to the women and men across America and around the world who courageously provide reproductive health care. In light of the stigma, marginalization and demonization that abortion care providers face in their professional and personal lives, it is incumbent upon us as advocates for women’s rights to reflect on the positive impact that their services bring to individual lives and society as a whole.
Having worked in reproductive health care and rights for many years, it deeply saddens me to see that we’ve come to a point at which these doctors are under greater scrutiny than ever. Thirty eight years after Roe v. Wade, providers are now instructed by legislatures on how to practice medicine, structure their clinics, and verbally counsel their patients. They are threatened with legal repercussions as well as vigilante action from extremists if they do not comply with these extreme invasions of privacy.
Truth be told, legislatures can pass all the laws they want, and they can try to take advantage of loopholes, ultimately taking advantage of the women whose lives are directly affected by these abuses of power. But there is one thing that is unequivocally true: abortion providers save women’s lives and women will always need their care -- plain and simple.
From the women who have first trimester abortions because they’re not prepared to be a parent to the women who seek care for fetal abnormalities or maternal health problems, these providers are making a difference in the lives of women and their families – or their hopes for future motherhood and a family.
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These are the lives that are touched each day by abortion providers. Even though I had worked in abortion care before working with Dr. George Tiller, it wasn’t until I started
working with him that I was able to understand the full spectrum of reproductive health care and its impact on women’s lives. During my years at his side, I witnessed his service to people from throughout the Midwest, the nation, and the rest of the world. The letters that former patients and their family members wrote to Dr. Tiller’s staff at Women’s Health Care Services were a testament to the level of care and dedication that defined that facility. Love and compassion were the central tenets by which his practice operated.
During the so-called “Summer of Mercy Renewal” in 2001, Dr. Tiller had one of his typical expressions printed on a banner and strategically placed in the parking lot of his clinic, for all of the anti-choice protesters to read daily. It said, “Women need abortions and I’m going to do them.” I contend that this statement embodies the commitment felt by providers around the world to the women they serve.
Dr. Tiller believed, as do the other fine providers who put their lives on the line each day, that women are emotionally, intellectually and spiritually capable of making decisions about their own bodies, and ultimately, their own lives. Abortion providers understand this about the millions of women who seek reproductive health care.
Today, we applaud and honor these brave men and women who work so hard to help women and their families. Abortion is about motherhood. Abortion is about choice. Abortion is a fact of life. As Dr. Tiller would say, “Abortion is not a medical matter, nor is it a cerebral matter; abortion is a matter of the heart. Until you know the heart of a woman, nothing about abortion makes sense at all." Let us pause and give thanks to the dedicated health care professionals who do so much to ensure women’s reproductive health.