Today is National Abortion-Provider Appreciation Day.
It seems like an arbitrary day of acknowledgement. But since I lacked internet access on International Women’s Day (which was yesterday), I thought I’d take a moment to write this up, because the work that abortion providers do is important for women’s health and autonomy, and because they face incredible barriers to performing this work in many countries, including the United States.
Abortion providers undertake a shocking risk in providing access to this often-critical reproductive health service. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project report’s that 1 in 5 clinics in the United States faces severe violence. Wanted posters and the publishing of personal contact information are tactics used to terrorize doctors who continue to perform abortions. The National Abortion Federation notes that there have been thousands of instances of harassment, picketing, hate mail, etc. There have also been numerous instances of murder, attempted murder, arson, and bombings of clinics where abortions are performed. The anti-choice group, Army of G-d, has publicly published a justifiable homicide pledge, stating that it is acceptable and morally correct to kill doctors who provide a legal medical service.
Abortion seems like a singular issue, a controversy that is easy for feminists and the general women’s movement to fixate on because it gets a lot of attention. But there’s a reason why abortion is so important to the feminist movement. In fact, there are a large number of them.
Abortion matters because no one should be forced to undertake substantial medical risk against their will. Abortion matters because pregnancy has serious medical and economic consequences. Abortion matters because adoption can’t make up for the lost economic and personal opportunities that come with pregnancy, and can’t bring back the money spent covering medical costs. Abortion matters because poor individuals may not be able to regularly access the medical care needed to manage pregnancy safely. Abortion matters because women can be severely harmed or killed from complications due to pregnancy (and in fact, half a million women a year DO die from such complications), and they should be able to save their own lives. Abortion matters because pregnant women are more likely to be injured or abused by intimate partners. Abortion matters because abuse is more likely to intensify during pregnancy. Abortion matters because not everyone has access to preventative measures. Abortion matters because not everyone has a choice in whether or not they have sex. Abortion matters because children should be raised by families that can take care of them, and that want them. Abortion matters because women* deserve bodily autonomy, and abortion is the last stopgap measure to ensure that.
The pro-choice movement has long been a major part of the feminist movement, because supporting access to abortion is one way to help ensure that women can protect themselves and determine the courses of their own lives. It is a difficult subject at times, but it is one that absolutely matters. And since rights only matter if individuals are able to exercise them, it’s important that abortion providers be protected.
Legally, they are supposed to be. Federal legislation is supposed to protect abortion providers under FACE (the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law), but it has to be investigated by federal authorities, and while local authorities can move to open a FACE investigation, individuals need to be aware that these laws exist. States have also employed TRAP laws (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) to restrict access-~-in many states, the number of abortion providers is dwindling. In Mississippi, there is only one clinic left, and many women are forced to drive for hours and go through waves of protesters in order to access these services.
But there are things that individuals can do. First, you can send supportive messages to providers of services–which seems silly, but given that they receive so much hate mail, honestly can’t hurt. Second, you can volunteer as a clinic escort, in order to help make sure that women* are able to actually get to clinics safely. And third, you can pay attention to what’s happening and put pressure on your representatives to shut down TRAP laws and make sure that these services remain safe, legal, and accessible, and that those who commit acts of terror against abortion providers are punished.