Note: We continue to give away a 4000 Years for Choice poster each week. Comment on this post to be entered in the weekly drawings.
This Saturday — March 10th — is Abortion Provider Appreciation Day.
Why March 10th?
Because on that date in 1993, David Gunn, MD was shot and killed by an anti-abortion protestor as he walked from his car to a clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Gunn’s murder occurred at a time when violent crimes committed against reproductive health care providers and abortion clinics had been steadily rising for fifteen years. Murder, kidnapping, assault, threatening, arson, bombing – the litany sounds like a terrorist toolkit.
As a result of Dr. Gunn’s murder, the U.S. Senate decided that the conduct of anti-choice extremists was interfering with the constitutional right of women to receive reproductive health care services, especially abortion. In 1994, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act became law.
The new law prohibited behaviors that made it difficult or dangerous to get in and/or out of an abortion care facility. Although the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act dramatically reduced the number of violent assaults against abortion providers and facilities, the violence continues. On New Year’s Day of this year, a family planning clinic in Pensacola, Florida was firebombed and burned to the ground.
The violence and threats of violence in the U.S. have taken a toll on abortion access.
Numerous abortion care providers, understandably fearing for their lives, had stopped performing the procedure. Hospitals refused to allow doctors to perform abortions in their facilities, except to save the life of the mother. Abortion care moved to the fringe, away from mainstream OB/GYN practice. Abortion providers became isolated, working in free-standing reproductive health care centers, apart from the main parts of their medical practice and their colleagues.
This was the picture in 1997 — when central Maine, from Oxford County to the coast, had lost nearly all of its abortion providers. That year the FPA opened the Parker F. Harris Center for Reproductive Health in Augusta, offering state-of-the-art care and a high level of security for patients and providers.
While the FPA has created a safe space within our gates, we cannot deny the anti-choice protestors their right to gather week after week, year after year. They come with their signs and banners, spreading lies and misinformation.
Their official language is about love and respect for life, but their actions betray them. The March 2012 newsletter from PLEA (Pro Life Education Association) out of Bangor, includes an article about a recent visit from Randall Terry, with photos of him accompanied by two regular protestors at our Augusta site.
If the name Randall Terry doesn’t ring a bell, let me explain a little about this man. Terry was the founder and leader of Operation Rescue, a national anti-choice organization, until he was ousted for his increasingly inflammatory language and actions.
When George Tiller, MD was shot and killed by an anti-abortion activist in May of 2009, Randall Terry made several public statements in response. Here are a few of Terry’s comments about Dr. Tiller and his murder.
“He was a mass murderer.”
“He reaped what he sowed.”
“This can be a teaching moment.”
With Terry’s words in mind, let me tell you what one of the protestors who stands outside our gates week after week wrote about his Maine visit. “What a wonderful turn of events — and indeed a privilege to meet that man!”
Yup, that’s a direct quote. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in…
The FPA’s antidote to the hatred and veiled threats of anti-choice protestors is to honor and thank our abortion providers and the nurses and other staff who assist them.
We deeply appreciate all they do, in the face of opposition and isolation, to make sure women have access to their constitutionally-guaranteed right to an abortion.
Want to send your own thank you card to the FPA’s abortion providers?
Clicking on the image below will take you to a beautiful card that you can download, print, and send.