Today is National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. Not only is it a time to reflect on the history of legal abortion in the United States, but it also serves as a sobering reminder of the violence that is still a very real fear of abortion providers everywhere.
On March 10, 1993, Dr. David Gunn was preparing to go to work at the Pensacola Women's Medical Services clinic when he was shot three times in the back by an anti-abortion protester who stepped out of a crowd of other protesters. Police were already on their way to the scene to monitor the protest, but when they arrived, Michael Frederick Griffin emerged and told police he had shot Gunn.
Dr. Gunn was the first abortion provider killed in the U.S. because of his job, and since then, there have been ten separate incidents of assassination and attempted murder of doctors, nurses, and police officers called to maintain the peace.
This March 10 marks the 18th anniversary of Gunn's senseless murder, and it serves as a reminder of how dangerous this job can be. In addition to personal violence, since 1977 there have been at least 218 cases of arson and bombings, 99 attempted cases of arson or bombings, 656 bomb threats, 191 incidents of assault and battery, 420 death threats, 4 kidnappings, and 15,062 incidents of hate mail or hate phone calls.
An extremist anti-abortion group called Operation Rescue also launched a website — abortiondocs.org — that calls itself "largest collection of documents on America's abortion cartel" and aims to list every abortion provider in the U.S.
Dr. Warren Hern, an abortion provider from Boulder, Colo., wrote:
"As my life is now, the windows cannot be uncovered at night. Sometimes I look into the homes of my neighbors and see them moving about and relaxing with their families. My office is a fortress of steel fences and bulletproof windows, and my home has become a hiding place from which I emerge and hope that I will not be the next assassin’s target."
Everyone who associates with an abortion clinic, from doctors and nurses to volunteers, patients, and police officers, risks their lives every day to provide a necessary medical service. The very real threat of violence does not deter them, however: every day, employees at the hundreds of clinics across the country go to work.
What makes these acts even more shocking is the outright disregard for all the other services these clinics often provide, including dispensing birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted illnesses, screening for breast cancer, and even providing routine medical services for men, women, and transgender individuals. In fact, only 3% of Planned Parenthood's annual services are abortions.
Ensuring the safety of these people should be a priority among everyone who cares about people receiving basic health care. Take a moment today to remember Dr. Gunn and all those who have lost their lives providing medical care to women across the country.