Each year on March 10, we commemorate Abortion Provider Appreciation Day. We do so to honor Dr. David Gunn, the first of four abortion providers killed in a wave of domestic terrorism and violence between 1993 and 2009. The other doctors who were killed were John Britton (1994), Barnett Slepian (1998), and George Tiller (2009).
The New York Times described Dr. David Gunn’s life this way:
David Gunn never set out to be a symbol. He wanted to deliver babies. But then an abortion clinic asked for help, and because no other doctor would do the job, performing abortions in the rural South became Dr. Gunn’s life. There were wanted posters with his name on them, people following him late at night, hate mail, death threats, protesters yelling “Murderer!” Dr. Gunn kept three guns in his car ― one in the glove compartment, one under the seat and one in the trunk.
It didn’t matter. On March 10, 1993, Dr. David Gunn was killed on his way into a clinic in Pensacola, Florida by anti-abortion zealot.
Twenty-four years later, for many abortion providers, the danger is still real for the work that they do. Here in Colorado, being an abortion provider means you have to think of things other physicians don’t. And as we saw in November 2015, the domestic terrorism against women’s health care providers is still all too real.
So we want to thank abortion providers for the bravery they display in providing healthcare to Colorado women. Abortion providers are a critical part of a woman’s right to privacy and exercising her Constitutional right to choose abortion. And whatever reason a woman has to choose abortion is the correct one for her - every woman is different, and as physicians will tell you, every situation is different.
With Roe now settled law for 44 years, people have forgotten how awful it was in the days before safe, legal abortion. According to Our Bodies, Ourselves, “Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s range from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year. Prior to Roe v. Wade, as many as 5,000 American women died annually as a direct result of unsafe abortions.”
Roe didn’t establish women seeking abortions. It just stopped women from dying from it. Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available. Illegal abortion kills women. And too many politicians in 2017 seem to be willing to return to those dark days before 1973.
As we remember Dr Gunn and his fellow providers this year, we should all be conscious and grateful to live in a state where physicians can provide the full spectrum of women’s medical care - birth control, pregnancy, and abortion care - without the political interference prevalent in others states. And we should thank the doctors, nurses and medical staff who are willing to go through what they do to ensure women get the care that they need with compassion and understanding.