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Not a Moment to Lose: We Must Protect Abortion Providers’ Rights

Written by Dr. Suzanne Poppema for RHRealityCheck.org - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

When Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health was founded in 1992, it was a dangerous time for abortion providers. Several of my colleagues had been shot by anti-choice extremists, some murdered, and many clinics were bombed or blockaded by protestors. I wore a bulletproof vest to work at my abortion clinic outside Seattle. It sometimes felt like providers were an endangered species.

Physical violence ebbed over the next decade, but that proved to be a temporary lull. In the past few years, I’ve seen one colleague’s clinic destroyed by arson, while my friend George Tiller was murdered last spring. It isn’t just violence that affects abortion providers today, though—we are also the targets of pointless state laws that limit women’s access to health care. The number of anti-abortion laws this year—about 370—may be a record high.

After LeRoy Carhart declared his intention to continue Dr. Tiller’s work and provide later abortions to women who need them, the state of Nebraska passed a law banning abortions after 20 weeks. Their ostensible reason—that the fetus can feel pain at that point—contradicts the best scientific evidence about fetal development. The real goal of this law was clear from the beginning: to make it impossible for Dr. Carhart to offer women abortions later in pregnancy. Read more