National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers
The National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers is recognized every year on March 10th, which was the anniversary of the day in 1993 when David Gunn, MD, was murdered by an anti-choice extremist.
Dr. Gunn was the first to be killed in the United States for providing abortions. In 1996, pro-choice organizations designated March 10th as the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. Including Dr. Gunn, four physicians have been murdered since 1993 because they provided abortions, as well as one clinic escort, two receptionists, and one security guard. The total death toll is eight.
For many abortion providers, they understand the work they do not only as medically necessary, but as important to their own understandings of faith. Below is the story of Dr. Nancy Stanwood, an abortion provider who has been bulwarked in her work by her faith community, written on behalf of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health in celebration of Abortion Provider Appreciation Day — March 10th, 2012.
Finding a Church Home
By Dr. Nancy Stanwood, MD, MPH
I found my church home because my work as an abortion provider led me there.
Both ministers and physicians are privileged, blessed, and obliged to witness the human condition in all its complexity, beauty and pain. In my work as an obstetrician/gynecologist providing abortions, I have walked challenging, heartbreaking, and awesome paths with my patients. My needs to reflect, regenerate and reenergize — to have a supportive and healing community of faith — led me through my church’s doors.
My grandmother — a feminist and progressive thinker — left the Catholic Church of her childhood and discovered Unitarian Universalism. She raised her three daughters as Unitarians. Her oldest, my mother, married an Episcopalian, and they did not find a church they both felt comfortable in to raise their children. So I was unchurched as a child, but knew of the progressive, liberal nature of Unitarian Universalism.
And once inside the church doors, I knew I’d found my home. The first time sitting listening to the sermon — not yet knowing anyone — I cried quietly with relief and hope. The sense of connection and common purpose in pursing social justice was overwhelming. We all aim to live into our values, into our better selves, and it “takes a village” to help us with this journey. I knew I’d found mine.
I have found it invaluable to have a community of faith that supports the work I do, that celebrates and defends the moral agency of women, and that approaches these most complex and human issues with humility, sensitivity and compassion. I know that colleagues of mine have found similar spiritual homes in other churches and synagogues, and been so very thankful for them.
Too often in our culture, it is assumed that to be a person of faith means to be opposed to the reproductive rights of women. And because the religious right is larger and louder, we on the religious left must join our voices, must speak up in defense of what we believe. We must be loud and clear in our support of and welcome to health care providers who care for women needing abortions.
So I am thankful to all of the communities of faith that will be celebrating the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers and this broad community of faith — the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice — that has given me a home, belonging and support. I am renewed, as I continue to walk with my patients in their time of need.
Nancy Stanwood, MD, MPH, is an obstetrician/gynecologist, a member of First Unitarian Church of Rochester, and a board member of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health
To learn more about why this day is so important to abortion providers, please read this powerful account by Dr. Linda Prine