Reports from the National Day of Appreciation
for Abortion Providers

Revolutionary Worker #950, March 29, 1998

In today's climate, where those who help women are called "baby killers" and women who seek to end unwanted pregnancies are made to feel shame and guilt, we must stand tall on March 10, the fifth anniversary of Dr. Gunn's murder. We must take a strong public stand of support for all clinics and abortion providers, for without them there would be no "choice" for women.

From Refuse & Resist! call
for a National Day of Appreciation
for Abortion Providers


The RW received the following reports on events held on the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers:

Chicago (from the R&R! website):

About 100 people attended a reception at Ann Sather's restaurant to honor providers and raise funds for the New Woman All Women clinic in Birmingham. The reception was organized by members of the local chapters of Refuse & Resist! and the National Organization for Women, and co-sponsored by R&R!, Ann Sather's restaurant, the Chicago Abortion Fund, the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, NOW--Illinois chapter, NOW--Chicago chapter, NOW--DuPage county chapter, the National Lawyers' Guild--Chicago chapter, Northwestern University Women's Center, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League--Illinois, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Several artists created works especially for the event: the room was decorated with a large mural painting that depicted resistance to clinic violence, the poet Mars read a piece she had written in response to the Birmingham bombing, and the "Butterfly" band performed jazz and funk throughout the evening.

It was especially moving when everyone rose to their feet and applauded the providers present for their courage in the face of murderous attempts to deny women the right to control their own lives.

The audience heard remarks from Susan Hill, president of the National Women's Health Organization, which operates clinics in the Midwest and the South; Patricia Baird-Windle, director of the Aware Women Center for Choice (Florida) and Member-at-Large of the R&R National Council; and Mary Lou Greenberg, a member of the R&R! Reproductive Freedom Task Force.

In addition to Ann Sather's restaurant, a number of other local businesses donated goods or services for the benefit. More than $1000 was collected for the New Woman All Women clinic.

SAN FRANCISCO, BAY AREA (from a report by two R&R! activists in the Bay Area):

People gathered in front of the Women's Choice Clinic in Oakland to honor our providers in a moving celebration. It was a day to hear some courageous stories from pioneers who have been on the front lines for reproductive freedom and abortion.

The highlight of the day was presenting certificates of appreciation to the abortion providers. Simone from the SF Bay Area R&R! introduced Dorothy Fadiman, the Emmy award-winning filmmaker of reproductive rights and abortion documentaries (including "When Abortion was Illegal"). Dorothy Fadiman presented the first award to Dr. Steir, who was recently charged with manslaughter in Riverside County, CA for the unforeseen death of a woman who had a late-term abortion. The prosecution was instigated by anti-abortion forces. Dr. Steir has performed abortions since the Roe v. Wade decision and has been under attack by anti-abortionists for many years. Dorothy Fadiman said, "Dr. Steir is part of a sacred circle who have put their lives on the line for us."

The certificate to Dr. Steir read: "In recognition of your courageous stand on the front lines to ensure that women have the right to choose. Thank you for your perseverance, your courage, and your commitment to women. In this climate of mean-spirited, anti-abortion politics--we got your back. We are honored to stand beside you, in solidarity and resistance. In honor of a true hero."

Dr. Steir laid out his perspective on the current battle for abortion rights: "We have a tough battle on our hands. The issue is access and availability and that's what is being threatened. What we have to worry about is doctors getting their licenses surrendered or put on probation. The majority of abortion providers, especially those who provide second and third trimester abortions, are on (medical) probation, or they've surrendered their licenses. I will continue to fight hard to win this case not just to keep myself out of prison... but if I lose this case, it's going to have a chilling effect."

Shauna Heckert, who is from the Feminist Women's Health Clinic in Chico, CA and part of Dr. Steir's defense committee, presented the next award to the Women's Choice Clinic in Oakland. Women's Choice Clinic has been extending abortion options for women for 26 years! Linci Comy, director of the clinic, in accepting the award said, "Here at Women's Choice Clinic, we are radical leftists. We believe in revolution and we are here because we are going to change the world. I feel a great deal of pleasure when I think that our abortion services save women's lives. When abortion was illegal, one out of 3,000 died. Now that abortion is legal, one out of every 67,000 died. All those are saved lives. The work we do is to save lives."

Medical Students for Choice, our future abortion providers who will be taking the struggle into the next millennium, were the next honorees. Speaking on behalf of their organization, Catherine Rich said, "Medical Students for Choice is a grassroots organization that is dedicated to increasing abortion providers and founded on the belief that lack of providers is the biggest obstacle to safe and legal abortions. It's great to be here on this day honoring abortion providers because we depend on them. They are our mentors, our teachers, they invite us into their clinics and show us what we can't learn in medical school. They contribute financially, emotionally, and every other way to our efforts."

The next recipient was Brenda Cummings of ACCESS, and true to the name of her organization, ACCESS has been a treasure house of resources for women who otherwise would be without these healthcare services due to lack of money or for other reasons.

Women's Option Center at SF General Hospital is the last stop for many women, including many who cannot afford to go anywhere else or who have been turned away from other institutions or clinics. Sarah Mann, RN, who runs the clinics, accepted the award on behalf of the center and said, "It means so much to me to get some support. You drive into work behind a bumper sticker that is calling you a murderer. There are people in the hospital that have called you a murderer, and it's rare you get recognized."

Everyone was moved by the presentations and came away with a renewed determination to continue to fight to bring about more awareness and work together to beat back the anti-abortion attacks on women's lives.

NEW YORK CITY: In the morning, the Manhattan NOW chapter sent volunteers to Times Square to collect signatures on a large card of appreciation for providers. At noon, a press conference was held at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, home of the Clergy Consultation and Referral Service in the '60s which steered women toward safe--but at the time illegal--abortions. Albert Sanger, head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the clinic director of Choices Women's Medical Center in Queens, received the card of appreciation and flowers. There were statements from NARAL-NY, NOW, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, NYU Women's Center and Refuse & Resist!

In the evening, the New York chapter of R&R! presented a program at Columbia University. NARAL spoke about its project to stop hospitals from cutting abortion and reproductive health services. Manhattan NOW pointed to the need to support Dr. Steir and defend clinics. Medical Students for Choice talked about their efforts to learn abortion techniques and demand training in medical schools. R&R! reported on the events surrounding the bombing of the clinic in Birmingham and paid tribute to Dr. David Gunn. One person who works at an abortion provider said the program "changed my whole viewpoint. I'm going to feel great about going in to work tomorrow!"

KENT STATE: Kent State University: About 30 people came together for a candlelight vigil. Standing in the cold, blowing snow, a young woman lit a candle and said, crying as she spoke, "I just wanted to be a teenager, not a mother." A woman came over to embrace her in this deeply felt moment. Then more women came up, lit a candle and spoke about the importance of available and safe abortions and what it has meant to them. "To be honest, I haven't had any experience with abortion but as a 20-year-old woman, it is more important to finish college; I am not ready for a family now. I feel good that I have the option of abortion if I want one and don't want that choice to be made by my fear of being blown up. Also, I want to remember those who were killed by those who didn't support abortion."

Another woman talked about her experience when she was 18 and became pregnant. She went to one of the clinics set up by anti-abortion forces, thinking it was a clinic where she could get an abortion. She said, "The truth is these [anti-abortion] people are not interested in the good of anyone, they want more white babies to adopt, so today I am going to light this candle for Dr. David Gunn."


Other campus events were held at Antioch College (Ohio), Brandeis University (Massachusetts), Hampshire College (Massachusetts), Smith College (Massachusetts) and Whittier College (California), among others.

Various organizations--including the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the Religious Coalition for Choice, and local NOW chapters--urged their members to participate in the Day.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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