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One day is not enough to thank our staff for all they do to provide abortion care to those who need it. Still, I appreciate this opportunity—on the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers—to show my gratitude to the people who work so tirelessly on behalf of our patients, and to affirm that we are proud to provide safe, legal abortion.

Abortion providers are a diverse group of reproductive health care professionals, from physicians and advance practice clinicians to recovery room nurses, Reproductive Health Assistants, and health center and administrative support staff. At Planned Parenthood of Illinois, all of our staff members play a role in providing high-quality abortion care.

Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming support for abortion rights nationwide, isolation, stigma, and safety are still a problem—for both patients and providers. It’s important to note that this day was established in memory of Dr. David Gunn, the first abortion provider murdered in the United States, on March 10, 1993.

While we pause today to remember Dr. Gunn and to thank providers nationwide, we should also acknowledge the many barriers they must overcome just to do their jobs—and the sad truth that opponents are working every single day to enact new barriers and restrict access to care in any way possible.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and dispel the stigmatization experienced by those who provide and receive this safe, legal, and common medical procedure. One in four women in the United States will have an abortion in her lifetime, which means everyone knows someone who’s had an abortion, whether it’s a neighbor, a relative, a church member, or a friend.

Our patients are overwhelmingly appreciative of the health care we provide. Having an abortion has allowed patients to finish school, raise the children they already have, get out of abusive relationships, or just continue with their lives. Yet abortion stigma keeps patients and providers silent about their experiences. The silence is harmful because it makes individuals feel alone in their experiences and makes it easier for politicians to restrict access to abortion.

When people come out and share their abortion stories as a patient or provider, it helps others feel safe, comfortable, and not alone. The more we can encourage people to share their stories, and to not feel stigmatized and shamed by that experience, the better off all we all will be.

We encourage you to stand with Planned Parenthood and show your support of and appreciation for abortion providers this week, to help us lessen the stigma about the important work they do.

Today, we are grateful for the chance to bring attention to the extraordinary work that abortion providers and health center staff do to ensure that all people are free to make decisions about their bodies and their pregnancies, and that they maintain access to safe, high-quality, compassionate health care.

Thank you to everyone who works at Planned Parenthood of Illinois and other health centers and hospitals that provide abortion care. You are appreciated.

Dr. Amy Whitaker is the Chief Medical Officer at Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Tags: Abortion, Reproductive Rights, abortion access, Sexual and Reproductive Health