No, I’m not arguing that we shut down access to abortion; quite the contrary. It’s the exiling of abortion care from private OB/GYN clinics and hospitals that imperils the safety of abortion providers and their patients. This exile encourages all of us to see abortion as a qualitatively different kind of women’s health care, while also making it super-easy for protesters and domestic terrorists to target.
The recent terrorist attacks on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs is drawing a great deal of sympathetic attention because none of the three of the fatalities were seeking abortions or providing abortion care themselves; two–Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, and Jennifer Markovsky, 35, were there to support friends who were patients, and the other, Garrett Swasey, was a first-responder and local Church leader. All of the victims were parents of young children.
Indeed, the coverage of their deaths has emphasized that “Family [was] a priority for those killed in Planned Parenthood Shooting,” as though that itself is news. For the first time, it seems that more Americans might realize that anti-abortion violence is indiscriminate and endangers whole communities, not just slutty-slutty-slutsluts and those who offer them health care–the implication being that these are the kind of people for whom family was not a priority.
Something else that seems to underline the common horror of this incident of domestic terrorism is that all of the victims were people who conformed pretty closely to idealized gender stereotypes: Markovsky is remembered as a devoted mother who didn’t work outside her home; Stewart was an Iraq War veteran who is credited with saving lives by using his military training to warn people inside the clinic before he succumbed to his injuries, and Swasey is now hailed as the heroic first-responder who wasn’t even required to respond because he was an officer for the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus and not on the municipal police force. Yes, even virtuous mothers, patriotic soldiers, and police officers are vulnerable to right-wing domestic terrorism.
Those of us who support abortion rights have known all along that the kinds of people who get and provide abortions have families too; they have children, and parents, and partners who are newly terrified each time an abortion clinic is bombed or shot up. (Interestingly, it’s also abortion protesters who get abortions, too–I’ve made this point on-blog for years now as it’s what I’ve heard from the abortion providers I know, but here’s more proof by Marie Myung-Ok Lee.) It’s time to shut down these freestanding clinics that are such easy targets, and incorporate abortion care into medical clinics and hospitals.
In the 1960s, in the face of a dramatic rise in the rate of deaths due to complications from abortion, the medical establishment offered crucial support and leadership for liberalizing American abortion laws. Now, the medical establishment must lead again by normalizing abortion care as a component of obstetrics and gynecology and offer abortions inside clinics and hospitals.