The Center for Reproductive Rights recently presented a report to members of Congress that documents the constant harassment abortion providers endure and the unfounded legal stipulations imposed on their work, including required waiting periods for women wishing to obtain an abortion and scripts that can frame dialogue between doctors and patients in a biased and medically inaccurate manner. During its presentation, the group argued that human rights protections should apply to the work of abortion providers, preserving their rights to health, equality, life, and privacy. The report is an accumulation of research from a four-month study investigating clinics in Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Though the murder of Dr. Tiller in May put the struggles of abortion providers in the national spotlight, the work and valor of abortion providers has generally been taken for granted. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal, there has been an organized campaign by anti-abortion extremists which has resulted in escalating levels of violence against women's health care providers. In 2008 alone, there were 45 acts of vandalism, 6 incidents of invasion, 7 burglaries, 3 anthrax threats, and 24 bomb threats against abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada, leading to a total of 237 acts of violence and 12,980 acts of disruption committed against abortion providers that year.
It is imperative that the government treat these courageous physicians as human rights workers to ensure their own security and the security of women’s reproductive rights. Between 1992 and 2005, the number of U.S. abortion providers has declined by 25%, and only 12% of U.S. counties even have an abortion provider. The pro-choice movement cannot afford to lose more of the people that make what we fight for possible and designating abortion providers as human rights workers would give them the protection they deserve.