Monday 1 June 2009

Newsweek on the terror campaign against abortion providers

For abortion providers, his death may have been less a shock and more a reminder of the grave risks they face everyday. "We’re sitting ducks," says Susan Wicklund, an abortion provider who runs a clinic near Bozeman, Mont. and has been in the field for over 20 years. "We have to accept that if somebody is absolutely intent on targeting us, they will be successful." In her 2007 memoir, "This Common Secret," (PublicAffairs) Wicklund wrote about the harassment and stalking she’s faced over the years: Wicklund varies her daily routines to make herself less of a target; her clinic is regularly subject to protesters and she sometimes wears a bulletproof vest to her work.

Tiller’s death, Wicklund says, exacerbates the challenges that she and her colleagues face in making abortion safe and accessible to all women. His murder may deter doctors from entering a relatively dangerous field that’s already struggling with a dearth of providers. 87 percent of counties do not have an abortion provider, according to a 2008 study by the Guttmacher Institute. That same study found the number of abortion providers to have dropped slightly, 2 percent, between 2000 and 2005. At her clinic in Montana, Wicklund sees patients who drive hundreds of miles from South Dakota, which has one abortion provider, and Wyoming, which has two. There’s also been an rise in laws that restrict access to abortion, like 24-hour waiting periods and required ultrasounds. But what seems to trouble Wicklund the lack of a strong activist movement dedicated to defending abortion rights. "We have how many millions of women that have chosen to have abortions," she says. "They have come to us and we have taken care of them. We need their voices."

**UPDATE** -- Other providers will be stepping in to ensure that Kansas still has abortion services. The clinic will be kept open, by three out-of-state doctors.

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