Mar. 10th, 2010

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It's March 10th and I didn't even realize it, as wrapped up in my own petty machinations and day to day as I have been. Every year, I always try to say something to any of the staff I can get a hold of, let them know the work they do is necessary and appreciated (even if it rarely feels that way). This year, I just plain forgot. Too much on my mind, not enough room to kick around in. It's become a pattern of mine, as familiar to my eyes as my own fingers and hands.

Regardless, March 10th remains an important date. On this date, in 1993, Dr. David Gunn, the only practicing abortion provider in a poor and rural community- hell, the only OB/GYN in that community period- was assassinated by a single gunman who shot him three times in the back as Dr. Gunn was attempting to enter a clinic in Pensacola. Dr. Gunn was the first casualty in a startlingly long and distressing list detailing the violence perpetrated against abortion providers and their staff.

Obviously, as I was only just out of high school when it happened and had never even heard of my current employer, I never met or spoke to Dr. Gunn. But, his presence is felt within this office every single day. I work with doctors who traveled to Pensacola after Dr. Gunn's murder so that patients could still be seen; one of these physicians still travels there every week. He was a good man, a dedicated physician who himself traveled to a variety of locations that strike fear in the heart of abortion providers: Tallashassee, Birmingham, Savannah, Mobile. All areas that are not exactly known for their friendliness to those involved in the struggle to keep women's reproductive rights legal and widely available.

I've never traveled to the South in line with my work, but I have gone to other areas where it was made quite clear that I and my co-workers were not welcome. Erie, Pennsylvania sticks out the most in my mind because the anti-choice organization that set up shop down the hall from our suite were some of the creepiest people I've ever come across. Never a word to our faces, just watching. They wrote down the license plate number to the rental car we were in, they stared at me as I took cigarette breaks, every time any of us left our suite- they stood out in the common hallway and watched what we were doing. Fantastically unsettling. I didn't sleep easy that night in my rented room at the Microtel and I left that town looking over my shoulder.

My employer's home office, the one I work directly out of, is in a town that seems to have no idea we are here. There are two other providers in this general area and they are usually teeming with protestors on various days, but we really only get them on Saturday mornings. If it's nice out. A small handful of little old ladies will set up camp in their lawn chairs on the other side of the sidewalk to pray the rosary and not even look up at the cars driving by or pulling into the parking lot. Occasionally, we have a middle-aged man who walks up and down the main road with a fairly innoculous sign. It's quiet. We have grown forgetful of the past horrors; we are complacent and make jokes. It's so easy to forget when it's not in your face every day.

I'm not completely mindless. When I go out for cigarette breaks, I am constantly aware of my surroundings and who is in the parking lot. When I walk to my car at night by myself, I take all the necessary precautions. I don't let people into the building when the main door is locked, if I don't know who they are. I don't give out names or addresses over the phone. I hesitate briefly before I get into my car, to make a quick sweep with my eyes, and lock the door as soon as I'm inside. But really, those are the types of things any woman leaving work at night by herself should be doing. It's not special to my own circumstances, which is a scary fact all on its own.

But for Dr. Gunn, Dr. Tiller, their support staff, and even the staff in some of our other locations that are hit much harder than we are, this was and is a very real fact that must be contended with on a daily basis. I tend to allow myself to get swept up with the grind of working, annoyed by the constant drama that comes along with working in HR, that I frequently don't stop to think about those who came before and those I work with who bear more of the load's brunt than I do.

Without them, none of this would be possible.

And for that, I appreciate the hell out of them.


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January 2011

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