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Let’s talk about abortion.

So often, when we discuss abortion (if we talk about it at all), we frame this safe and legal procedure as if it’s something rare, secret, and dirty. But when we do that, we ignore the one in four women who will seek abortion care by age 45.

Rather than judging those who get abortions, we would do better by recognizing that we are not in their shoes. Rather than shaming patients and stigmatizing a medical procedure, we can show compassion. Abortion is rarely an easy decision, and we should trust that women—with the advice of their doctor, family, and faith—are best positioned to make decisions about their own lives. Not politicians.

I am disappointed to say that this is not the perspective of the Kentucky General Assembly. Although our legislators said at the beginning of the year that they did not expect abortion to be a key issue in the 2018 legislative session, we have seen no fewer than seven anti-abortion bills filed.

These hostile bills range in scope from changing abortion facility licensing requirements (HB 444) to banning abortion outright in the Commonwealth (SB 164). Based on this flurry of activity, an observer might conclude that abortion is the single most important issue facing our state this year, not health care access, the opioid epidemic, or the pension crisis.

Year after year, our legislature files more bills intended to shame patients and vilify providers.

I am grateful that in March, we have a day dedicated to helping us put these attacks in perspective. March 10 is the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. It’s an opportunity for all of us to think about the people who work every day in often extremely hostile conditions in order to provide supportive medical care.

Providers are qualified, experienced medical professionals. Just like so many others who work in health care, abortion providers choose their profession so they can help people. They care about their patients. They often face protests at their workplace or home, and sometimes even threats of violence, yet they continue to put their patients first.

Abortion providers are unsung heroes.

I am glad the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers reminds us to step back and appreciate the physicians, nurses, health care workers, volunteers, and clinic escorts who serve patients every day, regardless of the attacks or debates swirling around them.

I would like to specifically thank the staff and volunteers at EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville for working tirelessly to serve Kentuckians. Thank you for trusting your patients and ensuring that Kentuckians’ reproductive rights are more than theoretical.

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