Since Roe and the legalization of abortion, anti-choice extremists have tried to stop women from accessing care by any means possible. We’ve seen the wide range of legal and legislative tactics they use, but more horrifying are the extralegal and sometimes violent means anti-choice zealots choose.
For decades, abortion clinics, providers, and patients have been targets of:
- Death threats
- Harassing phone calls
Since 1993, zealots have murdered 11 people — including doctors, clinic employees, a clinic escort, a security guard, and a police officer — and attempted 26 more.1 Between 1977 and 2015, anti-choice extremists directed more than 7,200 reported acts of violence at abortion providers, including 42 bombings; 185 arson attacks; and thousands of assaults, death threats, bioterrorism threats. More than 234,300 acts of disruption were reported — bomb threats, hate mail, and harassing phone calls.2 The rate of violence and intimidation has skyrocketed since July 2015, when the anti-choice organization the “Center for Medical Progress” released now-discredited, highly edited and incendiary videos in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood. It culminated in a mass shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, killing three people and injuring nine more.
The impact of this violence is long-lasting, hindering access to abortion services and threatening the lives of those dedicated to providing reproductive health care. Often, abortion providers are forced to take extreme steps to protect themselves, their families, their staff and their patients: they wear bulletproof vests to work, hire private security, and install bulletproof glass in their homes and offices. In summer of 2016, Planned Parenthood announced that it would close its Appleton, WI clinic because it couldn’t meet the new, stricter security adopted after the Colorado Springs shooting.3
Nobody seeking health care should have to fear for their safety or walk a gauntlet of intimidation and harassment.
While Minnesota has not seen an incidence of anti-clinic violence in more than a decade, anti-choice extremists regularly protest outside health clinics, harassing patients, staff, and often any passerby. They crowd patients, try to force literature on them, and try to direct them to anti-choice fake women’s health centers. Sometimes they cry and pray; sometimes they shout horrible insults and accusations in an effort to shame women for their decision.
In 1993, the federal government passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which prohibits anti-choice protesters from trespassing on clinic property and blockading clinic entrances. However, with a virulently anti-choice Attorney General, we cannot rely on the FACE Act being strictly enforced under the current administration.
NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota trains volunteers to act as clinic escorts for two of the abortion providers in the Twin Cities Metro. Learn more about how to become a clinic escort here or by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. The National Abortion Federation’s (NAF) statistics include incidents from both the United States and Canada. NAF derives most of its statistics from its members, most of whom are in the United States. NAF, NAF Violence and Disruption Statistics: Incidents of Violence & Disruption Against Abortion Providers; Julie Turkewitz and Jack Healy, 3 Are Dead in Colorado Springs Shootout at Planned Parenthood Center, The New York Times, Nov. 27, 2015↩
3. Madison.com, Associated Press, “Planned Parenthood plans to close Appleton clinic due to security concerns” ↩