Anti-choice extremists use threats of violence, vandalism, harassment and intimidation to endanger the lives and safety of abortion providers, their patients and clinic volunteers and advocates across America.
Anti-abortion zealots murdered 11 people—including doctors, clinic employees, a clinic escort, a security guard and a police officer—between 1993 and 2016. There were 26 attempted murders in the same period.1
Abortion providers and patients have been the targets of:
- Death threats
- Harassing phone calls
- False criminal charges
Between 1977 and 2015, anti-choice extremists directed more than 7,200 reported acts of violence at abortion providers. This included 42 bombings, 185 arson attacks, and thousands of death threats, bioterrorism threats and assaults. In addition, more than 234,300 acts of disruption were reported, including bomb threats, hate mail, stalking, and harassing calls.2 The rate of violence and intimidation has skyrocketed since July 2015, when an anti-choice organization—The Center for Medical Progress—released now-discredited, highly edited and incendiary videos in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood.
This violence can hinder access to abortion services and threatens the lives of those dedicated to protecting and providing reproductive-health care. Some abortion providers are forced to take extreme steps to protect themselves, their families, their staff and their patients—such as wearing bulletproof vests to work, hiring private security, and installing bulletproof glass in their homes and offices.
Anti-choice extremists also frequently protest outside health clinics, harassing patients, staff, volunteers and others in their vicinity. They have been known to film patients, staff and volunteers, and to record license plates of those going into the clinic. In North Carolina, protestors have staged mass demonstrations that confuse and scare patients, and block access to the clinics. Some protestors have called the police on patient escorts to make false criminal reports. These are all part of efforts to scare and shame patients, often attempting to direct them to anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers” that masquerade as medical clinics. Nobody seeking health care should be subjected to such vicious verbal, and sometimes physical, attacks.
Recognizing the danger in which abortion providers and patients seeking care are placed, some federal, state and local lawmakers have enacted laws to protect them. But women and health-care providers were put at greater risk when the Supreme Court ruled in McCullen v. Coakley3 to strike down a Massachusetts law that designated a “buffer zone” free from harassment and intimidation outside of abortion clinics. Other cities across the country are working with advocates to craft new safety measures to protect patients and clinic staff, though.
Abortion remains a legal, constitutionally protected right. Regardless of one’s opinion on abortion, everyone should agree that anyone seeking medical services, and the health-care professionals who provide them, should be free from acts of violence, harassment and intimidation.
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 NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts on Supreme Court Decision to Strike Down Buffer Zones in McCullen v. Coakley