Abortion Clinics Nationwide Face Violence, Harassment and Threats When They Open Their Doors

According to recent research from the Feminist Majority Foundation, an overwhelming majority of abortion providers and staff are facing anti-abortion violence, threats and harassment on a regular basis.

According to recent research from the Feminist Majority Foundation, an overwhelming majority of abortion providers and staff are facing anti-abortion violence, threats and harassment on a regular basis. (Lorie Shaull / Creative Commons)

The 2018 National Clinic Violence Survey (NCVS) found that 88 percent of clinics were the targets of anti-abortion activity in the first half of 2018; for 62 percent of clinics, incidents of threats and violence occurred on at least a weekly basis. Nearly one-quarter of clinics reported confronting the most severe forms of anti-abortion threats and violence—death threats, stalking and blocking clinic access—and nearly half reported incidents of severe threats, violence and harassment like robberies, break-ins and vandalism.

“No lawful business should have to put up with the level of threats that clinics and doctors are experiencing, let alone a healthcare facility providing women constitutionally guaranteed reproductive services,” FMF president Eleanor Smeal said in a statement. “Thankfully, thousands of volunteer escorts and clinic defenders all across the nation, together with dedicated health care workers, are keeping clinics safe and open. Domestic terrorists must not be allowed to control women’s lives and deny women basic health care services.”

Outside of on-site support, the impact of local law enforcement on the safety of providers, staff and patients was also clear in the survey results. Clinics that rated their local law enforcement as “poor” or “fair” were twice as likely to face any form of violence or harassment than those that rated it as “good” or “excellent.”

FMF’s National Clinic Access Project, which was launched in 1989, leads efforts nationwide to reduce anti-abortion violence, to keep women’s health personnel and patients safe, to keep clinics open and to bring violent anti-abortion extremists to justice. The 2018 NCVS, which measured responses from 218 independent and affiliated abortion providers located across the country, marked FMF’s 15th comprehensive nationwide surveys of women’s health clinics since 1993.

In 2016, FMF’s NCVS found that anti-abortion violence and harassment had escalated to a 20-year high. Although the 2018 survey showed a slight improvement, the findings still spotlight persistent, and dangerous, barriers to abortion access.

“This is quite simply unacceptable and outrageous,” deVergne Gaines, director of FMF’s National Clinic Access Project, said in a statement. “We demand an end to the persecution of patients, clinic staff and doctors.”

Katie Stone is a Ms. editorial intern. Originally from New York, she is currently studying journalism and communication design at the University of Southern California. Katie is the editor of Spoon University at USC and has also been published on Intersections South LA.

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