Abortion providers in Louisiana are getting hit from all sides this summer. First, Louisiana state lawmakers passed restrictive legislation that, if allowed to go into effect, may force the closures of most clinics in the state. Then, the local Catholic Bishop in New Orleans waged an ongoing campaign to stop the construction of a new Planned Parenthood facility, boycotting any contractors who plan to work on the building. And on Saturday, anti-abortion extremist group Operation Save America (OSA) began protesting outside of abortion clinics and doctors’ homes in New Orleans and will continue their actions throughout the week.
I’m here in New Orleans with volunteers and staff from the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project (NCAP)—who came to the Big Easy to train volunteer student leaders and community members in ways they can support their local abortion clinics and providers—and witnessed firsthand how Operation Save America is wreaking havoc on communities. This weekend, activists took over an abortion doctor’s neighborhood and held up gruesome, graphic posters along with arrow signs pointing to the doctor’s home. They shouted through loud speakers and passed out flyers with the doctor’s picture and contact information, and yelled at neighbors as they were trying to drive through the area or pass by on the sidewalks. Some of the protestors even went as far as stepping onto the doctor’s porch to take pictures of her home as if it was a theme park.
It was awful to see OSA’s impact on the neighborhood. Young children who were playing outside and families who were walking their dogs scurried into their homes out of fear. And although police were present, nothing could be done the prevent the mob-like protest. I was among a group of volunteers from the New Orleans Abortion Fund and NCAP who positioned ourselves outside the doctor’s home to not only show support as observers but also to make sure she wasn’t alone.
After a while, neighbors started to come out and join me and the volunteers. They thanked us for providing a peaceful pro-choice presence and supporting the doctor. Some came to thank the doctor, some made posters and some just stood with us in solidarity. They were all appalled at the OSA activities.
Said Elizabeth, one of the doctor’s neighbors,
It’s an encroachment on my right as a neighbor. I’ve spoken to the police here. I feel like they have more of a right than I do as someone who lives here to spout all of this hatred whereas I’m supposed to just roll over and take it.
We’ll be here all week, providing support to doctors and clinics and showing a pro-choice presence. Contrary to what OSA would like everyone to believe, the people of New Orleans are pro-choice and stand by reproductive justice.
Photo courtesy of pro-choice activists in New Orleans.