This Clinic—And Its Community—Won’t Back Down

Cleveland’s only abortion providing clinic was vandalized repeatedly over a three week time span last month, resulting in a surge of support from the both the city and the reproductive justice community.

“We’ve received emails, letters and faxes from clinics around the country and from around our city,” Nancy Starner, director of development and communications with the clinic said. “We also received flowers, cookies and treats for our staff. It’s that kind of support that lets us know we’re not alone.”

The clinic had 10 windows broken out by a vandal throwing rocks. The assailant was caught on video but the image quality is too low to identify the perpetrator. To make up for the thousands of dollars in damages and to upgrade security measures, the clinic is asking for donations—and working to expand services instead of feeling intimidated. “We’re standing tall and shouting loud as we can,” Starner said. “It really feels validating that our community loves us and wants us here and knows our value.”

The nonprofit Cleveland clinic, called Preterm, provides abortion services, birth control, STD testing and general wellness care, including LGBTQ and teen healthcare. The clinic, open for 40 years, provides services to at least 5,000 people annually. “We pioneered abortion-centered medicine,” Starner explained to Ms. “Our experience with delivering abortion care is grounded in radical respect for our patients.” Part of that approach is smashing abortion stigma. Billboards reading “I’m grateful for my abortion” appear in the city at their behest.

The innovative clinic is also in tough legislative territory. The state’s notoriously debated heartbeat bill, that could ban abortions as early as four weeks, has been brought back to the table repeatedly and lawmakers there recently banned one of the safest and most common forms of abortion procedures.

Already, half of women in Ohio live in a county with no providers and all who obtain abortions are forced to undergo state mandated counseling and a 24 hour wait period. Additionally, minors must gain parental consent and public funding can only aid women in need in the case of rape, incest or life endangerment.

Despite anti-choice legislation and the recent vandalism, the clinic remains dedicated to reproductive justice and patients. “We are radically respectful to everyone who walks in our doors,” Starner said. “That’s combined with providing healthcare and services that are stigmatized out there in the world. We take that stigma and turn it into radical love and respect.”







Michele Sleighel is a former Research Assistant at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She has an MA in Communication at the University of Texas in San Antonio and a BS in PR from the University of Texas in Austin and is very proud of her El Paso roots. Find her on Twitter @MicheleSleighel