Kentucky’s only abortion clinic is once again under siege by anti-abortion extremist group Operation Save America (OSA).
While threats against clinics have escalated across the country since the election of Donald Trump, the sole remaining comprehensive women’s clinic in Kentucky may be receiving some of the harshest harassment and intimidation. On May 13, OSA blockaded the entrance to the clinic, attempting to physically stop women from attending their appointments. Eleven of their followers were arrested, but they plan to return to the clinic tomorrow with hundreds of more people from around the country.
Meanwhile, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky filed for a court order prohibiting OSA participants from physically blocking or interfering with the clinic. The motion was filed in federal court under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and granted Friday, but the clinic has already seen an increase in vandalism. In one of the incidents, security cameras captured someone attempting to tie the front doors closed with a chord. The clinic, the city and reproductive justice advocates are preparing for the possibility of more vandalism and increased security needs.
“Without strong, comprehensive reproductive health clinics, women’s lives are endangered,” duVergne Gaines, director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project (NCAP) told activists in an email. “We don’t have a moment to lose.” NCAP works with providers all over the country to aid in security needs and support embattled clinics and is fundraising for extra security at the clinic as OSA gears up for their siege.
OSA has harassed EMW Women’s Surgical Center and clinics around the United States for years. The anti-choice organization has local leaders living in Louisville and the surrounding area who berate women outside of the clinic every day. Those same leaders have publicly declared a plan to ignore any buffer zone laws that might be put in place to protect the clinic and its patients.
In addition to dealing with aggressive protestors, the clinic is also currently withstanding a barrage of anti-choice legislation. Kentucky’s Evangelical Governor Matt Bevin, who recently signed a bill allowing public schools to teach the Bible, began enforcing regulations that closed two other clinics in the state earlier this year. He has since made closing EMW a goal of his administration, and recently passed emergency regulations that EMW’s lawyers say are designed to make abortion access more difficult. The governor has also given a private audience to OSA, who consider him to be an ally.