Abortion Clinics Under Siege by Protesters During COVID-19 Pandemic

Abortion Clinics Under Siege by Protesters During COVID-19 Pandemic
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, anti-abortion extremists have ramped up their tactics in the key cities. Pictured: Rally to support Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, Minnesota on April 6, 2012. (Fibonacci Blue)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, some anti-abortion protesters are still doing the unthinkable: doubling down to threaten patients and clinics providing essential reproductive healthcare.

Anti-abortion extremists have ramped up their tactics in the key cities of Milwaukee, Detroit, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Raleigh, San Francisco and Greensboro. 

To make matters even more dangerous, some are even confronting patients and staff in close physical proximity, crowding and touching them, and taunting and threatening to expose them to COVID-19.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Affiliated Medical Services clinic has faced extreme harassment for years. One of the largest providers in the state, the clinic suspended their volunteer clinic escort program following the governor’s stay-at-home orders, and has requested assistance with hiring security guards throughout the week for the next six to eight weeks.

Just days ago, an extremist associated with the Army of God harassed employees while standing just inches from the main clinic door.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Clinic for Women—which serves patients from throughout Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio—has reported the need to hire security and additional staff to help manage and screen patients in order to ensure the safety of clinic staff and patients.

The clinic also needed to find protective masks for non-medical staff—so last week, Feminist Majority Foundation reached out to a volunteer collective in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that is sewing masks and arranged the production and shipment to this provider. 

North Carolina

Outside of A Woman’s Choice Clinics in Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro, virulent demonstrators continue to urge hundreds of their followers to target clinics.

Just last week, police arrested protesters on two different days for violating state emergency orders and laws. 

San Francisco, California

San Francisco and its six surrounding counties in the Bay Area have instituted shelter-in-place orders since March 16.

But these ordinances didn’t stop 86-year-old anti-abortion advocate, Ronald Konopaski, who—alongside fellow protesters—had been outside the Planned Parenthood clinic at 1650 Valencia St. near Bernal Heights nearly every day since late February as part of a 40 Days for Life campaign to end abortion.

On Friday, Konopaski also became the first person cited by San Francisco police for violating the order requiring residents to stay at home.

Abortion Clinics Under Siege by Protesters During COVID-19 Pandemic
One group in particular, 40 Days for Life, are committed to disrupting people who wish to enter reproductive health clinics. (40 Days for Life)

Westland, Michigan

Northland Family Planning, a clinic in the Detroit suburb of Westland, is facing aggressive protesters.

Last week, members of this group of protestors were cited by police—but already these protesters have filed a lawsuit challenging these citations.

With the escorts ceasing operations following the governor’s stay-at-home orders, the clinic is requesting funding for additional security guards.

Huntsville, Alabama

Alabama Women’s Center continues to have disruptive protesters target their patients and clinic. This critical facility has had to hire additional staff to help screen and direct patients and secure their entrance.

In addition, the clinic itself is fighting to stay open and provide abortion care while complying with new restrictions set forth by the state.

The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving.

During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media.

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Eleanor Smeal is president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and publisher of Ms. For over five decades, she has played a leading role in both national and state campaigns to win women’s rights legislation, including the Equal Rights Amendment.