Anti-Abortion Groups Try to Intimidate Pharmacies Planning to Dispense Abortion Pills

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters face off outside the Minnesota state legislature on Jan. 19, 2023, in St. Paul, Minn.—the first day an abortion bill was being heard in the House. (Glen Stubbe / Star Tribune via Getty Images)

On Feb. 4, anti-abortion groups are organizing a national day of protests targeting pharmacies that have announced plans to offer abortion pills, including Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid. The protests are organized by the so-called Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU)—a group that claims to be peaceful and progressive, but whose members have repeatedly broken the law to achieve their goal of intimidating, harassing and blocking women from accessing reproductive healthcare.

PAAU’s threat to protest pharmacies comes in response to a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement of a new certification process for brick-and-mortar pharmacies to become eligible to sell the abortion pill mifepristone for the first time. PAAU is planning protests at pharmacies across the country, including in Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, L.A. and San Francisco.

The Feb. 4 action is co-sponsored by two other anti-abortion groups: Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust and Live Action, which on Jan. 26 disrupted a Walgreens’ shareholder meeting in Newport Coast, Calif. Two anti-abortion extremists broke into the building where the meeting was to take place and hid out in a closet for nine hours waiting to ambush and disrupt the meeting.

“These extremists are infamous for stalking physicians, invading clinics, and bullying patients and clinic staff,” said duVergne Gaines, director of Feminist Majority’s National Clinic Access Project. “Groups like PAAU, the Survivors and Live Action are doing their best to grab headlines and terrorize pharmacies out of providing critical access to the abortion pill, but they must be stopped.”

According to Gaines, members of PAAU have connections to violent, anti-abortion extremists. PAAU director of activism Lauren Handy was trained by one of the leading extremists in the anti-abortion movement, Jeff White, founder and leader of Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust. White, who has been arrested dozens of times for blockading clinics, disorderly conduct, stalking and more, is currently serving time in federal prison for defrauding numerous state Affordable Care Act programs of over $27 million dollars. For decades, White led boot camps in California training people on how to wage campaigns of terror and intimidation against abortion providers. Handy studied and worked with White for two years in California, according to Gaines.

Groups like PAAU, the Survivors and Live Action are doing their best to grab headlines and terrorize pharmacies out of providing critical access to the abortion pill, but they must be stopped.

duVergne Gaines

Handy claims to be a feminist, but she has repeatedly threatened, harassed and intimidated other women seeking or providing reproductive healthcare services. Handy has faced criminal charges in several states, including Michigan, D.C., Virginia and Ohio. A Michigan jury found Handy guilty of trespassing and resisting police during a protest at an abortion clinic in Flint in 2019. She was sentenced to 45 days in prison.

In March of 2022, a federal grand jury indicted Handy and eight others for felony “conspiracy against rights” under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for a blockade inside the Washington Surgi-Clinic in D.C. in October 2020. Later a 10th person, Herb Geraghty, was also indicted for conspiring with Handy. Pretending to be a patient, Handy led others to forcibly invade the clinic and in the process allegedly knocked a clinic employee over, injuring her ankle. They then used chains and rope to block access to the clinic.

Handy was also convicted for trespassing in the waiting room of the Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic in Virginia in 2021, for which she was sentenced to 30 days in jail. In April, police found five fetuses inside coolers in Handy’s Washington-D.C. apartment.

Lauren Handy and other anti-abortion demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on May 23, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Other PAAU leaders have also faced criminal charges, including executive director Terrisa Bukovinac and director of communications Kristin Turner.

The anti-abortion movement has a long history of violence against abortion clinics and providers, including blockades, invasions, chemical attacks, arsons, bombings, death threats, shootings, sniper attacks and cold-blooded murder. Violence at abortion clinics increased significantly between 2020 and 2021, particularly for stalking (600 percent), blockades (450 percent), hoax devices/suspicious packages (163 percent), invasions (129 percent) and assault and battery (128 percent).

The PAUU pharmacy protests on Feb. 4 may be yet another opportunity for PAAU extremists to break the law and act violently toward peaceful citizens seeking healthcare, said Gaines.

On Jan. 22, President Biden issued a presidential memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security, to consider new guidance to support patients, providers and pharmacies who wish to legally access, prescribe or provide mifepristone—no matter where they live. The President called for new actions to ensure that patients can access reproductive health care and abortion medications free from harassment, threats or violence.

“Americans support abortion, period, and pharmacy access to the abortion pill is long overdue,” said Gaines. “Pharmacies need to stand firm against this fringe group, and law enforcement must be vigilant against these extremists to ensure safe access to all pharmacies—and abortion clinics.”

Reproaction has a petition urging pharmacies to “stock abortion pills in your stores now!”

Reproaction encourages people to contact CVS and Walgreens.

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Carrie N. Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is the Sylvia Dlugasch Bauman professor of American Studies and the chair of the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. She is a contributing editor at Ms. magazine. You can contact Dr. Baker at or follow her on Twitter @CarrieNBaker.