Why You Should Pray For Less Clinic Violence In 2016

While anti-choice harassment and violence in America is nothing new, it has been gradually getting worse over the past few years and 2015 was no exception.

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According to the National Clinic Violence Survey, almost 68% of clinics nationwide frequently experience anti-choice harassment on a regular basis.

That survey was taken prior to the summer of 2015, when an anti-choice group released deceitful and deceptive sting videos targeted at Planned Parenthood, which were highly edited with the intention of demonizing abortion providers and encouraging violence.

Tension continued building in the months following the video’s release, as Republican leaders in several states launched investigations - all of them ultimately found no wrong doing on Planned Parenthood’s part. That still did not stop the hostile rhetoric and lies about abortion from Republicans and anti-choice extremists.

This resulted in increased harassment outside of ALL abortion providers - even independent clinics like ours which are not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

At least four Planned Parenthood health centers across the country have experienced arson attacks since the videos were released. Our sister clinic in Toledo was vandalized a mere hours before hundreds of Catholic pro-life protesters marched outside of the clinic.

In Columbus, protester activity increased outside of the city’s last two abortion clinics. Founder’s Women’s Health Center doubled the amount of volunteers we have on duty outside. When that happened, the protesters began spreading rumors that our volunteers were paid, which was completely false. The community just really wants to help our patients feel safe. Since the beginning of 2015, literally hundreds of people have offered to provide support to the clinic's staff and patients.

Meanwhile, for the first time ever, the protester activity outside of Planned Parenthood on East Main Street (a clinic we are not affiliated with) became so bothersome that the clinic had to start their own volunteer escort program.

Then on November 27, an anti-choice gunman murdered three people and wounded nine others inside a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs.

While the gunman was still shooting inside the clinic, Rep. Adam Kinzinger criticized Planned Parenthood live on CNN and conservative commentator Erick Erickson tweeted (and later deleted): “Left upset the only people dying at Planned Parenthood are babies.”

Many anti-choicers immediately went online and praised the shooter’s actions.

There are a lot more tweets and comments like that. The hatred and violence is sickening. After the clinic shooting in Colorado, it's easy to feel powerless against the extremism that has grown even more powerful in 2015.

So on a cold night in December, several progressive organizations gathered at Trinity Episcopal Church to cry, sing, and pray for those affected by anti-choice harassment and violence.

Representatives from independent clinics, Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Equality Ohio, and Planned Parenthood each stood at the pulpit and poured their hearts out to the emotional audience sitting in the pews.

A patient advocate from Founder’s Women’s Health Center read the following testimony personal testimony:

I have spent the last year working at Founder’s Women’s Health Center. Even though we are an independent abortion clinic that is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, we stand in solidarity with all people who dedicate their lives to women’s reproductive freedom and healthcare.

I’ve seen a lot of harassment in the past year at Founder’s. Protesters showing up outside of the doctor’s home. Patients and volunteers who have complained of being grabbed by protesters who seem to never face the consequences. Postcards with the doctor’s face and home address on them, just daring some lone wolf take matters into his own hands.

The more I push back against the harassment and speak out about what the protesters are doing, the more the anti-choice movement seeks to silence my voice. They’ve written multiple articles and posts criticizing and shaming my pro-choice projects. They yell at me every day as I walk into the clinic.

My most vivid memory of harassment was the day that me and 20 other women chalked the sidewalk outside of the abortion clinic at 5 AM. A man on a bike dressed in all black showed up. This man was so angered by our chalk that he circled the clinic building for two hours, screaming threats and insults at the women who were peacefully drawing flowers, cats, and stars.

This is just a small sampling of the harassment that clinic providers and women seeking legal healthcare face every day.
— Amanda Patton, Patient Advocate at Founder's Women's Health Center

Founder’s Women’s Health Center would like to bid farewell to 2015 and welcome 2016 with the closing prayer from that night.

God of many names and mystery beyond all naming, Our time together this evening has been a precious gift.

We have gathered in the name of justice, in love and service to a higher good.

We have gathered in hope for a world where oppression in all its forms is challenged.

We have gathered to spark a fire of courage in every heart to hear the voices of the oppressed; the voices of those challenged to live lives free of coercion; the voices of those discriminated against by laws that make decisions over their bodies without just cause.

We have gathered as a communion of all souls, to affirm that a holy love is for all without exception.

We have gathered to affirm that we will speak up everywhere and anywhere a woman is asked to underestimate her conscience.

We have gathered to support reproductive freedom, To support the laborers in the vineyards of justice; To support health care for all bodies without threat of violence; To support safe communities in which our children can thrive without fear.

God of many names, tonight, we ask for your blessing on this work; As we go out into this world of violence and adversity, Let us be people of peace. People of hope. People who stand for freedom and love.

Amen.

Say this prayer for us and then write an email to your Columbus City Council members asking them to stand up against the clinic harassment and violence. Demand that they pass a clinic buffer zone law. (Experts say it's never going to pass at the state level, but it is possible we could pass it on a local level. We have to try.)

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