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