In her first week working at an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, Amanda Kieferley learned how to look for bombs. About a year later, protesters blocked off the entrances and exits to the women’s centers, and at one point pulled Kevverly into something like a pesky pit, surrounding her and pushing her around.
And on the night of arguments last winter before the US Supreme Court in a case that could end the right to nationwide abortion, people gathered outside a New Jersey clinic with lawn chairs, a cooler and a burning torch — a sight that came to their minds. Extrajudicial executions and other horrors from the country’s racist past, says Kevverly, who is now vice president for access to abortions.
Such scenes have become familiar to providers and patients across the country over the decades since the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade who legalizes abortion. At times, the violence has been more intense, including bombings, arson and murder – from the 1993 murder of Dr. David Gann outside an abortion clinic in Florida to the deadly 2015 shooting of three people inside Planned Parenthood in Colorado.
Now providers and some law enforcement are concerned about what happens next. They are preparing for an increase in violence once the Supreme Court ruling, saying that there has been a historical rise when the issue of abortion receives widespread public attention, for example after the state approved new restrictions. If the decision expires Roe v. Wade – as a leaked opinion draft notes – also expect protests, harassment and other acts of violence to be more focused and intensified in countries where abortion remains legal.
“We know from experience, it’s not like people protesting at clinics in restricted states, they pack up and go home,” said Melissa Fowler, director of programs at the National Abortion Federation.
Fowler said the group and hundreds of abortion clinics it represents have been on “high alert” since the opinion leaked. The organization has dedicated security personnel on call around the clock. They go to clinics to conduct training with staff and volunteers on scenarios such as bomb threats or active shooters and give them advice on things like where to place security cameras. They also conduct safety assessments in doctors’ homes, monitor online threats and consult with local law enforcement.
In some places, local police are working with clinics to try to reduce the potential for violence. In Jacksonville, Florida, the mayor’s office said last month that they would drop an officer outside the clinic, and police in Little Rock, Arkansas, installed a camera on top of a crane near an abortion clinic that was the site of protests, hoping to deter bad guys. representatives.
Immediately after the leak, Keeverley said police in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, began additional patrols around the location of the women’s center.
Fowler said the relationship between clinics and local police is not always a positive one, and clinics must weigh whether a heavy police presence will intimidate patients. In the Kifferly experiment, how well clinics and police departments work together varies by city and state. She remembered asking an officer for help as she was assaulted outside a Philadelphia clinic, and the officer replied that she should “call 911.”
The NAF, which collects monthly data from more than 500 of its members on harassment and violence, reported a rise in incidents in 2020, the last year the group published data. The number of death threats or threats of harm, assault and battery more than doubled, and service providers reported more than 24,000 cases of hate mail or online harassment.
Abortion providers reported a slight increase after Donald Trump became president, and “extremists felt it was good not to be in the shadows,” Fowler said. The coronavirus pandemic has made matters worse, Kifferly said, and in all four states where the women’s centers operate — New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia and Pennsylvania — “we’ve been surrounded by protesters” angry that abortion clinics were open while their churches or businesses were open. Closed.
Abortion opponents have also been targets of violence, and they say they have also seen an increase in incidents since the draft opinion was leaked, although in a 2020 memo the FBI described such incidents as historically “rare”.
Shortly after the draft opinion was published, the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Intelligence and Analysis said the draft made extremist violence — by people on both sides of the issue — more likely.
Susan B. said: Anthony Pro Live America This was among more than 40 incidents of violence, intimidation and vandalism at pregnancy centers and churches in recent weeks.
In early June, a man with a pistol, knife, ties and other items was arrested near Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s home in the middle of the night. He told the police that he wanted to kill Justice because he was disturbed by the draft opinion as well as the fatal mass shooting at an elementary school in Ovaldi, Texas.
The court is expected to issue its decision in the coming days or weeks.
As for what might happen next for abortion providers, much focus has been placed on how to provide care to people who seek it, should abortion be banned in more states. But Fowler said other concerns were also on the mind: “We also need to focus on safety.”