As anti-choice lawmakers keep pushing for more restrictions on a woman's right to choose, abortion providers have faced an uptick in incidents ranging from trespassing and hate mail to the first attempted clinic bombing in years. This is according to a new report by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) examining the 2017 statistics on disruption and violence against abortion providers in the U.S.
“We know that hostile rhetoric, including rhetoric from anti-abortion elected officials, can incite some to take the law into their own hands by threatening abortion providers and committing acts of violence,” Vicki Saporta, NAF President and CEO, said in a statement. “We cannot be silent as others continue to publicly vilify doctors and clinic staff, thereby jeopardizing their personal safety, in order to advance their own personal and political agendas.”
According to NAF, clinics saw an increase in incidents with the goal of intimidating patients and providers, as well as disrupting services. The report says trespassing instances more than tripled, going from 247 in 2016 to 823 in 2017; obstruction incidents rose from 580 to 1,704; and harm or death threats nearly doubled to 62 cases.
Abortion providers often face protesters near their premises, but there's been times picketers have escalated the situation. Such an instance took place in May, when 11 anti-abortion activists were arrested after blocking the doors of EMW Women’s Surgical Center — the last abortion clinic in Kentucky.
In November, there was also an attempt to bomb a clinic in Illinois — the first time since 2011. (The three men behind the attempt were also charged with bombing a Minnesota mosque earlier in 2017.)
"From the blockading of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, Kentucky to daily harassment of patients seeking reproductive health care at clinics across the South, our communities are feeling the impact of anti-abortion violence," Oriaku Njoku, co-Founder and executive director of Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "When someone has decided to end a pregnancy, they should be able to get care with respect and dignity, and without fear."
According to the 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey, 34.2% of abortion providers in U.S. have experienced violence or threats of violence, up from 19.7% in 2014.
Reproductive justice advocates say that through their words and policies, the Trump administration has emboldened anti-abortion extremists. In late February, Vice President Mike Pence said he believed access to abortion will end "in our time." A month later, an Idaho Republican running for the state's lieutenant governor post said that punishing women with the death penalty would reduce abortions in the U.S. All the while, anti-choice lawmakers have been trying to curb access to abortion — from implementing extreme bans, blocking certain procedures, or trying to make abortion entirely illegal.
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