Members of the National Abortion Federation (NAF) recently reported a higher incidence of hostile activity in 2017. Most notably, abortion clinic trespassing tripled while incidents of obstruction reached over 1,700, nearly 200 percent more than the 580 obstructions in 2016. The NAF also reported 62 death threats and threats of harm, up from 33 in the previous year.
Unfortunately, the NAF’s reports are fitting with the stance of the White House Administration. Donald Trump is known for his strong anti-choice views, telling voters during his presidential campaign that he would “advance the rights of unborn children and their mothers.”
Yet Congress has often thwarted Trump’s promises for the anti-choice crowd. The President has not been able to follow through on his promises to ban abortions after 20 weeks, end Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, or write the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal abortion funding, into law.
“Protesters are feeling emboldened by the political environment and seeing what they could get away with. They want to make it more difficult to provide care, without going to very extreme forms of violence.” @NatAbortionFedhttps://t.co/Q6z9hUtUXU
— A Woman’s Choice Inc (@womanschoiceinc) May 9, 2018
Despite Trump’s inability to complete these legal courses of action, abortion rates have declined since he’s been in office. The anti-choice rhetoric that started during his campaign led to significant increases in online hate speech in 2016. While there has been a decrease in this speech overall, online posts have started to target individuals and specific clinics. The NAF reports intentional changes in clinic phone numbers and addresses, claims that open facilities were closed or relocated, and disruptive reviews on providers’ sites.
The increase in physical action toward the clinics has forced NAF members to take “substantial measures to enhance security procedures and protocols at their facilities.” Those who protest clinics by invading, obstructing, and blockading run the risk of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
The FACE Act prohibits those who try to use physical obstruction and force or the threat of force to prevent a person trying to get or provide reproductive health care. In May of 2017, the FACE Act was used to arrest ten anti-abortion extremists protesting with the director of Operation Save America, a conservative Christian Organization. The extremists had locked arms in front of a clinic entrance to prevent individuals from entering.
Increased incidents of violence and harassment have only made it more difficult for clinics and professionals to provide care — and for the people who need it to access it. As Trump remains firm on his anti-choice politics, only time will tell how the number of incidents grows.