|Dr. George Tiller, murdered by an anti-abortion extremist in 2009.|
"Unfortunately, facilities that provide abortion care have had to employ security measures that aren't common for other medical practices," says Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, which advises member clinics (including the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood) on how to beef up security. "These measures can range from bulletproof glass to special entry systems, metal detectors to security guards. And most staff at clinics go through drills and training on how to respond to different types of threats."
Incidents as violent as the one in Colorado are rare. Significantly more common is the targeted harassment of those who work at abortion clinics, most notably abortion doctors, but also their staff. For example, when Jen Boulanger ran an abortion clinic in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she was constantly worried about being followed home. "I felt like I needed to watch my back," says Boulanger, who was eventually followed in her car by an anti-abortion extremist despite her efforts.
According to data from the Feminist Majority Foundation, in 2014 more than half of clinics in the United States had doctors or staff members experiencing targeted intimidation and threats from anti-abortion protesters, compared with about 20 percent that reported staff members experiencing severe violence, which includes things like arson, bombings, chemical attacks, and gunfire. That means a total of 71 percent of clinics said their workers experienced either severe violence or targeted harassment. Doctors and clinic staff reported having their personal information, including information about their spouses and children, posted on the internet, having their homes picketed and staked out by extremists, and being stalked by abortion opponents.
This level of harassment, which clinic workers fear could escalate to something more violent (and which occasionally has), has forced both clinics and individual providers to undertake personal security measures unseen in any other medical or professional field.
Some of the precautions listed in this article are the following:
- Wearing bullet proof vests.
- Taking different routes home from work.
- Never driving your own car.
- Vary your routine often.
- And even wear disguises.
And it is due to irresponsible rhetoric and a purposeful misrepresentation of what these clinics provide.