Abortion Clinics Reported A Surge In Trespassing, Vandalism & A Historic High Of Picketing

Alejandra Salazar

Abortion clinics across the United States reported a significant increase in online hate speech, trespassing, vandalism, and obstruction in 2018.

As the debate over abortion rights rages on across the country, the National Abortion Federation released its 2018 statistics on violence and disruption against abortion providers.

The NAF recorded 99,409 picketing incidents in 2018 — more than any other year since 1977, when the organization first began tracking protests against abortion providers. The number is also about three times higher than the number of protests just three years prior in 2015.

The findings detail several specific acts of picketing, vandalism, and trespassing. One facility reported that “on several occasions, anti-choice protesters trespassed on to the property and uprooted landscaping, ripped apart a fence, and littered the parking lot with anti-choice literature.” Another instance described anti-abortion protesters covering a clinic’s parking lot with nails to damage staff and patients’ tires and cars.

More than 1,135 instances of trespassing were reported last year, yet another record-high number. Similarly, obstruction — described as “acts meant to obstruct access to clinics,” including blocking people from entering or exiting a facility — doubled between 2017 and 2018, with clinics reporting up to more than 3,000 incidents. That includes one case in February 2018 where a group of four anti-abortion protesters entered a facility in Michigan and harassed patients in the waiting area. The group was arrested, convicted of trespassing, and eventually sentenced to two years probation.

The rest of the numbers are just as sobering. There was a spike in online hate speech in 2018: clinics recorded more than 21,000 instances of online harassment and nearly 1,400 cases of hate mail and phone calls. Overall, 2018 was the most one of the most violent and disruptive years for abortion providers on the record, the NAF reports.

The NAF’s findings are very timely. Several states across the country, including Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri, have recently passed historically restrictive anti-abortion legislation in a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The ideological and political divide has further widened as other states have instead moved to preserve and strengthen their abortion laws.

Yet as the future of abortion rights comes even further into question, the numbers are clear: the present remains increasingly dangerous for clinicians, physicians, and patients in need of accurate information and safe, secure healthcare.

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