‘It’s just more bodies and more people with signs between them and getting the health care they need…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Abortion advocates faced inner turmoil as some activists have begun confronting pro-life demonstrators outside Planned Parenthood clinics—while many abortion clinics said is unhelpful and unwanted.
Members of the Madison Abortion Defense in Wisconsin staged a counter-protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic last week as part of their mission to “oppose right-wing, anti-choice protests in the street” and “reclaim space and confront antis at our clinics.”
But the Madison Planned Parenthood said the anti-life group’s counter-protest only made women feel uncomfortable.
“In our experience, the way that patients experience counter-protesters is it’s just more bodies and more people with signs between them and getting the health care they need,” Mel Barnes, the legal and policy director of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, told the Daily Beast. “We don’t think it’s productive because it tends to just stress patients out more.”
Even though abortion supporters have condemned groups like the Movement for Abortion Defense for adding to the tension and conflict, that doesn’t necessarily mean they reject violent confrontations altogether.
Ila Dayananda, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of New York City, said the activists should simply find somewhere else to take it.
“There are many places where we must make sure our voices are heard, and where we must show up and fight,” Dayananda said. “Saturday morning at our health centers is just not one of them.”
But the radical leftists who have formed their own wing in the pro-choice movement argued that mainstream organizations like Planned Parenthood have “ceded ground” to the GOP and pro-life advocates.
President Donald Trump last month signed a rule to redirect some of the group’s $60 million in federal subsidies to family-planning organizations that do not use it for abortions.
Ohio’s state legislature also won a recent legal victory to block taxpayer funding of abortion providers, although the U.S. Supreme Court in November declined to hear one such suit.
Instead of acquiescing to the legal setbacks, the Movement for Abortion Defense said activists should up the ante with calls for “Free Abortion on Demand.”
“People are just so sick of being told to donate money and to write to their legislators, because it’s not working,” said Michelle Farber, a member of Seattle Clinic Defense.
Refusing to confront pro-life protesters is a losing battle, said Shannon Brewer, director at Mississippi’s Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which uses “escorts” to help shuttle women to the clinic’s doors.
“Non-engagement does absolutely nothing,” Brewer said. “I really feel like the protesters work off of fear. If they feel like you’re scared if they feel like they’re intimidating you, that’s what they operate off of. But if they feel like they can’t intimidate you, then it makes it harder.”