Emily Gillingham, Resident Blogger (’15, Michigan State University College of Law)
Anti-choice activists are like a slow-motion temper tantrum. They stand outside abortion clinics with graphic signs. If they don’t get their way, they may try to rent the space out from under the clinic and “counsel” women who unwittingly come to the space seeking an abortion without disclosing that they aren’t, in fact, the abortion clinic the women had expected to find there. Sometimes, they intimidate pro-choice activists by showing up at their homes holding graphic and threatening signs. Sometimes they intimidate clinic workers and women seeking reproductive healthcare by taking down their license plate numbers, a practice that is sometimes followed with stalking that can only be described as “creepy as f***.” Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League sent plastic handcuffs to abortion providers on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade; the message with one read, “Could you be next? If you want to get out of the abortion business, give me a call.” The suggestion, of course, was “quit your job or you’ll end up in these handcuffs,” which was particularly absurd, considering it was sent on the anniversary of the SCOTUS decision that legalized abortion. The Feminist Majority Foundation recently released their 2014 National Clinic Violence Survey, which shows that “targeted intimidation and threats” are way up (see Chart 4). Some anti-choice activists do whatever they can think of to keep people from exercising their constitutional right to an abortion, even when that means placing people in fear for their lives.
Sometimes, anti-choice activists are so “pro-life” that they kill people. A meticulous NARAL report on clinic violence notes that “since 1993, eight clinic workers – including four doctors, two clinic employees, a clinic escort, and a security guard – have been murdered in the United States.” And since 1991, there have been 17 attempted murders at clinics.
As lawyers and future lawyers, we are uniquely equipped to help keep abortion providers and their patients safe. Think about how you can flex your legal muscle to help your local clinic, be it pro-bono work obtaining protective orders against anti-choice activists who’ve crossed the line into harassment or intimidation; training clinic staff on how to document intimidation; advocating for legislation to protect clinic workers from targeted intimidation and threats; or anything else your unique skillset enables you to do to help. We owe it to the clinic staff and their patients to use our privilege in these high-impact ways, and hopefully we will keep people safe and clinics open by doing so.