When abortion became legal in 1973, freestanding clinics filled a critical service gap, providing abortion services when hospitals could not—or would not—do so routinely. Today, most abortions still take place in clinics, but intense state regulation and virulent anti-abortion opposition have made them highly stigmatized and marginalized spaces. Their physical isolation makes them an easy target. Common forms of violence include blocking access to and invasions of clinics, stalking, death threats, and bomb threats. And like other forms of right-wing violence, it’s on the rise—34% of clinics reported severe violence in 2016, up from 20% in 2014. Antis have effectively claimed abortion clinics as their own, created a powerful narrative of shame, regret, and stigma around abortion, and radicalized new generations of right-wing misogynists who are willing to use violence. We defend clinics because we want to fight the right and win a world with free abortion on demand, without apologies.
Also, reproductive rights organizations aren’t a monolith. Their political strategy is handed down from the top, rather than being formed through the consensus of all of their members, including clinic workers, whose opinions on clinic defense as a strategy really vary. Many are happy when we show up—and many patients are, too, along with neighbors who are tired of seeing bigotry go unopposed in their communities.
Finally: we are Planned Parenthood patients, abortion clinic workers, abortion doulas, and health care providers ourselves. We believe that we should have at least as much say in what the fight for abortion rights should look like as the well-paid administrators and consultants at the top of those organizations.