This week, members of the extremist anti-abortion group Operation Save America stormed Indianapolis in an attempt to harass doctors, staff and patients of three local reproductive health clinics. OSA’s leader has made it clear that he believes women should be subject to criminal prosecution—even the death penalty—for accessing an abortion.
OSA lined the sidewalks outside of clinics to shame and manipulate patients, marched through downtown spouting lies, and live-streamed their harassment campaign, featuring interviews with extremists—one of whom was convicted of burning down a clinic.
Members of the OSA even stood outside of doctors’ houses and sent out hundreds of mailers with the name and addresses of two local doctors, claiming that they murder children by providing abortion care. These mailers were distributed in the doctors’ two neighborhoods without return addresses.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access team was on the ground in Indianapolis helping to protect abortion clinics, their staff, and patients during OSA’s week long siege.
“While this week has been challenging, we are fortified and invigorated by the power of our movement,” said Shivani Desai, a National Campus Organizer with the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Our grassroots allies in Indianapolis—along with advocates and friends from all over the Midwest—organized and showed up in defiance, ready to help make sure that clinics stay open. And every day—no matter the obstacle—abortion providers and clinic staff opened their doors, offering fiercely empathetic care to patients.”
Each year, anti-abortion extremists target a city and harass patients and providers in an attempt to shut down its clinics. Last year, OSA attempted to blockade the only abortion clinic in Kentucky. A temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibited the group from physically interfering with people seeking or providing reproductive health care.
The Trump Administration’s hostile view on abortion care has emboldened anti-abortion extremists since Trump’s elections. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of death threats and threats of harm for abortion care providers nearly doubled. The number of clinic blockades also doubled, according to the National Abortion Federation.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey recently found that 91.1 percent of clinics experience some type of anti-abortion activity, such as protesting, with 63.2 percent of providers experiencing activity at least once a week, and a quarter of clinics experiencing it every day. Blocking access to a clinic is considered one of the most severe types of threats and violence experienced by clinics. The number of clinics who report these experiences has skyrocketed from 19.7 percent in 2014 to 34.2 percent in 2016. Since 1993, 10 abortion providers have been murdered, and 26 murder attempts have been made.
Recently, a Planned Parenthood in Fort Wayne, Indiana was forced to close due to persistent harassment, even though that clinic did not provide abortion care. That particular clinic withstood the attacks of local anti-abortion group for years, which targeted Planned Parenthood employees by plastering posters and distributing mailers much like those used by the OSA in Indianapolis. Eventually, it became difficult for the health center to hire staff and recruit providers.
Media Resources: Indystar 7/19/19; Feminist Newswire 7/13/18, 7/20/17