Anti-abortion protestors left Birmingham yesterday after a week-long protest targeting the city’s two women’s health centers. The pro-choice community, led by Alabama NOW and the Alabama Reproductive Freedom Coalition, countered the message of Operation Save America by demonstrating strong support for reproductive rights, providing supportive messages outside clinics, and countering the anti-abortion’s public protests. A victory rally was organized by pro-choice volunteers on Saturday with over 100 people in attendance.
Over the course of the week, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project stationed Field Director Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh in Birmingham to provide support to the targeted clinics. She reports that Birmingham’s clinics remained open and all patients were seen without major disruptions over the course of the week. “I have been doing this — tracking anti-abortion extremists and protecting clinics targeted by protestors and harassers — for 16 years now,” Kohsin-Kintigh said at Saturday’s pro-choice victory rally. “It is a tragedy that this kind of activity persists, but time and time again, I see anti-abortion protestors leave in their wake a revitalized and strengthened pro-choice community. As long as we face opposition, we will continue to join together to show everyone that we will not go back!”
Among the more major occurrences over the weekend was the arrest of Flip Benham, the leader of the anti-abortion group, on Friday for disorderly conduct after using amplification while reading passages from the Bible. His sound system, which was permitted to be used as long as the noise was inaudible from inside the clinics and nobody complained, was confiscated as well. Benham posted bail immediately and returned to the protests.
On Saturday, a man, who identified himself as a Marine, entered the New Women All Women clinic in Birmingham and made serious and specific threats to clinic workers and the clinic owners. No arrests were made.
In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where clinic worker Gloria Gray was arrested when a group of anti-abortion protestors trespassed on her property, a trial date has been set for the week of August 21. To the charge of disorderly conduct, Gray will plead not guilty, maintaining that she was trying to ensure that police would take proper action against the trespassers. Scott Morro, Gray’s attorney, made the following statement, “Disorderly conduct requires specific intent to harass, annoy, or alarm. In Gloria’s efforts to aid the police and to let them know that the extremists were trespassing on her property, she was arrested for asserting her rights. On this case, we will stay the course, and the rights of women will not be denied.”