Last week, the anti-abortion extremist group Operation Save America (OSA) organized its annual national event of increased harassment and protesting outside targeted clinics in Alabama. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Clinic Defense Team spent several weeks on the ground in Alabama before and during the protests, providing assistance to clinics throughout the state.
For years, OSA has used the summer to travel around the nation and protest abortion, often targeting vulnerable clinics in states where abortion providers are already under siege. This week, anti-abortion extremists targeted Montgomery, Alabama’s Reproductive Health Services, the only clinic left in the state’s capital. OSA historically attracts many out-of-state anti-choice extremists to their demonstrations, but this was the first year OSA invited an advocate of “justifiable homicide” to be a featured speaker during the week of intimidation and harassment.
Matthew Trewhella , the leader of Missionaries to the Preborn, was spoke to an evening OSA rally; Trewhella is a signatory of the Defensive Action petition in support of the use of lethal force to stop abortion. In addition, John Brockhoeft, an Ohio-based advocate of justifiable homicide and convicted felon who served time for arson attacks on clinics in Ohio and conspiring to bomb a clinic in Pensacola, FL, participated in the OSA protests.
“In spite of severe intimidation and harassment by OSA, all of the abortion clinics in Alabama, from Huntsville to Mobile, Birmingham and Montgomery, remained open and all patients were seen,” said duVergne Gaines, director of FMF’s Clinic Defense Team. “We were pleased to work with courageous clinic staff, hundreds of pro-choice supporters and dedicated law enforcement throughout the state to keep these clinics safe and open to serve the women of Alabama. What’s more, OSA’s numbers were down this year as compared to last year when they targeted Louisiana, and it appears they are more desperate than ever.”
Along with the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Clinic Defense Team, feminists and activists from across the Southern states have come together throughout the week to protect clinics in Alabama. Organizations like Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates, The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance of the University of Montevallo, and the Feminist Caucus of the University of Alabama showed up in support of Reproductive Health Services and other clinics. Through the FMF Choices Campus Leadership Program’s Adopt-a-Clinic campaign, local college students have mobilized to help protect Alabama clinics.
“The students have been instrumental in training, reaching out to community members to build a network, and organizing their campuses,” said Edwith Theogene, National Campus Organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation. “We’re proud of the student turn-out and the dedication these students are showing to keeping their clinics open and safe.”
Besides protesting outside of abortion clinics, OSA disrupted progressive religious events or services to oppose both abortion and LGBT rights during its annual national siege. The protest left many residents of Alabama feeling uneasy and unsafe.
“Everybody is on high alert [during this time],” said Mia Raven, legislative director of the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates. “Everybody in the state of Alabama and everybody in surrounding states is on high alert.”
Such high alert is often necessary during extremist protests such as OSA. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s 2014 National Clinic Violence Survey shows that since 2010, the distribution of Old West-style WANTED posters and pamphlets targeting doctors and clinic staff, and featuring doctors’ and staffs’ photographs, home addresses, and other personal information, has almost doubled from 27% to 52%. Historically, these kinds of threats to abortion doctors, staff, and clinics have often preceded serious crimes such as violence, arson, bombings, stalking of clinic staff, patients, and doctors, and murder.
“Given this history, the dramatic increase in extremist threats cannot be ignored,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Clinics like those targeted in Alabama, are a vital part of women’s healthcare, providing birth control, STD and cancer screenings, and other reproductive health services in addition to abortion. Without these clinics, there is no choice.”
Media Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation NCAP 2014 Survey