What Is ‘Clinic Defense,’ and Should You Do It?

The number of abortion clinics in the United States is at a record low, and it continues to dwindle each year. Meanwhile, the number of abortion opponents plugging the sidewalks and driveways of these clinics is on the rise. Action groups, like 40 Days for Life and Sidewalk Advocates for Life, ensure that getting to an abortion appointment is fraught with protestors, harassment and, in some cases, physical blockades.

“Clinic defenders” are pushing to change that dynamic — but is that helping or hurting patients?

Clinic defenders in six states are calling on people to join them as part of the Movement for Abortion Defense’s National Day of Action on April 6. The event aims to take a stand against anti-abortion activists by claiming the space around clinics. Defenders in Wisconsin, Washington State, Minnesota, New York and Ohio say that their efforts will discourage abortion opponents from protesting clinics and reiterate that the majority of the population supports abortion access.

The problem is, many of the abortion clinics that they are “defending” don’t actually want crowds on their sidewalks at all.

As Mel Barnes, the legal and policy director of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, told the Daily Beast:

In our experience, the way that patients experience counter-protesters is it’s just more bodies and more people with signs between them and getting the health care they need. We don’t think it’s productive because it tends to just stress patients out more.

Many clinics that deal with anti-abortion protesters do, in fact, have abortion rights supporters outside their doors. Clinic escorts — people who work with or for an abortion clinic and ensure that patients can get safely into a building with the least amount of hassle — are a fixture at a number of clinics all across the country. They’re especially valuable in red and rural states, where having a clinic blocked by abortion opponents could be the difference between a patient receiving care or being forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy.

But clinic escorts and clinic defenders play two very different roles.

Clinic escorts are patient-centered. They have been trained to de-escalate volatile situations between abortion protesters and patients and their partners, families or support people. Clinic escorts are encouraged to avoid interacting with anti-abortion protesters and to refrain from engaging either vocally or with signage. And most importantly, they are there with a clinic’s consent.

Clinic defenders — as defined in this day of protest – don’t do any of these things. Their effort is instead focused on the opponents themselves, with signs and chants. It’s an escalation rather then a deescalation. Even worse, by going against the wishes of clinics, they’re in fact putting “defenders” in the same category as abortion protesters: a group of strangers at a clinic who are loud and violate the very privacy of a patient’s medical care in order to make a political point.

Of course, there are a number of ways that “defenders” can support abortion rights — and oppose the anti-abortion activists — without doing so in front of a clinic that doesn’t want them there. Protesting at anti-abortion events, gathering at crisis pregnancy centers and blocking opponents at their home base where they may gather before heading to a clinic are all efforts that these “clinic defense groups” have taken on admirably.

But in the end, clinic defense at its most effective needs to be done before getting to a clinic at all. Defend clinics by protesting the lawmakers passing bills that shut clinics down needlessly. Defend clinics by standing in front of crisis pregnancy centers and offering information to be certain that patients are aware before they enter them that there’s no abortion, birth control or referrals for either inside. Defend clinics by blocking abortion opponents from getting to the clinics themselves.

But don’t defend clinics at clinics. Let the clinicians — and the escorts there — do their jobs.

Photo Credit: Robin Marty/Flickr

52 comments

Louise A
Louise A2 days ago

thanks for posting

SEND
Mary B
Mary B13 days ago

Jacy Mack, and You are going to adopt how many of those unwanted babies ? And raise them yourself ? What makes you so sure you'ed be qualified ? How big is your house and your income? Have you thought about ANY of this ? Or do you just get off on screaming about "murdering BABIES" !

SEND
heather g
heather g23 days ago

If only the Police would help to remove these protesters. Their locations need to be
protected from the general public and, more particularly, all protesters.

SEND
Alice L
Alice L25 days ago

thanks for this

SEND
Tania N
Tania N25 days ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
Tania N
Tania N25 days ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
Tania N
Tania N25 days ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
Emma L
Ellie L26 days ago

Thank you for posting

SEND
Nicky H
Nicole H26 days ago

Women have the right to get an abortion under the best circumstances, by specialised doctors and nurses. It's already a difficult decision to take, and going to the clinic is not exactly the same as going to a ball. Therefore all protestors should be forbidden to take place in front of the clinics, and should even be removed by police force. If abortion is allowed by the State, these women don't do anything illegal, so leave them alone. Of course you have the right to protest, but NOT in front of an abortion clinic to influence the women or even prevent them from entering the clinic. When you prevent women to enter the clinic safely, you should be picked up by the Police and taken to the Police station for interrogation and eventual measures to be taken against you for endangering other people. If you want to protest, ask for a permission to have a protest on a certain date, at a certain place, but not what you are doing now. This is despicable !!

SEND
Sarah A
Sarah A26 days ago

tyfs

SEND