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Mass. Abortion Providers Fear Rise in Anti-Abortion Protests, Threats


Monday, August 26, 2019   

BOSTON — Physicians for Reproductive Health says a recent threat against an abortion clinic in Chicago has rattled providers across the country.

Massachusetts is no stranger to anti-abortion violence. In 1994, an anti-abortion activist fatally shot two people and injured five at abortion clinics in Brookline.

Dr. Luu Ireland is a generalist OB-GYN in central Massachusetts and a fellow for Physicians for Reproductive Health. She said the threat in Chicago, coupled with the onslaught of abortion bans throughout the South and Midwest, have local providers on edge.

"As anti-choice rhetoric has ramped up over the last two years, we've definitely seen a change in the anti-abortion activity at our sites of practice,” Ireland said. “So I'm seeing more protesters. I'm seeing more aggressive protesters."

In August alone, in addition to the Chicago threat, authorities arrested a man in Alaska in connection with threats against federal law enforcement and Planned Parenthood, and someone vandalized a Planned Parenthood in Pennsylvania. Many anti-abortion protesters say they don't promote violence, but critics say their presence outside clinics can be intimidating for patients and providers.

The Trump administration recently passed new Title X rules that prohibit funds intended to help low-income women access reproductive health care from going to providers that refer for abortion services. While the state of Massachusetts has stepped in to provide that funding now, Ireland said these kinds of anti-abortion policies increase stigma and could be dangerous for patients and providers here in the Commonwealth.

"Anti-abortion stigma is very pervasive in our culture. All you have to do is turn on the TV and see the president give a statement full of blatant misinformation about abortion,” she said.

According to the National Abortion Federation, providers have reported an increase in the number of protesters blocking access to clinics - from 580 attempts in 2016 to more than 3,000 in 2018.

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