The National Abortion Federation Condemns Anti-Abortion Protests that Increase Risk of COVID-19 Exposure

At a time when many in the U.S. are complying with public health guidance and practicing social distancing to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep their families and communities safe, anti-abortion protesters are still going to clinics to harass abortion providers and patients seeking care, ignoring social distancing guidelines, and invading people’s personal space. The National Abortion Federation condemns this reckless behavior, which puts patients, abortion providers, and local law enforcement’s health at risk by increasing their risk of exposure.

Recent occurrences:

  • Multiple arrests in North Carolina as police try to issue citations for stay-at-home violations outside abortion clinics in Greensboro and Charlotte. Antiabortion protesters in Greensboro and those arrested in Charlotte are receiving S. Senator Ted Cruz’s support.
  • San Francisco’s first citation for violating the stay-at-home order was an anti-abortion protester outside a clinic.
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order prohibits public and private gatherings but does not apply to churches and other houses of worship. Protesters have gathered in large groups outside Detroit clinics the past two weekends claiming that they are having a religious gathering. After being cited, an antiabortion protester sued. The citation was recently dropped and his exemption from the stayat-home order was confirmed. (Read NAF’s letter to Governor Whitmer about continued anti-abortion protests here.)

NAF’s President and CEO The Very Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale:

It is absolutely shameful that anti-abortion groups and individuals are ignoring public health guidance and putting patients, clinic staff, and law enforcement at risk. This is not only selfish–it’s dangerous. In many places, these protesters are able to walk right up to patients as they enter or exit the facility or surround them as they walk to and from their cars. This behavior blatantly ignores the CDC guidance and can feel particularly threatening to patients now that concerns about the coronavirus are heightened. We have even heard reports of protesters intentionally coughing on clinic escorts and making physical contact with patients and providers attempting to enter clinics.

This behavior illustrates that these anti-abortion individuals and groups care more about their personal agenda than the health, well-being, or lives of anyone. We each have a duty to protect the health and safety of our families, our communities, and our nation.  Law enforcement must enforce current orders to restrict gatherings and travel. And leaders in the anti-abortion movement should stop instructing their followers to blatantly ignore public health guidance and condemn protests and gatherings outside abortion clinics.

Read The Very Reverend Ragsdale’s op/ed about this issue here.

The National Abortion Federation is the professional association of abortion providers whose members include individuals, private and non-profit clinics, Planned Parenthood affiliates, women’s health centers, physicians’ offices, and hospitals. NAF has been tracking incidents of violence and disruption against abortion providers since 1977 and is the leading expert on abortion provider security.

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