Residents in a pair of Indiana neighborhoods were recently mailed flyers that disclosed the home addresses and included photographs of physicians who provide abortion care at clinics operated by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), as part of a campaign by anti-choice activists to target abortion provider for harassment.
Operation Save America (OSA), the radical anti-choice group with a history of similar acts of targeted harassment of abortion providers, produced the flyers in conjunction with a conference being sponsored by the organization this week in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Harmony Glenn, a member of the Leadership Team of Indy Feminists, told Rewire.News that while she was not surprised, she was angered by anti-choice activists’ invasion of the privacy of abortion providers.
“I find myself unable to be surprised anymore by what groups like OSA are willing and able to do in the name of their cause,” Glenn said. “Nobody should have to worry that when they go home their home isn’t safe, especially doctors and providers who are facing more than enough [harassment] at work.”
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There has been a massive surge in violent actions against abortion providers. There were more than three times as many incidents of trespassing, obstruction, and blockades of abortion clinics in 2017 than in the previous year, according to a report by the National Abortion Federation (NAF).
Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, a pediatrician in Indiana and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Rewire.News that the harassment and intimidation tactics used by anti-choice activists are “designed to evoke fear” in people who are targeted.
“Their main targets are abortion providers, but the effects are felt by the entire community—which includes clinic staff, patients, neighbors and other colleagues at the institutions as well as anyone who is driving by and sees their protests,” Wilkinson said.
James Farrar, a pastor of Aletheia Church and a speaker at OSA’s conference, told the Indianapolis Star the flyers were intended to inform residents that one of their neighbors “makes their living by killing children,” and dismissed concerns that the public disclosure could affect the safety of the physicians and their families.
While OSA claims that it does not advocate violence, Wilkinson said that the actions by anti-choice activists do not have to be physically violent to have violent impacts. “The tactics used in Indiana included protests on university campuses, going to the homes of abortion providers, and harassing members of their family and community were all utilized and everyone here felt intimidated and harassed by this violence,” Wilkinson said.
PPINK on July 9 announced that it had closed the organization’s clinic in Fort Wayne, Indiana, because of a coordinated intimidation and harassment campaign by anti-choice activists.
Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of PPINK, told the Indianapolis Star that the physicians have previously been targeted for similar harassment by anti-choice activists, and the organization’s staff has received training on how to respond to incidents that pose a safety and security risk.
“Much of the training is letting people know what to expect and what could possibly happen because frankly people don’t expect when they go to work that they will be targeted in this manner at their home,” Gillespie said. “You assume that your home is a place of sanctuary and you won’t be targeted …. Our employees are targeted in ways that are very personal. Publicizing someone’s home address is at best inappropriate behavior.”
The intimidation on harassment by anti-choice activists may have only served to “motivate and invigorate” reproductive rights activists and bring closer together local organizations that work to support and protect abortion access, according to Glenn.
“It provided us an opportunity to institute new training and new plans and have new conversions for how we come together in the future,” Glenn said.