Thursday, October 7, 2010

Clinic Defense & Campus Organizing - A Natural Partnership

Bonjour Campus Choices! Meghan here, and this is my first of many posts as the newest member of Choices Campus Leadership Program’s team of National Campus Organizers. Although new to this position, I am no stranger to the dangers of clinic harassment and violence, or FMF’s work to assist in defending clinics against it.

This July, I joined FMF as a volunteer to keep the clinics of Charlotte, NC safe from the harassment of Operation Save America’s (OSA) annual clinic siege. If you’ve ever seen your average weekend “sidewalk counselor” protests outside a clinic, take that image and quadruple it. Meditate for a moment for sanity’s sake, and then double it again, totally approximately 250 anti-choice harassers.

As a part the National Clinic Access Project, FMF brought in volunteers from miles and miles away to combat the extreme tactics of OSA, which included posting WANTED posters of the brave and committed abortion providers who staff the Charlotte clinics, holding up oversized posters which featured graphic and medically inaccurate images of dead babies, blocking driveways, and using an amplifier to preach hate to the patients, staff and pro-choice volunteers.

Although there were three clinics that were targeted by OSA, Family Reproductive Health requested a presence of pro-choice clinic defenders throughout the week and we spent the majority of our time there. I had never seen anything like what I saw in Charlotte, and it is hard to articulate how sad and infuriating it was to see the way these self-proclaimed intolerant people would attack women who were simply trying to receive basic reproductive health care.

I would, without a doubt, just as soon favor every woman in America have safe and free access to reproductive health services, but what surprised me most was how much I enjoyed my time in Charlotte. Banding together with dozens of passionate and committed pro-choice volunteers, FMF staff, students from UNCC Feminist Union, and Charlotte Pro-Choice Coalition members to keep FRH and the other Charlotte clinics safe and protected by our efforts – including clinic defense, counter-protesting, legal observation and close contact with law enforcement – was inspiring, to say the least.

On the last day of the clinic siege, we managed to rally over 75 clinic defenders in the wee hours of the morning so that when OSA arrived to set up their Harassment HQ, they promptly turned their vans around and drove away. According to the fantastic clinic staff, it was the first Saturday without harassment and protest in the 8 years the clinic had been open.

Luckily, it is not every Saturday that OSA brings hundreds of people from all over the country to target a clinic, but virtually every day of the year there is some form of harassment outside of hundreds of clinics across the US. Get involved to help keep these clinics safe by joining in our Adopt-a-Clinic Campaign. There are so many ways you can help keep your clinic safe and open. Vocal pro-choice support can keep patients safe when entering the clinic, help maintain law enforcements attention to this issue, and show clinics that their hard work is appreciated and important.

This blog post is part of the October eZine. To receive our monthly eZine, click here.

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