Anti-abortion legislation is inherently violent. And anti-abortion violence is also evident in extremists who protest at clinics and assault patients, providers and volunteers alike. These instances are on the rise, as seen in the latest Operation Save America protest in Georgia.
This past week, anti-abortion protesters affiliated with Operation Save America swarmed the area near Preferred Women’s Health Center in Atlanta. Due to a medically inaccurate “fetal heartbeat” law, in-clinic abortions are unavailable past six weeks of gestation in the Peach State. Official records show just how much access to care has plummeted.
For example, in 2021, the state recorded over 42,000 abortions. In the first five months of 2023, there have been only a little more than 14,000 abortions, with about 15 percent of them Alabama residents who traveled to Georgia. But the anti-abortion protesters with Operation Save America and its affiliates are determined to eradicate whatever care — however minimal — is left.
Operation Save America describes itself as an organization that “unashamedly takes up the cause of preborn children in the name of Jesus Christ.” Its director was a participant in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and has called on followers to “prepare for combat.”
At the recent protests in Georgia, former Operation Save America Directors Benham and Rusty Thomas called for a full national abortion ban with no exceptions, stating “You’re going to shed blood in the womb, you’re going to reap it in the streets.” Another speaker, Raymond Ibrahim, who is known for Islamophobia and homophobia, urged protestors to “fight back” and that Christians need to “adopt a more militant mindset.” Unfortunately, these are not just words; they may inspire violent action.
This is nothing new. In the 1990s, an Operation Save America leader distributed wanted-style posters of Dr. David Gunn, an abortion provider in Alabama. Dr. Gunn was killed in March 1993 by anti-abortion protester Michael Griffin. And anti-abortion violence is on the rise.
For example, the National Abortion Federation’s 2022 report details the staggering statistics. Take a look at these horrifying numbers:
- Stalking of providers and patients increased by a whopping 913 percent
- Obstructions to clinics increased 538 percent
- Bomb threats increased by 133 percent
- Burglaries increased by 100 percent
- Assault and batteries increased by 29 percent
With abortion illegal or largely inaccessible in a significant portion of the country, anti-abortion extremists are targeting the remaining clinics where abortion is still available in attempts to thwart care and reproductive autonomy. By forcing people into parenthood, anti-abortion laws strip individuals of their bodily autonomy. Denying people wanted abortions is also linked to higher rates of poor physical and mental health outcomes, poverty, and being tethered to abusive partners.
Abortion is health care and must not be outlawed simply because of the Christian nationalist views of the few. Anti-laws and clinic violence work together to prop up life-endangering rhetoric and practices. In a functioning secular democracy, reproductive autonomy should be a guarantee for all. Our secular voices, counterprotests and votes are urgently needed.