As the expression goes, haters gonna hate. And one California women's health clinic just revealed that they know how to roll with the punches by getting in a clever jab of their own against anti-abortion protesters. On Friday, Feb. 5, employees at the Sacramento Women's Health Specialists clinic arrived to work to find dozens of metal coat hangers spread across the clinic's doorway. The clinic, which is the largest of the 11 Women's Health Specialists locations in the Northern California area, could have swept the incident under the rug. They could have gotten angry. They could have become disheartened by this new round of harassment. But rather, this self-described feminist health center decided to turn the incident into a moment of empowerment and make a statement about what they do.
Hours after they discovered the coat hangers, the clinic posted a Facebook update featuring one of their employees using said coat hangers to hang their hot pink "pro-choice clinic escort" vests. "We will not be intimidated by such a ridiculous prank," reads the post. "These hangers are sobering reminders of why the work we do is so important, and they are also just what we needed to hang up our clinic escort vests!"
Coat hangers have become a symbol of the dangerous alternatives to safe, legal abortions — the methods women may choose when they are backed into a corner with nowhere else to go. Or as one woman succinctly commented on the clinic's post, "My irony meter just broke, because hangers is exactly where things will end up if [anti-abortion protesters] succeed."
Of course, another glaring issue with this unsubtle demonstration speaks to a core tenet of the debate surrounding most women's health clinics (notably Planned Parenthood): Women don't solely come to the clinic for abortions. Although no clinic needs to justify its existence with "other services" — abortion is both legal and safe, which is all the justification that's needed — the Sacramento clinic, like most of its kind, also offers a huge variety of other invaluable services: Birth control, adoption programs, breast cancer detection, pregnancy testing, STI testing, HIV testing, LGBTQA+ services, and even services for men. And if a women should so happen to head to the clinic for emergency contraception or an abortion, that is her choice.
Her body. Her choice.
Sadly, the coat hanger incident is far from an isolated one. According to Eileen Schnitger, director of public policy for the Women's Health Specialists clinics, the Sacramento clinic has been subjected to verbal and physical harassment since they opened their doors in 1973. Still, they remain undeterred. "We started our health centers as women saying we want to provide the services that we've wanted to receive and that women say they need," Schnitger told The Huffington Post. "What is so important about what we do is serving the needs of women in a straight-forward, information-sharing kind of way."