On Monday, a new report from the National Abortion Federation revealed that abortion clinic trespassing has tripled since Trump took office — further infringing on a woman's right to safely secure an abortion. Moreover, the organization believes that those committing these offenses may be encouraged by the anti-reproductive rights stance of the Trump administration.
As Rewire.News reported, the National Abortion Federation has been tracking levels of violence and disruption at abortion clinics in the United States since 1977. In its recently-released 2017 report, the organization found that trespassing at abortion clinics had risen from 247 incidents in 2016 to 823 incidents in 2017 — around triple the rate.
The report also revealed some additional troubling information. It found that incidents of obstruction at clinics, which is defined as "the act of causing a delay or an attempt to cause a delay in the conduct of business or prevent persons from entering or exiting an area,” rose to 1,700 in 2017 — up from around 580 incidents in 2016. Moreover, the report revealed that death threats and threats of harm against clinics doubled from 2016 to 2017.
As Rewire.News noted, the National Abortion Federation's president and CEO, Vicki Saporta, believes that Trump administration policies and rhetoric may have played a role in this uptick in hostility toward abortion clinics. As Saporta told the outlet during a phone interview,
We see in terms of the rhetoric we monitor and the activities that are taking place that [anti-abortion activists] are emboldened by what they see as a very supportive [presidential] administration. ... They are doing what they can to disrupt care at clinics and make it much harder for clinics to access care.
Saporta also echoed similar sentiments in a statement released by her organization (as reported by The Independent), in which she emphasized the need for law enforcement to pay particular attention to threats against clinics. Saporta said:
We know that hostile rhetoric, including rhetoric from anti-abortion elected officials, can incite some to take the law into their own hands by threatening abortion providers and committing acts of violence. ... Given the political climate and the increase in hate incidents throughout the country, it is more important than ever that law enforcement and prosecutors appropriately respond to anti-abortion criminal activity.
.The report noted that hostility against abortion clinics did lead to several arrests last year. In May 2017, 10 individuals were arrested and charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act after seeking to stop women from entering a clinic. In September, two anti-abortion activists were arrested after they entered a clinic waiting room to speak with patients and subsequently refused to leave.
As Refinery29 reported, those who work in the reproductive justice field also believe that people engaging in hostility against abortion clinics may be encouraged by what they perceive as support from the Trump administration. The outlet noted that the Trump administration has repeatedly rolled back or threatened to infringe on women's rights, particularly in the reproductive health realm.
Kaylie Hanson-Long, the national communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, described some of these rights infringements to Refinery29 in January. As Hanson-Long put it,
This year has proved that the Trump administration has no interest in protecting women’s health and our basic freedoms, and if there was a way to give them anything below an F, I would. ... Just this week, Trump released an executive order that gives medical practitioners the license to discriminate against patients and turn a person in need of care away. From ripping healthcare away from millions of Americans, to attacking our essential birth control, Trump’s attacks on women’s health are actually putting people’s health, rights, and lives in real danger.
The Trump administration has also repeatedly threatened to defund Planned Parenthood and also suggested that the organization could only keep its funding if it no longer provides abortion services.
Overall, the National Abortion Federation's report revealed that women are increasingly facing uphill battles as they seek abortions — and that clinics that provide these services are also increasingly under threat. Unfortunately, it seems as though the Trump administration is only exacerbating this problem — and could continue to do so in the future.