This morning, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas released a video with Progress Texas that contains audio clips of anti-choice groups at an activist training in Austin (“Keeping Abortion Facilities Closed”) admitting to using stalking techniques at abortion clinics to intimidate staff and patients alike. One official from Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas, Karen Garnett, detailed the way in which they collect license plate numbers to keep track of who is coming in and out of the clinic.
“You track license plates coming into any abortion facility. We have a very sophisticated spreadsheet,” Garnett says. “This way you can track whether or not a client comes back.”
Former Planned Parenthood clinic director turned anti-choice activist Abby Johnson discussed how her group rooted through appraisal district records in the Austin area, discovering the location of an ASC where an Austin physician plans on moving his abortion care practice.
Johnson, who left her position as a clinic director in 2009 and became a poster child for the anti-choice movement, thinks that her and her colleagues’ shameful tactics have been effective in scaring abortion providers.
“We know where he will be moving if he loses the case,” says Johnson. “These abortionists are feeling the pressure from the pro-life movement in Texas. I think they feel like they’re on the run. And that’s how we want to keep it.”
As clinics shut their doors throughout Texas, anti-choice activists are honing in on the last remaining places that women are able to go for safe, legal abortion care. Not only do women have to conquer an uphill battle when trying to access care in their state, they now have to face harassment, stalking, and intimidation from so-called sidewalk counselors that want to force them into unwanted pregnancy.
Unfortunately, these tactics are not new. Anti-choice activists have a long history of violence and harassment directed at abortion providers. In a collection of data featured on the National Abortion Federation’s (NAF) clinic violence page, abortion providers have routinely faced incidents like murder, fire-bombing, extreme vandalism, bomb threats, and much more. You can view all reported clinics threats here, though NAF notes that the number of incidents is likely higher.
These tactics employed by the anti-choice movement are used as a means of forcing women to be unable to make decisions about their own bodies, families, and lives. The groups involved in “Keeping Abortion Facilities Closed” may consider their tactics to be non-violent, but they are actively creating an environment in which harassment and intimidation are not only encouraged but are the norm, and it can validate actions that lead to potentially lethal consequences.