Defending our clinics in Boston

July 24, 2014

Judea Beatrice, an activist in Boston, explains why reproductive rights are planning for a protest to defend our clinics from the growing attacks by the anti-abortion right.

NATIONALLY, ABORTION rights are under attack.

Take Texas, for example. In September 2013, there were 36 abortion clinics in Texas. By September of this year, there will be only six clinics in the entire state, with not a single one west of San Antonio, according to Fund Texas Women.

This affects the degree to which women in Texas can access abortion. For instance, the 275,000 women of reproductive age in the Rio Grande Valley in Southern Texas must travel four hours to get to the nearest clinic, according to The Atlantic.

Four hours is a long time to travel to access a basic medical procedure, especially for people who work full time, have kids or have no car. But the even more prohibitive problem is that many people who live in Rio Grande have visas that prohibit them from leaving the Valley. These women are put in a legal bind: although they technically have the right to an abortion, they must break the law to get one.

Unfortunately, the trend is not limited to Texas. In 2012, 43 abortion restrictions were enacted in 19 states. In 2013, 70 abortion restrictions were enacted in 22 states. These restrictions, notes the Guttmacher Institute, heighten requirements for health centers providing abortions, with the goal of closing clinics.

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For instance, National Public Radio notes that one law in Virginia says hallways must be at least five feet wide in health centers that provide abortions. Other laws require clinics to have admitting privileges, even though abortion is generally an outpatient procedure.
In 26 states, there is a mandatory waiting period (usually 24 hours) that often means a woman must travel to a clinic twice. For working-class women, finding child care, transportation, time off work and even a hotel is a significant barrier to accessing an abortion.

For poor women, even if they are able to travel to a clinic, paying for an abortion is yet another obstacle. In 32 states, a woman can only access public funds for an abortion if her life is in danger or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. In defiance of federal requirements, South Dakota only provides abortion funds to women whose lives are in danger. This means that Medicaid, Medicare and state health program enrollees often finance the entire cost of an abortion.

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In 2014, for some women, the right to an abortion is meaningless because they are prevented from actually exercising that right.


ON JUNE 26, the U.S. Supreme Court took another step backward for women when it declared the law instituting a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in Massachusetts to be unconstitutional.

Anti-choice bigots stand outside the Planned Parenthood in Brighton, Mass., most days of the week, and come out in full force on Saturdays. Before June 26, they had to stay 35 feet away from the clinics they protest. Now, they can harass women right up to the door of the clinic. Never mind that over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood provides is preventative care, like pelvic exams, Pap smears and birth control.

The right-wingers outside of Planned Parenthood create one more barrier to women's reproductive care: fear. These protesters try to guilt and shame women for seeking reproductive health services.

Underlying this emotional abuse is the threat of physical violence. The 35-foot buffer zone was initially established after an anti-choice protester murdered two local clinic workers, Shannon Lowney and Leanne Nichols, and wounded others. Recently, after walking through a crowd of 70 right-wing protesters, one patient at Planned Parenthood told the Boston Globe, "Sitting in there today, I was thinking about all these protesters outside, and what if somebody just threw a bomb in? That's what was going through my mind when I was getting my blood pressure taken."

Boston Feminists for Liberation has decided to call for a clinic defense on Saturday, July 26, to fight for full reproductive rights for all. We must fight because abortion rights are being steadily rolled back; because right-wingers have been emboldened by their recent victory and have doubled their numbers outside clinics; because our ability to access basic health care is under attack.

We are planning to send a message that their misogyny and intimidation tactics are not welcome in our city, and that women have the right to control our bodies and lives.

Our demands are free abortion; universal reproductive health care; an end to coerced sterilization; reproductive autonomy for all people, including disabled and trans people; and a safe environment in which to bear and raise children. We will also be taking a stand against mass incarceration and in solidarity with Palestine.

Planned Parenthood does not support our protest, saying that that it will create chaos and barriers to access. Other activists have voiced concerns that we will make it harder for the most oppressed to access care at Planned Parenthood.

But many of the women organizing this protest are Planned Parenthood patients. We have experienced right-wingers screaming at us as we try to get our annual pelvic exam. We are standing up for ourselves and for women around the country who need abortions and asserting that birth control is a basic right. We are not an alien group of people infringing on patient access. We are the very women who are affected by bigoted pro-lifers, acting in self-defense. To say that we are creating chaos is blaming the victim. It is blaming us for our own oppression. Right-wing terrorists are the ones creating chaos.

Historically, it is through social protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s that we won abortion rights. The 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision was borne of the women's liberation movement and intimately connected to the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, the antiwar movement, the gay liberation movement and other struggles. But today, we are seeing that this gain from the 1970s can be taken back. The only way for us to combat this trend is through organization.

Nicole Sullivan contributed to this article.

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