Ahead of anti-choice protests set to take place Saturday at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, the Feminist Majority Foundation has released a new report showing violence and threats of violence against abortion providers has dramatically increased in the last two years.
"This weekend, Planned Parenthood is the target," foundation president Ellie Smeal said of planned actions demanding the defunding of Planned Parenthood. "The public must be aware that this is no ordinary protesting... This hostile climate at women's health clinics and towards health care workers is accompanied by an increase in severe violence and threats."
The foundation's report found that the number of clinics that experienced the most severe types of threats and violence, including death threats, stalking, and blocking clinic access, dramatically increased from 19.7 percent of providers in the first half of 2014 to 34.2 percent of providers in the first half of 2016.
It was in 2015 that anti-abortion activists produced a series of heavily edited (and since debunked) videos that ostensibly showed Planned Parenthood workers negotiating the sale of fetal body parts. That smear campaign has been used as the basis for a national effort to defund the healthcare organization.
"This is just not tolerable behavior in a democracy," Smeal told the Huffington Post. "This would never happen to men walking into a medical clinic."
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In some locations, women's health advocates are planning rallies to counter Saturday's actions, as in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
But Huffington Post associate women's editor Jenavieve Hatch reported earlier this week on how for some clinics, "showing up to counter protest isn't actually helpful."
"Our goal is making sure our patients are comfortable," Adrienne Verrilli, associate vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood of New York City, told Hatch. "The quieter it is outside, and the less people are engaging with each other, the better it is for our patients."
A separate pro-Planned Parenthood rally has been organized to take place elsewhere in New York City on Saturday.
The Feminist Majority Foundation produced this video to accompany its report: