As reproductive rights face continued attacks on the state and federal levels, just-released data reveals an "alarming escalation" in violence and harassment aimed at abortion providers and those seeking their services.
The statistics (pdf), reflecting incidents in 2018, were released Friday by the National Abortion Federation (NAF).
"Anti-choice individuals and groups have been emboldened by the rhetoric of President Trump, Vice President Pence, and other elected officials and we are seeing this play out in more instances of activities meant to intimidate abortion providers and disrupt patient services," said The Very Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, interim president and CEO of NAF.
Among the findings are that incidents in which people tried to obstruct access to clinics skyrocketed. There were 3,038 such incidents in 2018, compared to 1,704 in 2017. That marks a 78 percent increase.
Trespassing on facilities went up as well. There were 1,135 incidents in 2018, a figure that broke the record set last year when there 823 such incidents. Also on the rise—vandalism. Such incidents jumped to 125 in 2018 compared to 92 in 2017.
Hate mail or harassing calls saw an increase of 1,388—232 more than the previous year. Similarly, hate email or other online harassment shot up. There were 21,252 of these reported incidents in 2018, a jump from 15,773 in 2017.
"Although providers reported a decrease in stalking, the individual incidents in 2018 were more targeted than previous years," the new report states. "On four separate occasions, a provider was followed from their place of employment to various locations. Providers continued to receive threatening mail at their home."
NAF, on Twitter, called the phone harassment "unacceptable."
In 2018, NAF members received 20% more harassing calls than in 2017, 60% more than in 2016, and 272% more than in 2015. This a clear escalation of behavior meant to incite fear and keep providers from providing essential health care. This is unacceptable.— NAF (@NatAbortionFed) May 24, 2019
While death threats went down, they declined only slightly. There were 57 death threats or threats of harm in 2018, just five fewer than in 2017.
While death threats and threats of harm reported by abortion providers decreased from 62 in 2017 to 57 in 2018, even one is one too many. No health care provider should face death threats or threats of harm for providing the health care their patients need. #AbortionIsHealthCare pic.twitter.com/fm8uusrmb6— NAF (@NatAbortionFed) May 24, 2019
"Demonizing healthcare providers and women who rely on them for abortion care has become one of the go-to tactics for anti-choice politicians," said Ragsdale. "Those lies have consequences and it is not the anti-choice politicians who are facing those consequences; it is those who are denied abortion care and the providers targeted by threats, harassment, and violence who are."
"It is time," she added, "for the demonizing of abortion providers and their patients to end."
"Now more than ever, we must unite against this unprecedented attack on our fundamental rights and freedoms," said Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Leana Wen last week.
"It is time for women, men, and all people to declare that reproductive healthcare is healthcare," she said, "and healthcare is a human right."