Response to Recent Gun Violence at Raleigh Abortion Clinic

Response to Recent Gun Violence at Raleigh Abortion Clinic

On Saturday, March 6, 2021, a man harassing patients at A Woman’s Choice, an independent abortion provider in Raleigh, discharged a firearm, shooting himself in the leg. Clinic protesting was allowed to continue during and after the 30-minute investigation by Raleigh Police Department, and was even moved closer to the facility during the investigation. No other protesters were searched for weapons. RPD concluded that the discharge of the weapon was accidental and that the offender would be charged with possession of a firearm at a demonstration, which is illegal in North Carolina. When pressured by residents to revoke the standing permit, city leaders dismissively responded that there was no way to verify whether the offender was a protester or simply a passerby, despite the fact that the location of the clinic and layout of the property make this extremely unlikely, and despite reports from witnesses of the man’s interaction with anti-abortion protesters before the shooting occurred.

This incident highlights the need for enhanced protections for safe access to reproductive health facilities in Raleigh. Patients, clinic staff and volunteers face harassment every day outside local clinics. They endure screaming, shaming, profanity, and sometimes physical assault; these regular tactics by clinic harassers are well-known and documented with Raleigh Police Department and the Raleigh City Council. The threat of extremist violence at abortion facilities has always been present, but on Saturday that threat became explicit in our own city.

The right to safe and legal abortion must not end at Roe v. Wade. It must include safe and unhindered access to abortion providers and facilities. In Raleigh, this is not the case. Access to reproductive choice is already hindered in NC by TRAP laws (Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers under the guise of “safety” which are intended to make abortion facilities too costly to operate), crisis pregnancy centers focused on deception and misinformation, state-mandated delays and biased counseling, forced ultrasounds, and prohibited insurance coverage. Harassment and violent intimidation outside abortion clinics adds yet another barrier to the constitutionally-protected right to safe and legal abortion. The right to abortion cannot be in name only. ABORTION IS HEALTHCARE. Women and pregnant people deserve the right to determine their own healthcare needs, and must be guaranteed safe access to them. At no other medical facility do patients have to endure harassment, shaming, violent intimidation, and the threat of their identities being made public. HIPAA protects patient privacy from inside the facility, but does not protect patients, clinic staff and volunteers from being filmed and threatened outside. The city of Raleigh could take action to remedy the situation, yet calls to do so have been ignored over and over.

Today on International Women’s Day, the Josh Bradley for Raleigh Workers campaign condemns harassment, intimidation, and violence at abortion care facilities. We call on the city of Raleigh to investigate Raleigh Police Department’s response to the incident and their continued failure to ensure public safety outside abortion clinics. We call for the immediate revocation of all permits for protest outside abortion facilities in Raleigh. The right to free speech ends where it infringes on another person’s safety and basic constitutional rights. What happens on a daily basis outside abortion clinics in Raleigh is not “free speech” or “protest,” but violent intimidation. We therefore further demand that the city of Raleigh ensure the future safety of patients, abortion providers, and clinic volunteers by instituting buffer zones around all reproductive health facilities within the city of no less than 150 feet.

Given the long legacy of violence at abortion facilities, the discharge of a weapon outside A Woman’s Choice on Saturday cannot be viewed as an isolated incident nor simply an accident. It is an escalation in violence by anti-abortion extremists and cannot be ignored. The city must act to ensure the safety and well-being of abortion clinic staff, volunteers, and patients seeking abortion care before this escalating violence becomes fatal. We call on Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin and the Raleigh City Council to swiftly and immediately uphold the basic human right of access to safe and legal abortion in Raleigh, and not back down in the face of a vocal minority of anti-abortion extremists.