Undercover Audio: Anti-Abortion Groups Train Protestors to Track and Intimidate Patients and Staff

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A disturbing video released today reveals how far anti-abortion groups are willing to go to keep Texas women from exercising their reproductive rights.

The undercover audio was obtained from “Keeping Abortion Facilities Closed,” a Texa Alliance For Life training where audience members learned how to catalogue patients’ and staff members’ license plates, target low-income communities, physically intimidate women attempting to enter clinics, and track down new abortion providers.

“They [abortion providers]feel like they’re on the run, and that’s how we want to keep it,” Abby Johnson of Live Action said at the training.

This morning, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Progress Texas released the audio taken from a training conducted at the Texas Capitol by anti-abortion groups.

Surveilling and tracking patients and staff members at clinics is only one of the terrifying tactics that anti-choice activists taught to trainees during “Keeping Abortion Facilities Closed.”

You track license plates that are coming into any abortion facility,” instructed Karen Garnett, a speaker at the training and Executive Director of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas. “We have a very sophisticated spreadsheet.

“You have license plates, car make, model, description of the person,” she added. “As far as the staff members and the abortionists, you can identify if you got a new abortionist.”

This technique is particularly alarming considering that anti-abortion protestors have previously encouraged kidnapping women on their way to their abortion appointments.

Garnett also described how anti-choice groups bring protestors en masse to intimidate and humiliate women seeking abortion care.

“We’ve got the sidewalk lined with people,” she said. “The number of canceled appointments, no-shows, just because they don’t want to drive in because they see our presence there—that’s one impact.

The audio reveals that anti-choice protestors also spread misinformation about clinics in order to specifically target low-income patients.

“When you’re around there every day, you start learning the ‘street talk,’” Eileen Romano of 40 Days for Life said. “The poorer ones… quit going there and started going to Hope Clinic because they thought it was closed and they didn’t have transportation to get there. God is good.

Abby Johnson of Live Action told trainees that her organization makes abortion providers feel like they are “on the run” by searching tax records to identify new clinic locations.

Unfortunately, she’s right—a long and unsettling history of violence from anti-choice protestors, including 17 attempted murders since 1991, makes abortion providers and clinic staff feel threatened.

“With fewer clinics for these stalking protestors to target, the dangerous impact of their intimidation tactics will be exacerbated,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Executive Director Heather Busby. “Texas women are now not only forced to travel hundreds of miles to access a safe and legal Texas clinic, but once they reach a clinic they must also confront the very real threat posed by these anti-abortion activists. The anti-abortion harassment tactics outlined in this disturbing training lead women to seek dangerous alternatives.”

Photo courtesy of Think Progress.

Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.

About Author

Natalie San Luis

Natalie is a native Texan, a feminist, and a writer, focusing on reproductive justice, race, and pop culture. When she's not writing (and sometimes when she is), she's brewing beer, drinking beer, and reading stuff on the Internet. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, xoJane, The Billfold, Culturemap, and E3W Review of Books. She tweets from @nsanluis.

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