The Obama administration has stepped up efforts to protect abortion clinics from protesters illegally impeding access to clinic grounds. NPR reported Thursday that the Department of Justice is bringing more civil suits against protesters who trespass and block access to clinics:
The numbers are most stark when it comes to civil lawsuits, which seek to create buffer zones around clinic entrances for people who have blocked access in the past. Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has filed eight civil cases since the start of the Obama administration. That’s a big increase over the George W. Bush years, when one case was filed in eight years.
Given the increasing attacks on abortion clinics around the country by lawmakers hell-bent on making abortion inaccessible, if not illegal, this is good news. But the piece also points out that there have been a number of incidents of violence in the past few months that should reiterate the need to take threats to clinics seriously. A Planned Parenthood office in McKinney, Texas and the Summit Women’s Center in Detroit were both attacked with Molotov cocktails this summer, and a Wisconsin man was charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide after threatening to shoot abortion providers.
As Sharon Levin, vice president at the National Abortion Federation, notes in the NPR piece, protesters who commit minor violations, like trespassing, often end up escalating to more violent acts if they aren’t prosecuted.