In this context the clinic defenders have historically had a somewhat tense relationship with Planned Parenthood, some of whose staff feel that the actions of the defenders are needlessly disruptive, politicizing a terrain which is and should remain apolitical. But abortion clinics are an inherently political terrain, as reproductive justice is an inherently political issue, something which the antis have always recognized, and are continuing to mobilize around. A Planned Parenthood worker said, “I’ve been doing this for thirty years, and this feels like we’re back in the 90s. I thought things were getting better.” The antis’ own rhetoric reinforced this: “We’re not the kumbaya Christians, we’re warriors of Christ,” and openly expressing their goal to keep patients from entering the clinic while making racist and homophobic remarks to clinic defenders and Planned Parenthood escorts.
Learning that the antis planned to demonstrate outside of the clinic on Saturday, June 20, New York City for Abortion Rights planned a counter-demonstration. After antis showed up at Planned Parenthood on Friday, June 19 with aggressive tactics that threatened patient access to the clinic, Planned Parenthood encouraged NYCFAR to bring as many people as possible on Saturday to engage and distract the antis enough to allow patients to enter, a strategy that was ultimately successful.
There are several lessons to be drawn from Saturday’s events, and many complex and thorny dynamics at work. The antis involved in yesterday’s demonstration were mostly Black, though Flip Benham and many of these organizations’ leaders are white, while the clinic defenders were mostly white, and much of the antis’ rhetoric focused on the vile racism of Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger. While we recognize that Planned Parenthood is an important ally doing valuable clinical work, we also condemn Sanger’s advocacy for racist eugenics.