Group whose anti-abortion ad Amy Barrett signed accused of promoting harassment of doctors | Abortion
An Indiana group whose anti-abortion campaign was endorsed in an ad signed by Amy Coney Barrett before she became a Supreme Court justice, keeps a published list of abortion providers and where they work on its website, in what some experts say is an invitation to harass and intimidate doctors and their staff.
In one case, according to court records, a doctor whose name was released by the group, who goes by the name Right to Life Michiana, was tipped off by the FBI about a kidnapping threat that had been made online against her daughter.
The threat prompted the doctor to temporarily stop providing abortion services at the Whole Woman’s Health Care clinic in South Bend, also named on the Michiana Group’s website. The doctor said in the court document that the clinic regularly attracted large gatherings of protesters, who she feared might identify her.
Barrett signed a two-page ad in 2006, while working as a teacher at Notre Dame, which stated that those who signed “oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life, fertilization to natural death”. The second page of the ad titled Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion, ‘barbaric’.
The advertisement, which was published in the South Bend Tribune and signed by hundreds of people, was sponsored by a group called St Joseph County Right to Life, which merged with another anti-abortion group in 2020 and is called now Right to Life Michiana.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on the Roe v. Wade challenges that many court experts say will deny American women the right to obtain legal abortions. In arguments in court, Barrett – who said his personal opinions did not affect his legal judgment – argued that passing shelter laws, which allow parents to abandon their newborn babies in hospitals or other designated centers without threat of legal consequences, had in effect given women options aside from abortion for those who did not want to become parents.
During her 2020 confirmation hearing, Barrett said she signed the announcement as a private citizen, as she was leaving the church, and did not recall signing it until until it became public following a report in the Guardian.
“It was consistent with the views of my church,” she said, in response to questions from senators about the statement. She later added, “I consider my personal, moral and religious views distinct from my duty to enforce the law as a judge.”
A review by the Guardian of Right to Life Michiana, which runs the same ad denouncing Roe v Wade as “barbaric” every year, finds the group does more than publish statements in newspapers: it urges supporters to “take action against what he calls a “local threat of abortion”.
In a section of the website, titled Local Abortion Threat: The Abortionist, the group lists the names and backgrounds of six doctors it says perform abortions at the Whole Woman’s Health Clinic in South Bend.
Among them is a doctor – whom the Guardian declines to name – who testified in 2021, in a case involving Indiana abortion restrictions, that she started going to South Bend once a month – beginning in 2020 – to perform first-trimester abortions at the South Bend clinic. She stopped making the trip – a 2.5-hour drive from her home – after being alerted by Planned Parenthood, which had been alerted by the FBI, that a kidnapping threat had been made against her daughter in line.
“I thought it would be best for me to limit my movements and my exposure during this period,” the doctor said in his testimony. “I was worried that there would be people who might identify me on this trip, as well as it’s a very small clinic with no privacy for people driving in and out, and so people might see me directly. .”
Jackie Appleman, executive director of Right to Life Michiana, said in response to questions from the Guardian that the information on its website was “publicly available information”.
“Right to Life Michiana does not condone or encourage harm, threats, or harassment of anyone, including abortion physicians, abortion business employees, and escorts. We encourage pro-choice groups to also embrace our non-violent approach when it comes to the unborn child,” she said.
The group has also previously said it supports the criminalization of doctors who perform abortions and the criminalization of procedures that regularly occur in the process of in vitro fertilization, including the rejection of frozen embryos or the selective reduction of embryos. .
Publishing doctors’ names — and in some other cases, their home addresses — is a well-known tactic used by anti-abortion groups.
The practice gained attention in the 1990s and early 2000s due to a legal battle over a website called the Nuremberg Files, which was backed by radical opponents of abortion and published the names, photos, home addresses and license plate numbers of abortion providers. In some cases, spouses and children were also identified. Doctors who had been murdered had a line crossed out over their names.
One of the most high-profile cases of violence against abortion providers surrounded the case of George Tiller, who was one of the few doctors to perform late-term abortions when he was killed on his way to the church in 2009.
Sharon Lau, Midwest advocacy director for Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, and safety specialist, said Michiana Right to Life regularly protested at the group’s clinic in South Bend, approaching patients and blocking her driveway.
Asked about the naming of the doctors on Michiana’s website, Lau said: “It’s clearly something that threatens, so we take it seriously and we know that this stuff has consequences. The language says, “These people are a threat.” What motivates people to act. We saw it with Dr. Tiller.
The WWHA was partly frustrated, she said, by what appeared to be a reluctance by local prosecutors to charge protesters who she said violated trespassing rules.
“The law is not enforced. We know that if you enforce the relatively minor crimes, it can prevent escalation, so we tried to make them understand that,” Lau said.
Melissa Fowler, program director at the National Abortion Federation, said anti-abortion protesters have been emboldened by the recent passage of abortion bans in Texas and Mississippi, and the group has documented a increased aggression, including protesters taking advantage of “open door” laws to stand near health clinics with visible weapons.
Mira Shah, a doctor who travels to perform abortions in underserved communities, including South Bend, who is listed on Michiana’s website, said the groups aimed to instill fear in medical professionals and trying to get them to stop doing their job.
“It can honestly be scary,” Dr Shah said. “I’m being really careful and doing what I have to do to stay safe. We try to take care of our patients and do our best. »
Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court office received questions from The Guardian but did not respond to a request for comment.