Periodic threats often prompt clinics that provide abortions to take stronger security measures than other types of health care clinics. But no clinic follows a uniform security policy per se. David Cohen, co-author of “Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Story of Anti-Abortion Terrorism,” spent three years interviewing 87 abortion providers in 34 states about the safety of their clinics. “At the outset, every clinic and every provider walks it differently,” Cohen said in an interview with NM Political Report. Each clinic, he said, must balance providing strong security without alienating its patients.
When Philip Leahy, John Rice and Christina Garza come to protest an Albuquerque clinic that provides abortions, they stand on a sidewalk across the parking lot. “We try to be here all the days that they are open,” Leahy said of Southwestern Women’s Options, which is open on weekdays during normal business hours. Clad with a scarf, a winter coat and gloves, Leahy explained on a recent chilly weekday that the clinic’s parking lot is private property, and thus he and his fellow protesters are not allowed to step on it. This keeps him at a distance from the clinic’s front door where patients enter. So his group, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, which opposes abortion, instead tries to wave over women entering the clinic to talk with them.
After a deadly attack last week that left three dead and nine wounded, Planned Parenthood will rebuild and reopen its Colorado Springs office. Vicki Cowart, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, made the pledge Wednesday evening in Albuquerque at a vigil for the women’s health provider. “We will rebuild that building, rebuild the lives of the folks who went through that terrible afternoon,” Cowart told supporters at Albuquerque’s First Congregational United Church of Christ. “And we will open, we will continue to provide wonderful life-saving, high quality reproductive health care to our community there and across our region and across our country no matter what.”
Cowart oversees a region of Planned Parenthood clinics that includes both Colorado and New Mexico. In an interview, Cowart said she wasn’t sure how long rebuilding the location would take.
A crowd of people packed the pews at Albuquerque’s First Congregational United Church of Christ Wednesday night to support Planned Parenthood after a gunman shot and killed three people and wounded nine others at a Colorado Springs clinic last week. The event included a candlelight vigil inside the church remembering the three who died during the Planned Parenthood shooting. Among those who spoke were Vicki Cowart, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the Rev. Sue Joiner. Related: Planned Parenthood will rebuild attacked clinic
“We do not have to agree on how we move forward, but we must agree that we will do it without violence,” Joiner said. Reading from prepared statements by the leader of her denomination, Joiner called the Colorado Springs shooting “the byproduct of a collective need to shame women who seek legal, necessary, medical options when considering their reproductive health.”
Robert Dear, the shooter, reportedly said “no more baby parts” to law enforcement after the shooting.
At least one abortion rights group in New Mexico is calling for anti-abortion activists to take some responsibility for the shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood this weekend, while anti-abortion activists say they decry the violence. Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, told NM Political Report that Protest ABQ and other anti-abortion activists should take at least some responsibility for the attitude that she thinks led to the shooting. She said problems arise “when you use rhetoric that equates abortion with murder.”
Following news reports of the shooting in Colorado Springs, Protest ABQ released a statement condemning the attacks. “Our prayers go out to all those involved today in the senseless shooting at the Planned Parenthood located in Colorado Springs, Colorado,” the statement read. “We continue to pray for the law enforcement officers and all of those who were shot and for the safety of those currently responding to this ongoing situation.”
Tara Shaver, a cofounder of Protest ABQ, told NM Political Report her group will not change their activities based on what happened in Colorado.