Despite Colorado’s stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic, anti-abortion activists are continuing to appear at abortion clinics in Colorado urging patients not to terminate their pregnancies.
So-called “sidewalk counseling” is widespread at abortion clinics in states across the country even as COVID-19 forces many Americans to stay in their homes except for essential reasons.
The practice often includes shouting at those entering abortion clinics and giving them handouts aimed at influencing their abortion decision.
While the anti-abortion camp calls it counseling, abortion rights advocates call it harassment.
Neta Meltzer, Director of Strategic Communications for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, called it “striking” that they’re continuing to see protesters at their health centers given the state’s stay-at-home order.
“Whether during a global pandemic or a regular Tuesday, no patient should ever be harassed while trying to access health care,” Meltzer said in a statement to the Colorado Times Recorder. “Health care, including the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care, is a fundamental human right, and we are committed to working toward eliminating barriers to care and expanding access to all.”
Leslie Hanks, an anti-abortion activist in Colorado and president of American Right to Life, was getting ready to head over to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Littleton when I called today. In a recent article in Live Action, an anti-abortion news organization that specializes in attacking Planned Parenthood, Hanks was quoted as one of many anti-abortion activists across the country that have been continuing protesting at clinics during the pandemic.
Hanks has been visiting her local clinic to stand on the sidewalk with a sign showing a picture of a fetus, she told the Colorado Times Recorder.
“I believe the graphic signs are useful,” she said. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
She also said she carries handouts that direct those entering the clinic to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers “in case somebody is interested in knowing where they can go to get help where they don’t have to kill their kid.”
Colorado is one of a few states with a “buffer” law that requires those seeking to intercept someone who is entering an abortion clinic to maintain a certain distance. Colorado’s law requires anti-abortion protesters to stay at least 8 feet away.
In some states, protesters have blatantly eschewed social distancing guidelines by gathering in large groups and not maintaining a safe distance from patients. In North Carolina, clinic protestors were arrested for violating the state’s stay-at-home order.
What’s more, pregnant people are considered at-risk for coronavirus due to the impacts of pregnancy on the immune system.
While she does interact with patients from afar on occasion, Hank’s main focus right now is “educating the public,” she said, by trying to catch the attention of those driving by the clinic.
“The benefit of me being there during this time is probably minimal,” she admitted. “Although I felt very compelled to stand against the fact that we have a governor claiming if it saves just one life to keep ourselves under house arrest and keep the economy from functioning as it normally would, we have to do this, we have to crush the economy. Why then in your wildest dreams does it make sense to keep abortion clinics open?”
Many states with Republican governors have attempted to restrict abortion during the pandemic by deeming it a non-essential medical service, but those orders have been struck down by courts.