Occupied Muscogee Creek land — Pensacola, Fla.
A group of activists, organizers and those in support of reproductive justice held Dec. 27 and Jan. 2 demonstrations at American Family Planning, a reproductive health clinic that provides abortion. The community gathered to oppose anti-abortion reactionaries, who have been terrorizing clinic workers, nurses and patients every day.
These reactionaries, calling themselves “Abortion Abolitionists,” stand outside of the clinic, barely off the property, holding up photoshopped signs of supposedly aborted fetuses, advertisements for phony “abortion reversal pills” and grotesque anti-Black images of enslaved people — comparing them and the entire history of African slavery to aborted fetuses. This ignores the fact that it was forced pregnancy and reproduction by rape that white-enslaver plantation owners used to make obscene profits from the very bodies of Black women.
There is no fence around the clinic currently, so the reactionaries are free to stand in full view of the clinic and scream at anyone going in, for up to 10 hours a day. Those getting the procedure have to walk by this abuse, and those there to drop people off have to either drive away or sit in their car with the windows rolled up to shut out the hatred.
On Dec. 27 a group of 15 clinic defenders showed up to protest the anti-choice reactionaries and show support for clinic workers, nurses and patients. The 5 ½ hour-action was organized by the Central Gulf Coast branch of Workers World Party. Clinic supporters held signs that said “Abortion is a human right!” and “Pro-life? Then go protest at an ICE detention camp!”
The bigoted reactionaries attempted to intimidate clinic defenders by filming them and taking pictures of their cars and license plates. They even went so far as to post the photos on Facebook and call other reactionaries for backup.
But their intimidation tactics failed. Around lunch time, a patient, who had come to the clinic for a procedure, surprised the clinic defenders by ordering pizza for all of them! A few minutes later, clinic workers also ordered pizza for the defenders as a way of saying “thank you.” Coincidentally, the first pizza delivery driver who showed up supported the defenders and took a few minutes to argue with the anti-choice reactionaries, before going back to work in a blaze of working-class solidarity.
Another clinic defense was announced by WWP-CGC for 8 a.m. Jan. 2. But in secret on that day, members of the branch organized a small caravan of pro-choice activists to arrive at the clinic at 6:00 a.m. The supporters used their cars to take up all the parking spots on public property, just outside the clinic, where the anti-abortion reactionaries typically park. This left the bigots nowhere to park close by, forcing them to walk for a distance to do their harassing.
That day’s protest lasted 8 ½ hours,with many more people coming in support of reproductive rights. Backing up the anti-abortion harassers was a fascistic former state representative.
The clinic allowed the WWP-CGC branch to hang a large banner on the side of its building that read: “Abortion is a human right! Support nurses/clinic workers!”
Clinic workers again surprised their defenders by ordering lunch for everyone.
The nurses and clinic workers kept repeating how shocked they were to see such a big turn out for the pro-choice community. That day some of those waiting for their friends and family to have a procedure sat outside the clinic with the defenders, not feeling so pushed around by the screaming of the right-wing, reactionary bigots.
Long, violent history of anti-abortion terror
Pensacola has a long history of anti-abortion violence against clinics, doctors and escorts dating back to 1984, when the “Ladies Center” (now American Family Planning) was bombed twice in the same year. It was first destroyed by a pipe bomb in June 1984, and then it was bombed again that year on Christmas Day — with a message that the second bombing was “a gift to Jesus on his birthday.”
On March 10, 1993, “Christian” terrorist Michael Frederick Griffin shot and killed Dr. David Gunn at the now-defunct Pensacola Women’s Medical Services clinic. This was the first documented murder of an ob-gyn specialist in the U.S., where the killer’s stated intention was to prevent the doctor from performing abortions. Griffin was sentenced to life in prison where he remains today. The murder was followed by a letter published by thirty anti-abortion extremists, led by right-wing reactionary Paul Jennings Hill, stating that the murder of doctors who performed abortions was justified.
In 1994, anti-abortion terrorist Hill himself murdered Dr. John Britton — Dr. Gunn’s replacement — along with his bodyguard James Barrett, outside the Ladies Center. Hill was arrested, tried and executed in 2003.
In 2012, Bobby Joe Rogers, another anti-abortion terrorist, firebombed the American Family Planning clinic at its current location, gutting the entire facility. He received 10 years in prison and is expected to be released next year.
Abortion must be accessible!
As for people getting access to abortion in Florida, besides the right-wing reactionary anti-abortion mobs, there remains the fact that, state-by-state over the decades, many aspects of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade have been limited.
For instance, one person at the clinic to get an abortion stated to Workers World that they had driven to Pensacola from Louisiana, since that state’s reactionary anti-abortion laws would have meant they would have had to wait for the procedure. For some people, having to wait means they would then be beyond the legal limit for having an abortion in their state. Additionally, abortions cost around $500, making them unaffordable for a lot of working-class people.
While the right to abortion has not been absolutely overturned in the U.S., the anti-abortion campaign over the years has made it almost impossible for most low-income people to get accessible, affordable, safe abortions near where they live.
The struggle to make abortion accessible, safe and free must and will continue.
Likewise, so will the struggle to keep the patients, nurses, and clinic workers safe from right-wing reactionaries.
Devin Cole is a transgender Marxist organizer and writer. They are the president of Strive (Socialist Trans Initiative), a transgender advocacy organization in northwest Florida, and a member of the Workers World Party – Central Gulf Coast (Alabama, Florida and Mississippi) branch.