Abortion Clinic Harassment Scratches Religious Itch, Rarely Changes Abortion Decisions

Following links from The Atlantic article on South Dakota’s upcoming rate-cap initiative leads me to this report on the results of the Supreme Court’s reversal last year of Massachusetts’s abortion clinic buffer zone law. That decision allowed abortion protesters to breach the previous 35-foot buffer zone and walk right up to patients entering Planned Parenthood clinics and shout desperate pleas, bad science, and condemnations that may have nothing to do with the personal reasons bringing women to those healthcare facilities.

(I look forward to being granted similar latitude when I’m marching the sidewalks of Aberdeen with initiative petitions this summer. I’ll try not to shout.)

Alas, all that Sadducetical shouting outside abortion clinics doesn’t achieve much:

2012 study published in the journal Contraception surveyed 1,000 women at 30 different clinics and found that about half of them felt at least slightly upset after encountering pro-life activists. Those who saw the protesters without hearing them were less likely to be affected—only 3 percent of those women reported being extremely upset. But there wasn’t much difference between women who heard protesters and those who were actually stopped by them: 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively, reported feeling extremely upset by their encounters.

What’s more, the women who were stopped by protesters were no more likely than any of the other women to feel guilt, sadness, anger, or regret a week after their abortions. The women who were most likely to feel those negative emotions were the same women who struggled with the decision initially; it made no difference whether they encountered any protesters once they got to the clinic.

In other words, says Dana Greene Foster, a medical researcher at UC San Francisco and the study’s lead author, when a woman is determined to terminate her pregnancy, protesters have little effect on her decision. As Foster puts it. “The reasons women have abortions are much more important to them than someone else’s opinion about abortion.” The Supreme Court has upheld the right to protest on public sidewalks, and all the way up to a clinic’s front door. And for those who equate abortion with murder, showing up each day with signs, flyers, and rosary beads may feel like God’s work. But even the most dedicated among them know that true “saves” are few and far between [Diane Pearl, “Can You Change a Woman’s Mind in the Walk up to an Abortion Clinic?” The Atlantic, 2015.03.19].

A rational cost-benefit analysis suggests abortion-clinic protesters could save more lives through vocal support of birth control, maternity leave, and universal health care. Alas, there’s no rational argument with someone in the grip of religious fervor.

10 Responses to Abortion Clinic Harassment Scratches Religious Itch, Rarely Changes Abortion Decisions

  1. Roger Elgersma

    Pro abortion women tell us that it is a very difficult decision to abort their baby. Now you say that the only ones that have a problem with protesters is those who had a hard time with it themselves in the first place. Well that may be a lot of them.

  2. bearcreekbat

    If I understand the surveys, these protesters do not stop women from following through in obtaining abortions. Roger E’s point appears to be that the protesters have been able to cause pain to most women? And how might that be a good thing if it doesn’t stop the abortion?

  3. mike from iowa

    god tells these holier- than -thou thugs to cause pain in his name. They hear voices,holy commands to do what is necessary to preserve every fetus so they can be abused in his name when they are older. Every fetus has the potential to be someone’s sexual plaything but if enough are forced to be born some will make it through adolescence unscathed,maybe.

  4. Deb Geelsdottir

    Roger, you’re playing word games to suit your view, but not move the conversation. I’ve never seen or heard of a pro abortion woman. You could have simply told us you oppose abortion without trying to smear anyone.

    When you said women tell you their decision to have an abortion was difficult, what was your point? I know several women who’ve had an abortion. None felt it was an easy or simple decision. It required thought and consultation. Does that surprise you?

    One needs to be cautious with those gimmicky generalizations like “pro abortion.” They very often make the speaker sound ignorant.

  5. Roger begs the question, at least in my mind, are men who want or approve or encourage their spouse, significant other, to have an abortion because they do not want the responsibilities of a child “pro-abortion?”

    I think it is incredible that some men think that women become pregnant without the sperm from a man, and that it is acceptable to put all the responsibility of conception, pre-natal care and rearing children

  6. I meant conception prevention.

  7. Deb Geelsdottir

    Another of Scott Walker’s right wing crapola has bitten the dust. This is a successful court challenge of another attempt to restrict women’s autonomy.


  8. mike from iowa

    Good article,Deb. Interesting to me is that wingnuts act as if their religious beliefs are the laws of the land and trump the constitution in all cases.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir

    Oh Mike, that’s a really icky article. Jeez. Hard to believe the pregnant woman survived.