Defending Choice in Charlotte

By Meghan Shalvoy

Every Saturday morning members of the Feminist Union at UNC Charlotte gather on East Hebron Street in front of Family Reproductive Health, a comprehensive women’s health care clinic, prepared to brave the elements and the antis. Anti-abortion extremists such as Flip Benham, leader of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, who was found guilty this week of criminal stalking and picketing for distributing WANTED posters of Charlotte abortion providers in their neighborhoods and offices.

Through training and support from the National Clinic Access Project, a project of The Feminist Majority Foundation, and the Choices Campus Leadership Program, members of the Feminist Union were trained in clinic defense and legal observation to support Family Reproductive Health against the harassment by anti-abortion extremists. The Feminist Union is just one of many pro-choice student groups across the country that are supporting the clinics in their community through FMF’s Adopt-A-Clinic Campaign since its introduction last Spring.

Since joining FMF’s campaign this summer to defend Charlotte clinics during OR/OSA’s siege of bullying and intolerance, the Feminist Union has continued their support of Family Reproductive Health. Each Saturday morning four to ten Feminist Union members serve as a physical barrier from anti-abortion protesters and ensure that all staff and patients safely enter the clinic with minimal harassment. Members also serve as legal observers to assist FMF in the prosecution of FACE and federal and state anti-stalking law violations.

charlotte clinic

“Defending Family Reproductive Health has really brought us together,” according to one member of the Feminist Union. “The antis have started targeting the clinic defenders and have given us all nicknames.” In addition to non-violent and non-engagement defense of the clinic, the group gathers to make signs to hold in support of the clinic and thank you cards to the staff. The Feminist Union has seen tremendous growth since their activism against clinic violence and now have a regular membership of 30 students! “It’s the utmost form of activism. You have to be out there to experience it, to see the injustice.”

Thankfully some of that injustice is starting to get national attention. Many news outlets including NPR, CBS, and MSNBC recently covered the WANTED posters distributed by anti-abortion extremist Flip Benham and the connection between such violent threats and the deaths of abortion providers. “These WANTED posters are communicating a threat to these abortion providers; doctors featured on WANTED posters in the past have become targets of anti-abortion extremists willing to kill, including most recently Dr. George Tiller,” stated Kathy Spillar, Executive Vice-President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Unfortunately the terror that is experienced by Family Reproductive Health is not exclusive to Charlotte, NC. Clinics across the country are experiencing an increase in clinic violence since the 2008 election. Comprehensive clinics and a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is under attack in your community! Join groups like the Feminist Union and support your clinic against anti-abortion extremists through FMF’s Adopt-A-Clinic Campaign. Contact your FMF National Campus Organizer and begin defending a woman’s right to choose today!

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