Austin Women's Health Center Blog&Inspiration

UPDATED: How To Deal With Abortion Protestors

June 4, 2020
abortion protestors

Sometimes making the decision to have an abortion is accompanied by complicated emotions, and those feelings can be amplified when encountering protestors on the day of your appointment. Even though most people know having an abortion is the right decision before coming to our clinic, sometimes protestors gather near our entrance in hopes of changing someone’s mind. Their presence makes receiving healthcare feel more stigmatized, but those people don’t know your life, circumstances, or reasons that led you to our clinic.


Although protestors don’t gather outside of our clinic every day, our staff is dedicated to ensuring the security and safety of everyone who visits our facility. We have on-site security in addition to providing escort services into the clinic, which means you can call us any time and a staff member will meet you to walk you in. Over the years, we’ve learned helpful ways for patients to prepare for the possibility of encountering protestors.


COVID-19 UPDATE: It’s important to recognize that despite CDC social distancing recommendations, protestors are still gathering outside of abortion clinics. Sometimes they adhere to these standards among themselves, and sometimes they don’t, which is why it’s so important to not approach them and not to give them the conversation they’re looking for — not even if they’re wearing masks. 


If protestors approach you, let us know immediately as your health is our top priority.


Know Where You’re Going


Familiarize yourself with our location so you will feel comfortable and confident on the day of your visit. Our clinic is privately located off of the I-35S frontage road behind a 15-foot fence that was assembled with patient privacy in mind. Protestors are unable to enter our private property but can gather near the sidewalk and entrance to the parking lot. Directions to our office can be found on our directions page.


Know What to Expect


If a protestor approaches your car when pulling into our clinic, or steps in front of your vehicle, remain calm until they move and don’t roll down your window. They are not allowed to block you from entering our property, and you should call our clinic immediately if they don’t move. Protestors sometimes use this tactic to show you anti-choice brochures and pamphlets in hopes of scaring you out of this decision, but you are under no obligation to talk to the protestors, answer their questions, or take their pamphlets or handouts. The best way to deal with the harassment is to remove yourself from the situation and avoid engaging.


Protestors will always be on the other side of our 8-foot fence, and hopefully, they won’t interact with you at all. But once you’ve parked and head towards our entrance, sometimes protestors will attempt to have a conversation with you. They may claim our clinic isn’t sterile, that we use dirty tools, and don’t care about our patients. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They may tell you you don’t have to have an abortion, that there are other options, and that you should go to a crisis pregnancy center they recommend instead. At AWHC, we support all pregnancy options and are here to talk about all of them if that’s what you need! But crisis pregnancy centers are known to lie to people, and their main goal is to prevent someone from having an abortion.


Know The Facts


Protestors use fear-mongering language and scare tactics to shame people out of having an abortion. They repeat disproven myths (such as a risk of infertility, breast cancer, mental health issues, and that most regret it) that sound scary, but aren’t medically backed by science. Abortion is a medical procedure that’s 14 times safer than giving birth, and it’s also safer than having your wisdom teeth removed! And according to studies, most people who have abortions also don’t regret it — even years down the line. In fact, the most common feeling after an abortion is a relief.


Know Your Rights


Protestors cannot touch you, physically threaten you, block your path to or from our office, or vandalize vehicles or property. If you believe that your rights have been violated or fear for your safety, tell our staff immediately. We are prepared to involve law enforcement whenever necessary. You aren’t doing anything wrong by having an abortion, and as much as protestors disagree with our decision, it isn’t their decision to make.


Bring a Friend


If you are coming to see us for an abortion, you’re more than welcome to bring a support person with you. Many people find that it helps to have a friend, relative, or partner come with them for support, especially when each appointment can take several hours. Walking in with a friend can also make us feel more confident if we’re visiting on a day that protestors have gathered. Keep in mind they aren’t permitted to go into any patient’s areas, only the waiting room.


NOTE* Because of COVID-19 precautions, we’re requiring support people remain outside or in their cars for the time being. We apologize for this inconvenience as we do our part to minimize the spread of coronavirus among the community. 


Wear Headphones and Sunglasses


Listening to music (or your favorite podcast) through headphones when you arrive can not only help you remain focused, but it can drown out any harassment that protestors may shout from the sidewalk. Additionally, some people may find that wearing sunglasses helps to avoid eye contact with protestors. Protestors know that this can be a sensitive time for people, and they’re hoping to play on those emotions in whatever way they can. Making eye contact is a form of communication, and avoiding it deters protestors from engaging with you because it shows you aren’t interested in what they have to say.


Visit Pro-Voice Storytelling Websites


Over the years, several storytelling organizations and websites have developed that provide people who have abortions with a platform to share their stories. Oftentimes, they’ve experienced unique barriers in addition to feeling stigmatized, and reading about their experiences can make us feel less alone and more empowered.


Shout Your Abortion, which started with a hashtag, provides a storytelling platform on their website and through their book, which you can find inside our clinic to read. You can even submit your own experience anonymously if you’re comfortable!


We Testify centers the experiences of those who are most impacted when accessing abortion, and 2plusabortions focuses on the stigma surrounding multiple abortions. Even though almost half of the people who have abortions do so more than once, it’s still something some struggle with seeing as okay. But you should know that you’re not alone, and these resources exist to show you that!


Call Us If You Need Us


We want you to feel confident and prepared for your visits to our office, and as we mentioned before, your safety and health are our top priorities. We’re sorry that you may have to experience the presence of protestors on the day of your visit, but know that when you come inside, our staff supports you in whatever decision you’ve made. You’ll also meet with a counselor one on one where you’ll have time to work through any emotions the protestors may have brought up for you. We want this to be a comfortable experience for you from the start, and if you still have questions or concerns, please call us. Our staff is here to discuss our procedures and help you and any companion prepare for your visit.