People Who Have Abortions Vs. the Police

In early June, Brooklyn-based writer Ashoka Jegroo documented on Twitter the chaos outside an abortion clinic in Manhattan. Anti-abortion protesters were guided through the streets by the New York City Police Department as they sought to harass and intimidate people who were coming to have abortions. In the series of videos, the police are seen shoving pro-choice protesters who were protecting patients from the mounting aggression of abortion opponents. Nearly every officer in the video has their backs to the anti-abortion marchers and their focus appears to be on monitoring the pro-choice counterprotesters and patient defenders.

I’ve seen this before. In January, police gave safe passage to the Patriot Front, a white supremacist group, attending the annual March for Life rally in Washington, DC, organized by anti-abortion groups.

Protesters harassing patients is not new; nor is police failing to do anything about it. But what has become more clear is that Democratic leaders continue to believe the lie that police are necessary to protect abortion access — or are the sole solution in any other situation in which white supremacist violence is expected — when there’s little evidence to back up that claim . Ask any clinic escort or defender how often the police look past the obvious assaults and the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act violations on any given Saturday. Every frontline activist has a story about police officers who go join the anti-abortion protesters during their breaks or who chat them up while supposedly protecting and serving. Not to mention the fear police presence strikes in patients and clinic workers of color and undocumented people.

Coming any day now, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling will bring about the recriminalization of abortion across half of the nation. The Supreme Court ruling is expected to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow the states to determine when abortion should be available. This will mean that in half of the states abortions will not be available to the majority of people who need them. Where abortion is a crime, state officials will be responsible for enforcing the law, and that duty will fall primarily to the police – the very police who now support and foster anti-abortion harassment of patients.

This is no longer a hypothetical, so let me be direct: It is not possible to support people who have abortions and be pro-police. It never was. We cannot claim to support the oppressed while giving untold sums of money and power to their oppressors “in our defense.”

We saw this all too clearly during President Biden’s 2022 State of the Union address. Ahead of the event, my organization, We Testify, called on him to use the word “abortion” and to share his plan to protect access during this crisis. Rather than say what it will take to make reproductive rights real for all, he echoed a call to “fund the police.” Three times.

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