The U.S. Department of Justice has announced its commitment to combating violence by protesters at abortion clinics across the country. U.S. Attorney General William Barr issued a statement Monday saying that the DOJ is “committed to protecting a woman’s access to reproductive healthcare, regardless of where she lives.”
In recent years, violence by anti-abortion protesters at clinics has seen an uptick. In 2017, there were more than 650 reported incidents of harassment, violence, and intimidation, according to the National Abortion Federation. This includes blockading clinic entrances, threats and acts of violence, vandalizing clinic property, and sabotaging clinic operations. Barr’s statement calls on law enforcement to take a more aggressive approach to addressing these incidents.
The statement also notes that the DOJ will work with state and local law enforcement to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute anyone found to have committed acts of violence against abortion clinics and personnel. Barr also noted that the department will take a proactive approach to preventing future attacks.
The announcement of Barr’s commitment to confronting violence against abortion clinics is being widely praised by reproductive rights advocates, who have long been pushing for more aggressive law enforcement action. Heidi Williamson, Director of Public Policy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that the announcement “sends a clear signal that the DOJ is taking seriously its responsibility to protect access to reproductive health care and to enforce the law.”
The announcement is also seeing push-back from some anti-abortion groups, who argue that the DOJ is unfairly targeting their cause and that the majority of protester are peaceful.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, this news sends a strong message that the DOJ is taking aggressive steps to protect the accessibility of reproductive health care. Women should not have to fear for their safety if they decide to exercise their right to legal abortion.