An OB-GYN who also provides abortions wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post titled, "Being a doctor who performs abortions means you always fear your life is in danger" in which she explained how threats of violence and intimidation tactics directed at reproductive health service providers affect them and their patients.
Conservative media often compare abortion providers -- like people who work at Planned Parenthood -- to Nazis and Josef Mengele, but the potential for inciting violence is very real when radio, television, online, and print outlets use their public platforms to spout extremist rhetoric and fan the flames of public anger. Reproductive health care facilities have suffered arson attacks and other forms of vandalism in the wake of this summer's release of deceptively-edited videos by an anti-choice group that were heavily promoted by Fox News and other conservative media organizations.
From Dr. Diane J. Horvath-Cosper's October 29 Washington Post op-ed:
Every few months, I do an Internet search for my name, as recommended by a media-savvy colleague. In the past I've found myself in all the predictable places -- among a list of doctors who graduated from my residency program, on my employer's Web site, in various social-media posts. But in the stillness of a warm evening this past August, after putting my daughter to bed, I found myself in a new and terrifying place: an anti-choice Web site that claims I am part of an “abortion cartel.” In addition to my office address and links to find my medical license numbers, it features several photos of me. In one of the photos, taken from social media, I'm holding my then-15-month-old daughter.
Though the site claims to be “informational” in nature, the real purpose is clear. There is no better way to intimidate and incite fear than to target a family member, especially a child. The message is unambiguous: I'm being watched, and so is my daughter.
I am an obstetrician-gynecologist. Among the many medical services I provide my patients, I also perform abortions for women who need them. That's made me a target for harassment online and in person over the course of my career.
Numerous colleagues have similar stories. On social media, I've witnessed friends and mentors called murderers, Nazis, racists and whores. The threats can be vague ( “I hope someone does to you what you do to babies” ) or terrifyingly specific ( “I know where you live, and someday I might show up at your doorstep” ).
Too often, these threats are not all talk: In the past two decades, 13 physicians or staff members at abortion-providing facilities have been killed or seriously injured.
As hard as it is for physicians and staff who work at these clinics, the impact isn't just on providers. When patients are confronted by threats and intimidation, some of them are too frightened to enter the clinic to get the care they need. These women deserve empathetic, respectful care -- which is what my colleagues and I have studied and practiced for years to give them -- not judgement, and not violence. Targeting clinics also prevents women from getting other essential medical services, from cancer screenings to ultrasounds to sexually transmitted-infection testing and treatment.