We did it! Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Charlotte NOW, National NOW, the Feminist Majority Foundation and other allies, the Family Reproductive Health clinic in Charlotte, N.C., was free of harassment and terror threats from extreme anti-abortion rights group Operation Save America for the first Saturday in eight years.
Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue) staged a national event in Charlotte July 17-24. They boasted of their intentions to target Family Reproductive Health clinic on Saturday, July 24, but when they saw 70 peaceful abortion rights supporters outside the clinic, they packed up their red "murder" bus condemning women's fundamental right to choose, LGBT people, and people living with AIDS and left. That's right -- they packed up and left.
But this fight isn't over.
Frankly, I traveled down to Charlotte on Friday expecting the worst. Our people on the ground were reporting harassment from trees outside the clinic, large-scale demonstrations over highway overpasses during rush hours, and even protests outside a local mosque. And for eight years, leaders of Operation Save America have built scaffolding to rise above the fences protecting the clinic, so that they might scream at women seeking legal and safe abortion care and the doctors and staff who bravely serve them.
But NOW members rose to the challenge. Charlotte NOW President Cindy Thomson led a local pro-choice coalition that organized clinic defense trainings, found free places to stay for NOW members and supporters who wanted to help, and worked late into nights for months on end. When National NOW recently sent out an alert asking for volunteer phoners to help turn out NOW supporters in North Carolina, we got immediate assistance from women's rights advocates around the country willing to use up their cell phone minutes to say, Enough is enough! Leave the Family Reproductive Health clinic alone.
Arriving Saturday morning, I joined grassroots NOW leaders who had driven quite some way to defend the clinic -- North Carolina NOW President Gailya Paliga, longtime NOW National Board member and leader Robin Davis; New York State NOW Young Feminist Task Force co-chair Meghan Shalvoy; even Florida NOW Secretary Dennis Blanchard, who drove all night to get there before the clinic opened. With allies and supporters, we stretched out along the block and realized we had 70 positive, peaceful demonstrators helping to defend the clinic from Operation Save America's planned siege. The result? A man harassing the clinic climbed down from a tree, and left in a car with men wearing Repent America! T-shirts.
At the end of the day, a clinic staffer came out and thanked the group for creating the first Saturday in eight years where clinic doctors, staff and the women they serve were free from harassment. As the group filtered away, one of the doctors came out in his scrubs and thanked us for our help. It was truly amazing.
Please help NOW support, foster and grow our grassroots network so that it is even more powerful around the country -- fighting back against extremists takes more than a village. It takes a NOW chapter.
For reproductive freedom,