Defending Human Rights: Abortion Providers Under Siege


Primary Content

Watch the first installment of the Center’s three part video series, Intimidation &, Harassment: Preying on Providers, documenting the real stories of abortion providers, clinic employees and patients.In this video, shot in Pennsylvania, meet the executive director of a clinic in Allentown who refuses to let harassment stop her from doing her critical work and clinic employees in Philadelphia recalling the nightmare of a blockade of protesters on their front door step.
These videos parallel the findings in the Center’s Defending Human Rights report.

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About the Report

Abortion providers in the U.S. are human rights defenders. They work, often against great odds, to help women realize their reproductive rights. They ensure that all women have access to accurate medical information, a secure place to make private decisions, and, most importantly, access to safe medical procedures.

It took the murder of Dr. George Tiller to focus the media for a moment, but abortion providers face unacceptable obstacles every day in their effort to defend women’s reproductive rights.

These courageous and tenacious professionals are frequently denied governmental and social support for their vital work. The much-publicized murders of abortion providers are exclamation points in what is often a culture of daily harassment and intimidation. Discriminatory legal restrictions and pervasive abortion-related stigma present additional obstacles to their efforts to defend women’s fundamental rights.

This constant assault doesn’t just endanger and marginalize abortion providers, it denies the rights of the one in three American women who will seek an abortion in their lifetimes.


Here are some facts:

  • 24% of women in the U.S. have to travel 50 miles or more for abortion services. In 2007, 720 out of 810 abortion patients at the Planned Parenthood in Birmingham drove over 150 miles.
  • According to the Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortion providers in the U.S. declined by 25% between 1992 and 2005. Guttmacher found that 87% of all U.S. counties lacked an abortion provider in 2005, and that 35% of women in the U.S. live in those counties.
  • During the 2009 state legislative session alone, 23 bills restricting abortion were introduced in Texas and 18 were introduced in Mississippi.

The federal, state, and local governments need to recognize that reproductive healthcare workers are human rights defenders. They must take positive steps to fight the harassment, discrimination, legal restrictions, and stigma they experience. These steps are essential to guaranteeing women’s right to access reproductive health services.

Calls to Action 

What Governments should do:

  • Enforce and strengthen existing laws that protect abortion providers.
  • Stop passing laws, and repeal existing laws, that simply harass abortion providers and are not medically necessary.

What you can do:

  • Speak Up. There are people giving their lives to provide abortion, the least we can do is stop self-censoring about our pro-choice beliefs and speak up. This is the most profound thing to do to effect change for something you care about.
  • Talk to your friends, your family, your coworkers, and your community.
  • Find out what the laws are in your state by talking to local advocates, and tell your legislators you oppose them.

Click here to download the full report for free >,