June 25, 2015 — While the sentencing of "an anti-choice vandal" last week "sends a strong message that anti-choice violence will not be tolerated in" Montana, abortion-rights supporters "cannot end the conversation here," guest columnist Maggie Moran writes in a Bozeman Daily Chronicle opinion piece.
Moran explains that the vandal "was sentenced to jail time and ordered to pay restitution after destroying the only clinic in the Flathead Valley to provide abortion services." However, she notes that abortion providers continue to face the threat of violence "every day," with "6,400 acts of violence against abortion providers" -- including arson, assassinations and bombings -- reported since 1977 in the U.S.
She writes that such "[v]iolence and intimidation have a lasting ripple effect beyond the closure of one clinic and the trauma of one provider," noting that "more than 400 Flathead Valley residents have been without their primary healthcare provider" since the clinic was vandalized. Further, "this destruction has an insidious effect on abortion access because it creates a climate of fear in the medical community," Moran continues.
Moran notes that such acts are committed "to send a message" that individuals "are not safe" at abortion clinics, which "stokes a fear in healthcare providers -- even ones who support abortion rights -- which compounds the difficulty of already dwindling access to abortion services." Such fear can "dete[r] professionals from entering the field, from providing abortions if they are in the field, and from moving to (or staying in) a rural area that needs services," she adds.
Moran concludes, "Moving forward, we need to push back against this climate of fear and create safe spaces for medical professionals to talk about abortion access, [its] legitimacy in the medical field, how we can support abortion providers, and how we can ultimately increase access to this necessary, and legal, medical procedure" (Moran, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 6/23).