With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade – an eventuality that a leaked draft opinion all but confirmed this week – Florida is providing a glimpse of the future for states that keep abortion legal.
It has 55 abortion clinics, more than seven other Southeastern states combined. It’s also a “receiving state.” In the past five years, more than 16,000 people traveled there from other parts of the U.S. for abortion care.
It’s made the state an abortion oasis in the South. That reality has been deeply frustrating to the national anti-abortion movement, and it’s motivated an intense protest effort. But its on-the-ground impact has been almost impossible to measure – until now.
In a first-of-its-kind analysis, we examined 4,000 police call records for every clinic in Florida from 2016 through 2021 and found that calls related to clinic harassment, disturbance and violence doubled over the past six years.
Hundreds of calls were for relatively minor infractions such as trespassing and what police refer to as “suspicious” activity. But the majority in our analysis were more serious, like a man who tossed two Molotov cocktails into a Fort Myers clinic. Or a woman whose daughter had an appointment at a Gainesville clinic and called and threatened, “I will kill that doctor if they kill my grandbaby.”
As abortion is curtailed or banned across the country, the last remaining open clinics will offer protesters fewer and clearer targets. Abortion rights groups are predicting that acts of intimidation, harassment and violence will skyrocket. And they say providers and patients have precious few protections.
“At what point did we forget about the women, the pregnant people?” one Jacksonville clinic owner asked. “What about their lives? What about our lives? The rest of their lives? Does that not mean anything?”