Hundreds of anti-choice activists are descending on New Orleans this week to stage protests around the city.
Reproductive rights advocates view the protests as part of a continued assault on women’s access to reproductive health care in the city and the state. The planned protests have local law enforcement gearing up for their presence with extra vans, barricades, plainclothes intelligence officers, cops wearing body cams, and some officers on horseback.
Operation Save America, formerly Operation Rescue National, began its week-long demonstration Saturday protesting New Orleans’ Causeway Medical Clinic and what the group has ascertained to be the private residence of
an abortion provider. The protests that have been planned over the last several months will conclude on July 26.
The New Orleans Police Department and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department reportedly will have uniformed officers outside both the Causeway Medical Clinic and the Women’s Health Center throughout the week.
“Anytime we have demonstrations and things like this, we always want to make sure we deploy some people there both in uniform and plainclothes,” Col. John Fortunato, a spokesperson for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department, told the New Orleans Advocate.
“Just for the visibility aspect. We don’t anticipate having any problems. It’s just a precaution, and we want to make sure we’re out there and the citizens know we’re out there to protect the community,” said Fortunato.
The protests follow on the heels of legislative efforts to reduce access to reproductive health care in Louisiana, which
advocates say are already having a negative impact on residents’ access to reproductive health-care services.
In a press release Melissa Flournoy, the Louisiana state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said the protests are motivated in part by the construction of a new Planned Parenthood facility in the city that will offer a full range of reproductive health services.
Local anti-choice organizations have attempted to prevent the building of the facility with television advertisements and billboards, as well as by calling for boycotts of local businesses that have been hired to take part in the construction of the facility.
“These groups that have been harassing us and the local business community for months don’t do a thing to help people detect cancer or avoid unintended pregnancy,” said Melaney Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. “We’re taking action to help more people get health care, and these attacks only make us stronger.”
Volunteers with the New Orleans Abortion Fund told RH Reality Check that together with the Feminist Majority Foundation and others, allies are organizing clinic escorts and legal observers to ensure the safety and well-being of patients and clinic staff.
“This opposition only steels our resolve to expand access to health care in New Orleans, and we’re moving forward full-steam to build this health center so that more people can get cancer screenings, birth control, and STI testing and treatment,” Flournoy said.