Shortly after Robert Lewis Dear killed three people and injured nine others at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs the day after Thanksgiving, we learned that it wasn't his first time targeting the women's health organization.
We have also since written about the sad truth that this is nothing new -- Planned Parenthood workers have been dealing with harassment and violence from anti-abortion extremists for years.
This morning (Dec. 4), Mother Jones published an article detailing some of the extreme, absurd measures Planned Parenthood workers have had to take to protect themselves. Here are nine:
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Vicki Saporta, the president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (Which, according to Mother Jones, "advises member clinics, including the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, on how to beef up security") told Mother Jones that unlike most medical providers, "most staff at clinics go through drills and training on how to respond to different types of threats."
Jen Boulanger, a director of communications for a group of women's clinics and a former clinic director, also told Mother Jones, "We're not heroes, we're health care providers. We're here to help women, period." Unfortunately, being willing to do that in the U.S. also means being constantly vigilant against the threat of violence.
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"Unfortunately, facilities that provide abortion care have had to employ security measures that aren't common for other medical practices," Saporta told Mother Jones. "These measures can range from bulletproof glass to special entry systems, metal detectors to security guards."
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Kevin Bohannon is co-author of the book "Living in the Crosshairs" and a physician who has spent decades providing women with abortion care. "If anybody told me when I was in medical school that I would go to work armed and with a bulletproof vest, I would have thought they were nuts," Bohannon told Mother Jones. "But I do have a bulletproof vest, and I do go to clinics armed these days."
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According to Mother Jones, "Dr. Susan Wicklund was at one point the sole abortion provider in many parts of the Midwest...one day she was attacked by two men waiting for her at the back entrance of her clinic." After that attack, she often took extreme measures to get into and out of clinics safely, among which, Wicklund revealed in her memoir "This Common Secret," were "riding in the trunk of a car," and "sometimes arriving at five in the morning and sleeping in the clinic until the rest of the staff arrived."
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Mother Jones reports that during her time as a clinic director, Jen Boulanger "took different routes home after work each day to conceal her address. But one day she was off her game, and a particularly aggressive anti-abortion activist followed her from the clinic back to her house, leaving fliers on all her neighbors' homes and asking them to demand that she quit her job. She eventually moved."
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Long-time abortion-care provider Rodney Smith has faced so much harassment and so many threats of violence that he "has a special arrangement with airlines so that when he flies, he buys a decoy ticket for a different destination, to throw protesters off his tail," according to Mother Jones. The article also notes that Marshall Cook, another abortion provider, reports "flying into an airport 100 miles away from where he needed to be" in order to keep his location a secret.
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Rodney Smith also "avoids spending too much time in public places," according to Mother Jones, "and when he eats out, he gives a fake name and tries 'to be in and out within 30 minutes,' to decrease the chances of a confrontation." The outlet notes that Smith began taking these precautions because "His property has been set on fire, he's been attacked in court, and his daughter has received calls in the middle of the night announcing that her parents have been murdered."
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"Some abortion clinic staff avoid driving to work altogether," according to Mother Jones. "Instead, they drive to some nondescript public location and get picked up by a co-worker who isn't a target of harassment and can drive them safely to work," often changing up the pick-up locations daily and even using decoys to increase safety.
In addition to riding to work in the trunk of a car, Dr. Susan Wicklund has reported having to wear costumes, wigs, and makeup to disguise her identity so that she could move safely between clinics and her home without being harassed and threatened.
Incredibly, despite all of this, Mother Jones reports that "fewer than 2 percent of abortion providers quit because of extremist harassment," and that "in fact, intimidation and attacks often strengthen providers' resolve and commitment to their patients."