It’s important to us that you feel safe visiting Planned Parenthood health centers. At some of our health centers or at other abortion providers, you may face vocal protesters outside who don’t believe in your right to sexual and reproductive health services and education. These protesters shouldn’t keep you from the health care you need and deserve.
Know that Planned Parenthood health center staffers are no strangers to protesters. And they have plans in place to keep you safe and comfortable both inside and outside of the building. In many cases, our health centers have security guards and/or escorts on hand who are trained to protect you and help you get to your appointment as quickly as possible.
Here are five things to help you deal with protesters:
Know that protestors are single minded and want to take away your freedom
Protesters are there with one purpose, to stop you from making your own informed decisions about your health and body and getting the health care you need. But it’s actually against the law for protestors to touch you or block you from going into the health center. You can keep this in mind as you plan your visit.
You do NOT have to talk to protesters, pay attention to them, or take any of their materials. Some protesters might quietly hold signs or pray. Some might call themselves “sidewalk counselors” and try to nicely talk to you or offer to give you help or false “information” meant to scare or pressure you out of getting an abortion. Some might be more aggressive, with bullhorns, signs, or flyers featuring inaccurate depictions of abortion. Or they may try to hand you baby clothes or small dolls to shame or intimidate you. They may even wear vests and pretend that they’re real clinic escorts to try to confuse you. Your best move is to ignore them.
Know their tactics and beware
It's important to know that protesters sometimes try to persuade Planned Parenthood patients to visit their vans or “mobile clinics” or go to a different clinic. Don't do it. They’ll claim to offer free ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, and counseling, but it's a ruse; they’re deliberately trying to trick you into listening to disinformation and — often — religious propaganda. They are NOT real health centers or abortion providers and usually there are no medical providers at all. They’re anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy centers," and instead of providing the full range of medical care or factual information you need and deserve — they often try to scare you out of the services a real health center provides.
Block them out
Summon your inner rockstar and wear sunglasses and a jacket or sweatshirt with the hood pulled up to help avoid eye contact. Put in earplugs or listen to music in your headphones to block out their voices. You can also bring an umbrella, magazine, or newspaper to cover your face. Also, if you need the support, a friend or family member can walk with you, though depending on the health center’s policies, they might not be able to come inside the health center with you.
Get help from clinic escorts
If there are lots of protesters, there will likely be health center escorts who are trained to get you to your appointment without being bothered. They usually wear vests that say something like “clinic escort” on them, and they’ll talk to you all the way to the door of the health center, if you want, so you don’t have to pay attention to protesters. Escorts may use umbrellas or other things to shield you and play music to help drown out protesters’ voices.
You deserve to get health care without shame or misinformation. If you’re worried about dealing with protesters, you can always call the health center for more information. They’ll be able to tell you what to expect and help you safely get to your appointment.
Planned Parenthood is here for you always.