Kentucky has been a battleground state for abortion access over the years, and to many people – both supporters and opponents – Planned Parenthood is heavily associated with abortion access.
When Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced that its Louisville Health Center would resume providing abortion services this past March, there was much fanfare and focus on the clinic, which included protestors.
But many of our clinics, which do not actually provide abortion services, see some of the most violent and threatening protests outside their doors.
Unfortunately, both our Bluegrass Health Center in Lexington, Kentucky and our Louisville Heatlh Centers are no exception to this.
“People come often to protest abortion,” said Louisville Health Center Manager Jessica Carpenter.
George Collins, Security and Safety Director at PPGNHI, noted that “Louisville gets a lot of protest activity, and Lexington not as much, though... Lexington still averages about two protestors a day.”
Carpenter added that protestors sometimes mistakenly think they are protesting Planned Parenthood at the EMW Surgical Center in Louisville, one of the other two current abortion providers in the commonwealth.
“Anyone that does abortion is seen as Planned Parenthood” to some of our opponents, and vice versa, Carpenter said.
Though Lexington Health Center is not an abortion provider, “we see a ton of people come in for their birth control prescriptions and annual exams. That’s what we’re known for in a lot of communities, that’s what people rely on us for,” explained Health Center manager Rachel Simpson.
She noted that while the protests can be disruptive and sometimes frightening for both patients and staff, Planned Parenthood has extensive security protocols.
What are Planned Parenthood’s security protocols for dealing with protesters?
Linda Simpson, Security Manager at PPGNHI, said, “Protesters disrupt business operations, scare staff and visitors and make visiting our facilities a negative experience, that is their intent. Planned Parenthood takes a whole approach to dealing with protesters; Sites are chosen for location and to have a private entrance away from public access to defeat protesters. Also, our windows are blacked out, access to sites are restricted, and visitors are screened before being permitted entry. When needed, on-site security and volunteer escorts are utilized, and sites are monitored with CCTV. “
Collins added, “[Specifically] at Louisville, a good thing is that the protesters are a far distance away from the building entrance. Louisville utilizes a guard during days abortions are provided. The staff have been trained not to engage with protesters. I’ve also provided the health center managers with training materials which delineate what protesters can and can’t do.”
He explained: “If they’re not trespassing, they’re not trying to engage or harm patients or staff, and they’re not being disruptive, that’s fine. But we won’t allow protests to stop us from providing care to patients. So, we have protocols in place to protect everybody if something different happens.”
So far, the tight protocols have been working, as rain or shine, protesters or no, with the Lexington and Louisville Health Centers seeing thousands of patients so far this year to provide essential health care.
So what should Planned Parenthood supporters and patients do when they encounter protestors?
“Do not engage with protesters, they are usually recording and want to engage with staff and visitors. They frequently heavily edit the video and mislead viewers as to the actual conversation,” advised Linda Simpson. “It most bothers them when we act as though they do not exist and totally ignore their actions and behavior.”