This Fall, Reproaction and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia joined together for monthly “Positive Presences” to support the Falls Church Healthcare Center in Northern Virginia. Once a month, activists woke up early to stand outside of the clinic. With wide smiles and signs, we challenged the hateful and misleading chants from our opposition by offering compassion, and support for patients. Together we sent the message loud and clear to our opponents: we will not tolerate hatred and harassment in our community.
NARAL Virginia first began their Positive Presence events in November of 2016. Throughout the year, activists have been waking up early, sometimes in rainy and snowy conditions, to head to Falls Church to stand in solidarity with patients. Activists hold up signs of support with messages like “You’re Not Alone” and “We Love Falls Church Healthcare Center” — all while ignoring the increasingly aggressive and relentless “pro-life” presence at the clinic.
The Falls Church Healthcare Center is one of the few remaining clinics left in Northern Virginia, and as a result has been the target of pro-life terrorism. This past spring, the clinic made national headlines following, not one, but two emergency evacuations. The clinic was targeted with firecrackers and bomb threats. While the clinic has always been the subject of protest, the anti-abortion opposition has begun to make appearances a daily occurrence.
Saturday, October 14, was no exception; throughout the morning pro-life protestors came to the clinic to chant, pray, pass out pamphlets, and yell at patients. While those protestors were restricted to the sidewalk, many patients still had to endure their harassment before entering and leaving the building. Many pro-life protestors will do whatever it takes to reach patients, like asking their fellow protesters to surround the clinic and using plastic megaphones to amplify their message.
A positive presence may not seem like an action-packed way to stand up against pro-life hate. Yet showing up consistently sends a message not only to our opposition, but to patients and the community. It’s without surprise that many Saturdays neighbors driving by will stop to share messages of support, or even join in. Especially in an area home to over 10 crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) – those are anti-abortion fake clinics – and an organized anti-abortion movement, it is left to us to speak up for what is right. As a community, we know it is more important than ever to stand up for abortion access. Often, independent clinics like the one in Falls Church do not have the resources necessary to stand up to opposition. It is important to note that three of five people who have an abortion receive care from an independent clinic.
Abortion is a right that we all should have access to, and we must not tolerate the opposition who hopes to infringe upon and take away that right. As clinics across the country continue to close, we must continue to fight to increase access to abortion.