History of violence forced abortion clinics to prepare
When a gunman killed three people and wounded nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in a Colorado abortion clinic last month, it was not surprising to those who have worked for the organization.
Shortly after the shooting, a former worker tweeted what she’d experienced in a three-year stint at a Wichita, Kan., clinic in the late ’90s. Bryn Greenwood, whose employment was confirmed by Planned Parenthood, tweeted that gasoline was poured under the clinic’s back door and ignited while the facility was occupied; butyric acid was poured under the clinic’s doors and into the ventilation system; and cherry bombs were left on the clinic’s doorstep. The clinic also was subject to three drive-by shootings and hundreds of threatening phone calls.
Data back up those claims. According to a 2010 RAND Corp. report, the most recent study available, Planned Parenthood clinics were subjected to more than 300 acts of “extreme violence” between 1973 and 2003, including arson, bombings and murders.
Those acts have forced abortion providers to prepare clinics in ways that may have saved lives in Colorado. Twenty-four people were evacuated unharmed from inside the Colorado Springs clinic, which had a safe room and bulletproof vests. None of the clinic’s staff were harmed. Police officers deployed to the scene also tapped into the clinic’s high-tech security cameras, which let them see where the shooter (allegedly 57-year-old recluse Robert Dear) was at all times.
The Colorado mass shooting and the California shooting that occurred five days later come amid heightened domestic and international political tensions. Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation have reported a significant increase in threats after an anti-abortion group posted covert videos purporting to show a senior Planned Parenthood official discussing the sale of aborted fetuses for research purposes. And federal investigators are looking into possible terrorist links behind the shooting that killed 14 people last week in San Bernardino, Calif.
After last month’s terrorism attacks in Paris, HHS sent a letter to hospital systems asking them to review their protocols for active shooting situations in their facilities. Noting that healthcare workers have to keep themselves safe while protecting others, the guidelines suggested following the mantra “Run, hide, fight.” That is, run away from the shooter, find a secure hiding place and fight back if the shooter comes close. Other guidelines involve regular drills and discussions about how to handle immobile patients.
But exhaustive security measures come at a financial and psychological cost. “We take full responsibility for our own security, and that is an added expense for all of Planned Parenthood across the country,” said Carole Brite, CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois.
Large hospitals with their robust security teams are well-positioned to adopt comprehensive protective measures and train personnel. But it’s harder for outpatient facilities, which historically have not required significant attention to security.
“A lot of times, clinics and areas are very open and very active, and they think that needs to be a part of the caring environment,” said Ben Scaglione, director of healthcare security services at G4S Secure Solutions and secretary of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety. “But, unfortunately, we’re seeing things are changing.”