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Experiences with small and large numbers of protesters at abortion clinics in North Carolina

  • Author Footnotes
    1 Present address, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, 305 E. 23rd Street, Austin, TX 78712, United States.
    Whitney Arey
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author.
    Footnotes
    1 Present address, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, 305 E. 23rd Street, Austin, TX 78712, United States.
    Affiliations
    Department of Anthropology, Brown University, Providence, RI, United States
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 Present address, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, 305 E. 23rd Street, Austin, TX 78712, United States.

      Abstract

      Objectives

      To analyze the association between number of antiabortion protesters and patients’ and their companions’ experiences accessing abortion clinics in North Carolina.

      Study design

      In this concurrent mixed-methods study conducted in 2018–2019 at two independent abortion clinics in North Carolina, the author triangulated the methods of participant observation, descriptive statistical analysis of survey data, and thematic content analysis of open-ended responses to compare experiences of respondents who observed larger (>10) versus smaller (1–10) numbers of protesters at their clinic visit. The analytic sample contained experiences of patients and companions who saw protesters during the study period.

      Results

      Of 1530 people approached for the survey, 886 (58%) completed the questionnaire. Overall, 655 respondents were included in the analysis. Most respondents (n = 546, 83%) saw 1 to 10 protesters, versus those who saw >10 protesters (n = 109, 17%). Respondents who saw 1 to 10 protesters had their cars stopped at higher rates (53%) than those who saw >10 protesters (40%) but reported being physically approached at similar rates (22% vs. 23%). Respondents who saw >10 protesters indicated that it was more dangerous to drive into the clinic (44% vs. 23%) and more difficult to access the clinic (65% vs. 39%), when compared with people who saw 1 to 10 protesters. Respondents who saw >10 protesters also reported that they thought about leaving more frequently (21% vs. 12%), that the protesters made them feel unsafe (44% vs. 23%), made their visit more stressful (71% vs. 59%), and protesters negatively impacted their clinic experience at higher rates (47% vs. 31%).

      Conclusions

      Respondents experienced logistical barriers to clinic access regardless of the number of protesters, though these worsened with larger numbers of protesters. Respondents perceived larger numbers of protesters as more intimidating and felt less safe navigating into the clinic. While all respondents made it to their appointments, these perceptions about larger numbers show how clinic protesting is an intimidating force that interferes with clinic access.

      Implications

      Showing the ways that the number of protesters relates to logistical and emotional barriers can help clinics in planning mitigation measures to address issues of clinic access for their patients and their companions.

      Keywords

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