Planned Parenthood’s no-engagement policy, which Sims’s behavior challenged, applies to demonstrations large and small. In February 2017, anti-abortion activists coordinated protests at more than 200 Planned Parenthood locations across the country as part of a “De-Fund PP Nationwide Rally.” But instead of asking their supporters to counterdemonstrate in solidarity with patients, clinics asked them to stay away and directed them to alternative rallies being held in public spaces.
Their posture reflects that of abortion providers more broadly, who emphasize that their clinics are supposed to be safe zones devoted entirely to health care. “We don’t believe the clinic is a place for political protest,” says Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, an organization with locations in several states that’s perhaps best known for its eponymous Supreme Court case, in which the justices struck down two abortion restrictions in Texas. “We believe our facilities are there as an oasis for providing pregnant people with compassionate care that is respectful and dignified.”
“The larger the group outside, the more confusion there is. The louder it is,” says Alison Dreith, a communications consultant at the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois. “When patients are walking into our clinic, they’re oftentimes already afraid and confused and going through multiple different emotions.”