165 protest abortion outside A Woman's Choice in Jacksonville
About 165 anti-abortion protesters demonstrated outside A Woman's Choice of Jacksonville on Monday, stopping traffic and blocking employees and patients from entering the clinic, the clinic said.
Officers of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office allowed the protest to extend beyond public property into private parking lots, the clinic said in a statement posted on its website.
The protest violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a 1994 law that makes it a federal crime to obstruct entrance to a clinic or use force, the clinic said.
"We have notified the FBI and asked they investigate JSO’s continuing lack of enforcement of the FACE Act, their collusion with anti-abortion protesters, and our complaints about the harassment, intimidation, threats and acts of violence against our staff, volunteers and patients that have gone unaddressed by the JSO for years," the clinic statement said.
JSO responded with a statement saying that Assistant Chief Craig Waldrup was at the site for four hours with eight officers and supervisors.
“Assistant Chief Waldrup has been working with members of both parties over the last year to ensure they completely understand their rights and responsibilities as it relates to these events, which have been taking place for years at this location,” the statement said.
"The officers on scene assisted throughout the event with traffic direction and control, pedestrian ingress and egress, as well as escorting patients to and from the business to ensure a safe posture was maintained. There were zero incidents observed by the officers on scene, and there were none reported by protesters, business or patients.”
Abortion has become an explosive issue across the country since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Abortion clinics around Florida have reported escalating episodes of harassment and violence.
Florida this year banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but earlier abortions remain legal.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to make Florida's abortion law more restrictive. An anti-abortion political committee, the Protect Human Life Florida Committee, is proposing a constitutional amendment that would recognize a "God-given right to life of the preborn individual." The proposed language states that the right to life "shall not be infringed at any stage of development."
The committee would need to submit 891,589 petition signatures to get on the 2024 ballot, the News Service of Florida reported. It then would need approval from at least 60% of voters.
A Woman's Choice said the protest at its Jacksonville clinic took place Monday morning, as patients tried to enter the clinic.
"The tactics used by these law-breaking protesters outside our clinic are intended to frighten and prevent patients from obtaining the reproductive care that is right for them — and to terrorize those that provide this essential care," A Woman's Choice said in its statement. "This atrocious behavior would not be tolerated outside any other medical facility. It should not be tolerated here."