Serve Others, Protect Yourself: Tips for Pregnancy Centers
No one ever thought things could get this wild.
With the recent leakage of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion in the Dobbs case, pro-choice activists have taken to the streets in protest of the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade. While most of the protests have been peaceful, a number of pro-choice people have grown ever more cruel and abusive in their invective towards pro-life advocates.
A vocal minority, Jane’s Revenge, has taken the matter even farther, beyond all limits of reason. Attacking pro-life pregnancy centers in the name of stopping what they call “fake clinics,” Jane’s Revenge has engaged in acts of vandalism and firebombing. Publishing a recent manifesto, Jane’s Revenge promises they will up the ante against pregnancy centers, and are calling for a “Night of Rage” the day Dobbs is handed down.
These threats need to be treated with the utmost concern by pregnancy centers, as well as pro-life advocates in general.
Having worked in public safety within both the private and public sectors for the past several years, I’ve compiled a list of ways pregnancy centers can work to protect themselves and their patients. While this is not an exhaustive list, it can help staff members at pregnancy centers and pro-life organizations enhance their own safety and security. A number of these methods, tools and tactics can be used by pro-life offices, businesses, places of worship, and other locations which could find themselves victimized. It should also help further conversations within the pro-life community about finding ways to be safe while advocating on behalf of women and babies.
1. Install security cameras. Perhaps the best way for pro-lifers to get involved in supporting pregnancy centers during this time would be to help purchase and install security cameras. I get that there is a confidentiality aspect within the centers, but having good security camera footage on hand in the event of a crime against your center will go a long ways towards prosecuting people of ill repute who decide to act stupidly. For centers located within strip malls or business parks, talking to the property owner about installing cameras might be a good place to start. After all, crime is a big deterrent for customers who frequent the other businesses within the strip mall or business park, and these other businesses pay rent, so it’s within the interest of the property owner to install a camera system. Cameras also aren’t as expensive as they used to be. A quick perusal of Amazon or other home improvement retailers can help you find the cameras best suited for your center. You don’t have to fork out thousands of dollars to install decent cameras. Just make sure they are able to save video footage that can be easily reviewed and downloaded. Law enforcement agencies can use this footage to assist in their investigation should you or your center become targets of criminal activity.
2. Extra Police Patrols. Find out which municipal, county, or state law enforcement agency has jurisdiction in your area, and give them a call. Police departments can assign extra patrols for free in areas with a potential for crime. Asking for extra patrols during non-operating hours is a smart idea, and a marked law enforcement patrol unit frequenting your area can act as a deterrent.
In addition, try to get to know the law enforcement officers who patrol the beat where your center is located. Offer coffee and snacks to the police officers who work in your area. If feasible, you can also offer a quiet place for patrol officers to write reports and catch up on paperwork during downtime. A large part of a police officer’s job involves paperwork, and many patrol officers look for quiet places to park their patrol vehicles to catch up on work, or simply to find a bathroom in a safe area. Think about offering the officers working in your sector a spot to park near the center where they won’t be bothered needlessly.
It is also helpful for police to have working relationships with community resources to whom they can direct people to who need help the most. A large number of police calls for service involve relationship issues such as domestic violence, and knowing of resources where people can go to find help will go a long way.
3. Armed Security. Somewhat related to the above point, consider hiring armed uniformed security to patrol or be posted near your center during working hours, even if just for the few weeks after Dobbs is released. Having uniformed security in the area can be a deterrent to people looking to cause trouble, and can start addressing any problems should they develop in a timely manner. You can even hire on-call security should problems develop, as some abortion facilities do this.
4. Have an action plan. Talk to your staff members and volunteers about what you will do in the event of criminal behavior during operating hours, and (if need be) how you will continue serving the needs of mothers seeking your help in the event your pregnancy resource center is attacked. Have a controlled entry point (such as your front door) that you can lock should people come by to cause trouble. Consider installing a remote lock which can be accessed from either an office or the front desk should trouble start. Also have a dedicated exit point, like your back door, that you can quickly access should the need arise, but which can’t be accessed by the public.
If you have an emergency plan in place already, great. Review it. See if it is up-to-date (newsflash: emergency response plans for non-profits usually get overlooked). And try to poke holes in it. Talk to your staff members and volunteers, and get their input.
5. First Aid. Very often when tragedy does in fact strike, the first responders at the scene aren’t wearing uniforms, badges and radios. Very often, they are the people already present. Make sure staff members have some first aid knowledge in the unlikely event someone is injured in a criminal act, or more generally, in the event anyone needs help after being injured in an accident. Invest in a Stop-The-Bleed kit in addition to keeping other First Aid supplies handy. Keep these kits in a visible location, where they can be accessed quickly by anyone should the need arise. A good first aid kit should have more than mere Band-Aids for small cuts. It should have tools which can be accessed and applied should someone be seriously injured. This is a good practice for other locations as well, such as at home or in your car.
Given Jane’s Revenge has threatened to up the ante with their attacks (and are increasing their potential prison sentence lengths in doing so) you ought to be prepared in the event someone gets hurt. Sad to say, we live in a world where people are easily triggered into committing acts of harm against others.
Created by the US military, Stop-The-Bleed is an easy technique to learn, and there are a lot of groups who provide both materials and training for reasonable prices. Stop-The-Bleed.org is a phenomenal place to start looking into the matter. Groups such as North American Rescue, Dark Angel Medical, and even your local emergency services can help you acquire training and resources. Talk to your local fire or police department about organizing a first aid training for your staff and volunteers. Most emergency service agencies are happy to help members of the community be equipped.
6. If You See Something, Say Something. Report any and all suspicious behavior you come across. Vehicles and individuals that linger too long for no apparent reason, people taking photos of things that normally don’t get photographed, individuals making strange statements about matters which people don’t normally talk about, people asking questions about your security, when staff members arrive or depart for the day, an individual wearing excessively baggy or heavy clothing in warm or hot weather, and even mundane matters such as where your deliveries come in; these are all behaviors you should report to your local law enforcement agency IMMEDIATELY.
Here’s why: Criminals, especially when it comes to extremist group-types (a category Jane’s Revenge clearly falls into) tend to plan out attacks. They will probe targets to see how likely they are to succeed in carrying out their attacks. We’ve all heard of burglars casing homes, businesses and vehicles; the same principle applies to dealing with extremist groups. Behavior that is at odds with the normal day to day activities of the people who frequent your center and the surrounding neighborhood isn’t necessarily cause for concern, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Now, the behaviors listed above may turn out to be innocent, but that’s not for you to decide. When a call of suspicious behavior is directed to private security or to law enforcement, an officer may come by to conduct a further investigation into whether or not a criminal act is likely to occur or is occurring. In addition, the report the security officer or police officer writes can be forwarded to investigators who can process the information obtained. Many crimes have been either stopped in their tracks or have been prevented from occurring due to quick-thinking on the part of concerned citizens. Most big cities and county agencies have counter-terror and crime suppression teams devoted to intelligence gathering, and they can open a closer investigation based on reported suspicious behaviors. Let the experts sift through the reports, and focus on helping women and babies in need.
7. Be Safe When You Go To and From the Center. When you get ready to leave for the day, consider walking in a group instead of separately, especially at night time. Perhaps even consider carpooling for a time when Dobbs gets released, so as to prevent having to leave the center alone. As the old saying goes, there is safety in numbers.
Conclusion: An Opportunity for Pro-lifers
Pro-life advocates need not and should not be afraid of groups like Jane’s Revenge, but we should still be smart. Terrorists don’t get to dictate whom we get to help and when we get to help them. People need help. Let’s be there to serve them.
The actions of Jane’s Revenge are pretty far removed from the decision making of any rational person, and should be openly condemned by everyone, pro-life and pro-choice. By attacking pregnancy resource centers under cover of darkness, Jane’s Revenge is sending the message that they love abortions more than they love women. And by showing they love abortion more than they love women, the argument of Jane’s Revenge collapses. By trying to shut down the resources which empower women to avoid abortion, Jane’s Revenge is forcing women into feeling as if they have no other choice than abortion. Having only one option when it comes to pregnancy is pretty much the exact opposite of being in control of one’s body.
Ironically, Jane’s Revenge is handing the pro-life movement a huge opportunity here. Most pro-choice people are not as filled as hatred as Jane’s Revenge. Pro-lifers can and should ask our pro-choice opponents “Is abortion really worth going through such lengths to defend?” Any honest person can see that it is not. When pro-choice activists behave like spoiled brats, all they do is show how unreasonable the pro-choice position actually is. In doing so, they push people into listening to the pro-life perspective.
Pro-lifers should use this opportunity to boldly tell the truth about abortion. We should use this time to show the culture what we really do to support women in need compared to what abortion clinics do. Anyone who thinks an abortion clinic is a better option for a woman than a pregnancy center has their head screwed on wrong.
Jane’s Revenge may think they can win, but all they will do is push people to the pro-life side.
[Today’s guest article is by David Nathanson. Photo credit: ]
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