Yesterday, a 22-year-old woman kicked an anti-abortion protester’s sign as she made her way into an Oregon-area Planned Parenthood clinic, and the protester pushed her in response. The woman returned with her father, who instigated a physical confrontation with the protester — later identified as 54-year-old Christopher R. Tolhurst — which resulted in Tolhurst repeatedly stabbing the man. The Oregonian reports that he remains in the hospital recovering from seven stab wounds to the abdomen.
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood for Southwestern Oregon explained to the Associated Press that the clinic that inspired the violent confrontation only provides health services, such as contraception and cancer screenings, and doesn’t perform any abortion services. Nevertheless, residents of the neighborhood confirmed that Tolhurst regularly harasses the clients who visit the health clinic:
Neighbor Charlotte Cook said the protester would accost people coming and going through the area.
“It was an accident looking for a place to happen,” she said.
Cherie Adams said he would yell obscenities at her when she walked past him, and she changed her route to work.
“He’s been out there for months,” she said. “He’s screaming at people. I had a feeling something like this would happen.”
Over the past two decades, violent anti-abortion harassment has been on the rise, and some studies have suggested the problem is exacerbated by restrictive anti-abortion legislation that may encourage right-wing protesters’ fervor. Earlier this month, repeated harassment at a New York City health clinic forced it to stop providing abortion services altogether. To help mitigate the potentially damaging effects of harassment at abortion clinics, New York City has just launched a clinic escort program to help ensure women can safely walk past anti-abortion protesters and enter reproductive health clinics.