(CNSNews.com) -- The National Abortion Federation (NAF) condemned pro-life activists for protesting outside abortion clinics because they potentially could spread the coronavirus to women who are there to have abortions and/or to the clinic staff and escorts.
"It is absolutely shameful that anti-abortion groups and individuals are ignoring public health guidance and putting patients, clinic staff, and law enforcement at risk," said NAF President Very Rev. Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, an Episcopal priest.
"This is not only selfish--it's dangerous," she said. "In many places, these protesters are able to walk right up to patients as they enter or exit the facility or surround them as they walk to and from their cars."
"This behavior blatantly ignores the CDC guidance and can feel particularly threatening to patients now that concerns about the coronavirus are heightened," added Ragsdale. "We have even heard reports of protesters intentionally coughing on clinic escorts and making physical contact with patients and providers attempting to enter clinics."
The NAF cited news reports of arrests in North Carolina where police tried to cite "stay-at-home violations outside abortion clinics."
Also, "San Francisco’s first citation for violating the stay-at-home order was an anti-abortion protester outside a clinic," said NAF.
The abortion group also noted that pro-life demonstrators had assembled "outside Detroit clinics the past two weekends claiming that they are having a religious gathering. After being cited, an antiabortion protester sued. The citation was recently dropped and his exemption from the stay-at-home order was confirmed."
U.S. District Judge Janet Neff in Grand Rapids signed the order to close the case because the governor's office agreed that the pro-lifers had a First Amendment right to engage in “expressive religious activities," while maintaining social distancing.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's (D) stay-at-home order says, “Persons may engage in expressive activities protected by the First Amendment within the State of Michigan, but must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the person’s household.”
Nonetheless, the NAF's Ragsdale said protesters on a sidewalk demonstrate "that these anti-abortion individuals and groups care more about their personal agenda than the health, well-being, or lives of anyone. We each have a duty to protect the health and safety of our families, our communities, and our nation."
"Law enforcement must enforce current orders to restrict gatherings and travel," she said. "And leaders in the anti-abortion movement should stop instructing their followers to blatantly ignore public health guidance and condemn protests and gatherings outside abortion clinics."
"The National Abortion Federation condemns this reckless behavior, which puts patients, abortion providers, and local law enforcement’s health at risk by increasing their risk of exposure," said the group in its statement.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, there were 867,000 abortions in the United States in 2017. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, there have been an estimated 61,628,584 abortions in the United States, according to the National Right to Life Committee, which used Guttmacher Institute and CDC data to calculate its estimate.