Protesters line the sidewalks of abortion clinic, Bread and Roses

Props and literature in hand, pro-life believers stand outside the Bread and Roses Women’s Health Clinic for their two-hour shift of prayer and protest. Photos by Lily Wan.

Shirley and Joe have been standing on the sidewalk for three hours, but they don’t mind. They stand with a handful of other protesters, Bibles and rosary beads in tow, in front of Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, a clinic that performs abortions every Wednesday and Friday. These pro-life advocates, who have gathered in the weeks leading up to the 2012 presidential election, have joined together to pray and protest.

The couple, who has been married for 49 years, were adamant about seeking alternative options before deciding to have an abortion. The two cited several resources available to women seeking an abortion, including adoption facilities, confidential helplines and other pro-life organizations.

“If it’s something you can’t handle,” Shirley said, “another couple can.”

Shirley was especially concerned with the idea of performing an abortion on a woman who has been pregnant for several months.  However, the National Abortion Federation (NAF), a professional association of abortion practitioners, states that 88 percent of abortions are obtained in the first trimester. Nevertheless, in Florida, a woman can legally have an abortion through her second trimester.

Monica and Ryan also stood in protest in front of the Bread and Roses clinic with Shirley and Joe.  They claimed to engage in the protest both for religious and personal reasons. All four declined to give their last names.

“Everything we’re doing here is out of love for the unborn,” Ryan said. “It’s meant to be a peaceful protest.”

Though the protesters claim their demonstrations are intended to be peaceful, their mere presence can be a perceived threat to Bread and Roses patients.

“[Protesters] make it really uncomfortable for the patient who has made her decision for personal reasons,” said Amara Kaimrajh, the Escorting Chair for VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood.

As Escorting Chair, Kaimrajh’s main responsibility is to escort patients into Bread and Roses and make them feel at ease.  She said she has made an effort to remain neutral on the subject of abortion but enjoys her volunteer position.

“It’s a great way to spend your time; it’s for a good cause,” she said.

This relatively small protest in Gainesville, FL is a visual reminder of the controversy surrounding abortion nationwide. The issue made its way onto several states’ ballots of the November 2012 election, including Florida.

The Florida Abortion Amendment, or Amendment 6 on this past election ballot, would have prohibited the use of public funds for abortions except as required by federal law and to save the mother’s life. This amendment would have essentially allowed politicians to dictate what rights women have by controlling what medical insurance does and does not cover. Randy Armstrong, president of the group Citizens for Protecting Taxpayers and Parental Rights, which came out in support of the amendment, claims a private act should not be a public expense. But many against Amendment 6 believe women have the right to make their own decisions about their bodies without being held hostage by third parties, like insurance companies.

While Amendment 6 was voted down 55 percent to 44 percent this past November, there are many who disagree with the legality and availability of abortions, even in the case of incest or rape.

“Does one crime justify another?” Monica said, alluding to the notion that performing an abortion on a woman who has been raped is, essentially, committing two crimes. “I want to put an end to the abortion industry.”

According to the NAF, the “abortion industry” performs an average of 1.3 million abortions each year.  They also report that the women who do choose to have abortions come from all backgrounds, religious, ethnic, socioeconomic, etc.; are between the ages of 20 and 24 and are unmarried. 27 percent of abortion patients identify as Catholics.

While the majority of private medical insurance plans and HMO organizations currently cover abortion services, 57 percent of women who had abortions in 2000 were of low-income and unlikely to have a good medical insurance plan, let alone one with a low deductible. The NAF reports that, while the cost of an abortion increases with how far along the pregnancy is and various other factors (kinds of anesthetic, the facility, etc.), a first-trimester abortion generally costs between $350-$500.

While of course nationally, abortion remains legal, protesters like Shirley will continue to turn out nationwide and gather in front of abortion clinics, where they still exist and remain accessible, to pray for these “crimes” and attempt to sway passersby with signs and rosary beads.  Locally, Gainesville stays abortion-friendly — boasting not one, but two abortion clinics to provide healthcare services to women in need.

“There is murder going on in there,” said Shirley, standing in front of the Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center.

Amara Kaimrajh waits outside Bread & Roses to escort a patient past the protesters and into the clinic. “We’ve had human shielding,” she said. “It can get tense.”