Last year, one New Mexico police officer who had adopted a child from a pregnant woman he found using heroin appeared in uniform on an anti-abortion billboard in the state. At last year’s Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, reporters identified many anti-abortion activists and police officers from across the country among the throngs of violent protesters, appearing to deploy the violent tactics that are often used outside clinics.

But even more concerning than documented cases of police officers playing footsie with anti-abortion protesters, police departments across the country have repeatedly targeted, criminalized, and jailed people for allegedly self-managing their abortions, or experiencing miscarriage and stillbirth. According to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, prosecutions of pregnancy outcomes have tripled in recent years, primarily targeting Black, Indigenous, and other pregnant people of color who already face heightened, racist discrimination from law enforcement. This prompted California Attorney General Rob Bonta to issue a recent guidance advising law enforcement in his state to not charge people for murder over pregnancy loss.

No one should be particularly surprised by possible anti-abortion sympathies among law enforcement—not when there are so many anti-abortion laws to be enforced. Just last year, Arkansas’ legislature passed a bill that would only allow an exception for people seeking abortion care after 20 weeks of pregnancy in the extremely rare event that they’ve already reported their rape to police. Other laws in some states require health care providers to report patients who might be seeking abortion care supposedly due to the fetus’ race, sex, or disability to law enforcement. Texas’ abortion ban is enforced through the deputization of a citizen police force to surveil and sue anyone who helps someone have an abortion for upwards of $10,000.


Some advocates see anti-abortion lawmakers as directly responsible for the emboldenment of clinic protesters, who often increase in numbers or become more vocal outside clinics following the passage of new abortion bans and restrictions. The outcome of Louisville Officer Matt Schrenger’s lawsuit, appearing to reward him for intimidating a clinic, is a grim reminder that clinic staff and patients who are overwhelmed or possibly even afraid for their lives may not be able to turn to law enforcement for help.