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Assessment of the anti-abortion movement: constant violence

Politicsit is to run away of a draft opinion of the Supreme Court annulling Roe vs. Wade generated a fair share of media coverage on the future of abortion rights and the history of the anti-abortion movement.

A number of pieces to have explored how conservatives brought us to this moment and how abortion rights divided American politics for half a century. Journalists and commentators examined the legal philosophy of anti-abortion activists, public opinion on reproductive rights and how abortion has become a hot topic at election time.

But one topic is largely absent from media coverage: the role of right-wing violence in the movement against reproductive freedom. Yes, anti-abortion forces defeated deer through fierce political campaigning. But they have also used outright violence, including attacks on abortion clinics, doctors and patients.

It’s not exactly a secret. In 1991, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology warned that there was a “Epidemic of Anti-Abortion Violence in the United States.” From 1977 to 1988, the newspaper reports, there were 110 cases of arson, firebombing or bombing of abortion clinics, and during the same period “the national rate of violence was 3.7 per 100 abortion providers and 7.2 per 100 non-hospital abortions”. suppliers.” A study a few years earlier, published in the American Journal of Political Science, found that anti-abortion crime was concentrated in areas with the “greatest acceptance of violence against women”.

When filing their amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationthe case that will probably overthrow deerone group of feminists made sure to mention the violent record of the anti-abortion right:

Acts of anti-abortion violence during the period from 1977 to 2019 include at least 11 murders, 26 attempted murders and at least 756 threats of violence or death, 620 incidents of harassment and four kidnappings. Crimes directed at clinical facilities have included at least 42 bombings, 189 arson attacks, 100 attempted bombings or arson attacks, and 662 bomb threats. The actual numbers are probably much higher.

Among these incidents was the 2009 assassination of George Tiller, a doctor from Wichita, Kansas who performed late abortions, while in church and a 1997 abortion clinic bombing outside Atlanta that killed two people and injured six. (The author of the latter, anti-abortion extremist Eric Rudolph is currently in service a life sentence at ADX Florence Supermax Prison.)

Eleanor Bader, co-author of Targets of hate: anti-abortion terrorismwrote in an email to Jacobin that anti-abortion zealots “harassed the provider’s children with incessant messages that their ‘parent is killing babies,’ and shot, and ultimately killed, more than 10 clinic staff, including doctors and receptionists. This violence was not directed at any other type of medical care and led to increased stigma against abortion. This relentless movement fought against all gains made by women and was enormously successful in its efforts to roll back feminist progress. Since 2017, abortion rights advocates say they have seen a general increase in anti-abortion violence.

Although these acts are generally believed to be the random outbursts of lone wolves, at least one studyfocusing only on incidents of violence in Pensacola, Florida, found:

There is evidence that many anti-abortion activist groups are affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, various militias, and anti-taxation activist groups. One such group, the United States Taxpayers Party, is setting up a training center to teach “militant” and “ruthless” techniques. Two of its leaders, Jeffrey Baker and Howard Phillips, publicly advocated the murder of abortion providers. Although the number of violent extremists is small, their impact has been disproportionate.

In recent days, some commentators have rightly pointed to this violent strain of the anti-abortion right. Write in the Washington PostMonica Hesse gave a nod to “abortionists who go to work with bulletproof vests in picketed buildings” and USA today describes how abortion clinics are reassessing their safety measures in light of deerhis impending demise.

But for the most part, this major piece of post-deer the story was made a footnote. Not only does this distort the historical record, it whitewashes the anti-abortion movement. Because those who seek to secure reproductive freedom by offering abortions have not only been harassed and vilified, they have been under constant threat of violence.