What Media Should Know About The Anti-Choice Group Protest ABQ
Meet The Group That Has A History Of Targeting Abortion Providers, Has Connections To Violent Anti-Choice Groups, And Is Now Feeding Misinformation To A Congressional Panel
Research ››› ››› SHARON KANN
Following in the footsteps of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Protest ABQ is the latest anti-choice group feeding misinformation to Republicans on the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. Protest ABQ is a radical anti-abortion group with connections to Operation Rescue, an extremist group with a history of ties to anti-choice violence. Here is what the media should know about these groups, their efforts to mobilize violence against abortion providers, and their connections to Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.
Despite Claims Of Objectivity, Select Panel Republicans Have Already Relied On Discredited CMP Videos As Evidence
Anti-Choice Republicans On Select Panel Have Been Recycling CMP’s Misinformation As Evidence. On March 2, Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives held its first hearing on bioethics and the morality of fetal tissue research. Despite claims of objectivity, the panel relied on previously debunked evidence taken directly from CMP’s work attacking abortion providers and fetal tissue research. Panel members submitted 12 evidence exhibits to the record in the first hearing. Three of these 12 exhibits, A1 through A3, contained documents from CMP’s anti-Planned Parenthood smear videos. [Media Matters, 3/7/16; Bioethics and Fetal Tissue Hearing, Document for the Record, Majority Exhibits, Accessed 4/7/16]
Democrats On Select Panel: Instead Of Following A “Fact-Based Standard,” Republicans Are Basing Their “Investigation On Allegations Of Anti-Abortion Extremists.” In a letter to select panel chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Democratic members of the panel warned that they were increasingly concerned about Republicans’ refusal to follow a “fact-based standard” of investigation. Instead, they argued, Republicans were basing their “investigation on allegations of anti-abortion extremists” such as the Center for Medical Progress. According to the letter, the previous investigations into Planned Parenthood all “relied on deceptively-edited videos created by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress (CMP)” and this now “appears to be equally true of this Panel’s work.” From Democrats’ letter to Blackburn (citations removed):
We are increasingly concerned that, rather than following the fact-based standard that you set for this investigation, you are basing your investigation on allegations of anti-abortion extremists. This was true of the prior House investigations, which relied on deceptively-edited videos created by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) to justify investigating and defunding Planned Parenthood. It appears to be equally true of this Panel’s work.
During the Panel’s first hearing, held on March 2, 2016, you asserted that “last summer’s videos revealed something very troubling is going on related to fetal tissue in research … procuring and transferring baby body parts.” Even more recently, during a March 22 interview on C-SPAN, you encouraged viewers to “go online and look at some of the raw footage” from these videos.
We have known for months that these videos are not factually accurate and do not show the unlawful sale of fetal tissue. In fact, they do not show anyone -- other than the makers of the videos -- doing anything unlawful.
Three House Committees, twelve states, and a Texas grand jury have already investigated the inflammatory allegations against Planned Parenthood fueled by Mr. Daleiden’s false videos and found no wrongdoing by healthcare providers. If finding fact-based answers for the American people is the goal, then admitting when the facts do not support particular allegations or partisan narratives must be part of our work. It is long past time to correct the record on Mr. Daleiden and his videos. [Letter to Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives Chair Marsha Blackburn, 4/7/16]
NY Times Editorial Board: Select Panel Is “A Showcase For Fallacious Attacks” And Is “Continuing The Campaign Against … Reproductive Rights That CMP Began.” After the select panel’s first hearing, the New York Times editorial board wrote that CMP attempted to “stir up opposition to abortion rights by concocting a controversy over fetal tissue research,” and now “Republicans in the House are doing much the same thing.” In particular, the editorial board called out the first hearing for operating as “a showcase for fallacious attacks on fetal tissue research” and using video and documents from CMP as evidence. The Times concluded that Republicans were “continuing the campaign against fetal tissue research and reproductive rights that the Center for Medical Progress began”:
With its hidden-camera videos that took aim at Planned Parenthood, the Center for Medical Progress tried to stir up opposition to abortion rights by concocting a controversy over fetal tissue research. Now Republicans in the House are doing much the same thing.
Initially convened in response to the videos, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, pledges to “get the facts about medical practices of abortion service providers and the business practices of the procurement organizations who sell baby body parts.”
Its first hearing last Wednesday was a showcase for fallacious attacks on fetal tissue research. In her opening statement, Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who heads the panel, talked about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the forced sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities as a prelude to discussing fetal tissue research. She went on to claim that the Center for Medical Progress’s videos showed “something very troubling is going on related to fetal tissue and research,” even though multiple investigations of Planned Parenthood have found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Since the panel’s goals are so broad, its future direction is unclear. What is clear is that by pursuing their baseless investigation into “baby body parts,” Republicans are continuing the campaign against fetal tissue research and reproductive rights that the Center for Medical Progress began. [The New York Times, 3/7/16]
Democrats Warn That Another Anti-Choice Group, Protest ABQ, Is Now Feeding Fraudulent Information To Select Panel Republicans
Democrats On Select Panel Concerned That Panel’s “Investigation Is Being Fueled By Additional ‘Documentation’ From Anti-Abortion Extremists” Known As Protest ABQ. In their letter to Blackburn, the Democrats warned that the select panel’s “investigation is also being fueled by additional ‘documentation’ from anti-abortion extremists” -- in particular, a New Mexico group called Protest ABQ. According to the Democrats, Protest ABQ is advertising on its website that it “submitted documentation, compiled over 5 years of research” directly to the select panel. Furthermore, Democrats argued that this documentation was not shared with them -- “in violation of House and Committee rules” and in spite of their “repeated requests” to receive all information collected during the panel’s investigation:
We know that at least one anti-abortion group claims to have provided the Select Panel with “documentation” that has not been shared with Democrats. That group has spent the past five years conducting a campaign of targeted harassment against a health care provided and university that you have chosen to target with the issuance of unilateral subpoenas despite their voluntary efforts to respond to your demands.
In addition to the continued reliance on the debunked videos from last summer, we are also concerned that this investigation is being fueled by additional “documentation” from anti-abortion extremists.
For example, the anti-abortion group Protest ABQ advertises on their website that it “submitted documentation, compiled over 5 years of research, to the panel …” Yet this information has not been shared with Democratic Members, in violation of House and Committee rules, and despite our repeated requests that you share all information being received or collected in the course of this investigation. [Letter to Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives Chair, Marsha Blackburn, 4/7/16]
Protest ABQ Is A Radical, Anti-Abortion Campaign Run By Former Operation Rescue Interns Bud And Tara Shaver. Protest ABQ is a radical public outreach campaign founded in 2013 by the New Mexico anti-abortion group Project Defending Life (PDL). Protest ABQ is run by husband and wife team Henry “Bud” Shaver and Tara Shaver, who serve as the campaign’s executive director and senior policy adviser, respectively. Formerly, Bud and Tara were interns for Operation Rescue, which is run by Troy Newman, an anti-choice extremist who has engaged in violent rhetoric and harassment. According to the Albuquerque Journal, since starting Protest ABQ, “Bud and Tara Shaver … have taken New Mexico leaders to task” for “claiming to be pro-life, ‘but not doing enough’ to end abortions.” Beyond pushing for legislation limiting access to abortion, the Shavers have “targeted administrators at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and exposed “unsuspecting children and parents to graphic images of aborted fetuses plastered on the side of their ‘Truth Truck,’ which also features text shouting ‘Stop the Killing.’” [Albuquerque Journal, 1/31/16]
PDL And Protest ABQ Target Clinics, Researchers, And Abortion Providers
Protest ABQ Released Video Attacking Abortion Providers Using Surreptitiously Recorded, Out-Of-Context Conversations. In January 2016, Protest ABQ released a video attacking Planned Parenthood and reproductive health clinics in New Mexico. The video combined audio purporting to be surreptitiously recorded calls with clinic representatives, as well as a compilation of previously debunked footage from the selectively edited work of Live Action -- an anti-choice group headed by Lila Rose. [Protest ABQ, 1/29/16; Media Matters, 4/24/12]
Protest ABQ Circulated Postcard With Photos Of Pro-Choice Health Care Providers Affiliated With The University of New Mexico. Following the select panel’s efforts to subpoena abortion and reproductive health care providers in New Mexico, Protest ABQ released a postcard identifying two providers affiliated with the University of New Mexico, including the health care providers' photos. In a press release accompanying the postcard on Protest ABQ’s website, Tara Shaver said the contracts for both providers should be terminated. [Protest ABQ, 3/29/16]
Protest ABQ Accused Providers Of “Selling Baby Organs” And Filed Complaint With The New Mexico Attorney General. In the controversy sparked by CMP’s deceptively edited videos, Protest ABQ called for a full investigation into the “scandal of selling baby organs” that it alleged was “going on in New Mexico.” To facilitate this investigation, Tara Shaver filed a complaint with the New Mexico attorney general arguing that Southwestern Women’s Options -- an Albuquerque-based abortion clinic -- “is violating state law by having patients sign a statement consenting to the use of fetal tissue in medical research … that may not be legal under state law.” [Albuquerque Journal, 7/28/15]
Protest ABQ Sent Postcards With Graphic Anti-Abortion Images To Albuquerque Voters During City Council Election. During a 2015 city council election, Protest ABQ sent postcards to Albuquerque residents with graphic anti-abortion images -- allegedly depicting an aborted fetus and a body of a woman who died as a result of a “legal abortion” procedure. Protest ABQ explained that the postcards “were meant to be graphic” in order to expose Albuquerque voters to “the radical abortion position” of Democratic candidate Pat Davis. The other side of the postcard featured a photo of Davis and a statement that he would “ensure that barbaric late-term abortions” stayed legal, and that a vote for him was “a vote against the women and children of Albuquerque. [Protest ABQ, 11/30/15]
Working With PDL, The Shavers Called For -- And Claimed Credit For -- Relocation Of The University Of New Mexico Reproductive Health Clinic. In 2014, the University of New Mexico announced plans to relocate its Center for Reproductive Health. The Albuquerque Journal reported that according to Tara Shaver, who spoke to the paper on behalf of PDL, the “move was prompted by stepped up protests by Project Defending Life” at the clinic’s initial site. A spokesperson for the university denied the claim and argued that “UNM began planning two years ago to move to a new site to improve on patient care.” The Christian news source One News Now reported that Shaver was “quite certain her group played a role in the decision to relocate” because it had damaged the clinic’s business. [Albuquerque Journal, 3/19/14 ; One News Now, 3/19/14]
PDL Targeted Providers And Administrators At Home To “Increase Pressure On A Personal Level.” The Albuquerque Journal reported that in 2014, PDL engaged in a series of protests outside the home of abortion providers and hospital administrators associated with the University of New Mexico’s Center for Reproductive Health. The protests were part of a “neighborhood awareness” campaign started by PDL to “increase pressure” on providers and administrators “on a personal level.” According to the Albuquerque Journal, the distance between the homes and the protestors was greater than in previous years due to a new ordinance passed “after a California anti-abortion group targeted” a New Mexico abortion provider at home. [Albuquerque Journal, 3/25/14]
The Shavers Drove Their “Truth Truck”-- Plastered With Graphic, Anti-Abortion Images -- To Rally Support For Failed Anti-Choice Ballot Measure. Before a 2013 vote on a 20-week abortion ban in New Mexico -- a measure that ultimately failed -- the Shavers drove their “truth truck” around the University of New Mexico campus. The “truth truck” is plastered with graphic, anti-abortion images meant to provoke a “strong reaction,” the Albuquerque Journal said, drawing on an interview with Bud Shaver. It is meant to “show abortion as the ‘violent, brutal act that it is,’” the article quotes Shaver as saying. [Albuquerque Journal, 11/15/13]
And They Have Direct Ties To The Violent Anti-Choice Group Operation Rescue
Protest ABQ Has Direct Links To Operation Rescue And Its Leader, Troy Newman. Bud and Tara Shaver make no secret of their affiliations with Operation Rescue and its leader, anti-choice extremist Troy Newman. In 2010, Operation Rescue issued a press release announcing that it was “sending two missionaries to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to work with Project Defending Life.” According to Newman, “The Shavers have been a tremendous asset to Operation Rescue during their time with us and have done some amazing work. … the Shavers will continue to be a blessing to the pro-life efforts in Albuquerque as they work together with established organizations to end abortion in that community.”[Operation Rescue, 6/14/10]
The Shavers Won Operation Rescue’s “Pro-Life Person Of The Year” Award In 2013. After relocating to New Mexico to work with PDL and Protest ABQ, Bud and Tara Shaver received the “2013 Pro-life Person of the Year Malachi Award” from Operation Rescue. The announcement from Operation Rescue credits the Shavers’ efforts to conduct “ground-breaking research” and push a “citizen’s petition to amend the City of Albuquerque’s charter to ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation” as reasons for their recognition. [Operation Rescue, 12/16/13]
Operation Rescue And Its Leaders Are Extremists Who Have A History Of Anti-Choice Violence
1. President Troy Newman Has Targeted Providers And Justified Violence Against Them
Wash. Post: Newman Is "One Of The Nation's Most Controversial Antiabortion Activists." The Washington Post wrote that Newman has made remarks "apparently praising the killing of abortion doctors" among other extreme statements:
Newman is president of Operation Rescue, a group devoted to shuttering abortion clinics. He also serves as one of three board members of the Center for Medical Progress, the little-known California group behind a video project targeting Planned Parenthood over its fetal tissue donation program.
Newman has long been one of the nation's most controversial antiabortion activists, in part because of remarks he has made apparently praising the killing of abortion doctors and calling women who have abortions "murderers."
Newman also says he is nonviolent and has taken credit for steering his organization away from civil disobedience toward lawful activity. [The Washington Post, 10/2/15]
Newman Claimed The Killer Of An Abortion Doctor Should Have Been Able To Argue The Slaying Was A "Justifiable Defensive Action." In 2003, Newman issued a press release defending Paul Jennings Hill, who was executed by lethal injection for murdering abortion doctor John Britton and his clinic escort James Barrett. Newman argued that Hill should have been able to defend himself by arguing that it was "necessary" to kill Britton and Barrett to save other lives:
"Today's scheduled execution of Paul Hill is not justice, but is another example of the judicial tyranny that is gripping our nation. A Florida judge denied Rev. Hill his right to present a defense that claimed that the killing of the abortionist was necessary to save the lives of the pre-born babies that were scheduled to be killed by abortion that day. Our system of justice is based upon 'innocent until proven guilty,' but in Rev. Hill's case, there was no justice because the court prevented him from presenting the legal defense that his conduct was justifiable defensive action.
"There are many examples where taking the life in defense of innocent human beings is legally justified and permissible under the law. Paul Hill should have been given the opportunity to defend himself with the defense of his choosing in a court of law. [Operation Rescue, 9/3/03, via Media Matters]
Australia Canceled Newman's Visa Over "Concerns That He Might Encourage Violence Against Abortion Providers Or Women Seeking The Procedure." The New York Times reported in October 2015:
Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, had been scheduled to begin a speaking tour in Australia on Friday. But immigration officials canceled his visa before he left the United States after Australian politicians raised concerns that he might encourage violence against abortion providers or women seeking the procedure.
He managed to board a flight from Los Angeles despite not having a valid visa but was detained by immigration officers at Melbourne Airport while trying to enter the country on Thursday.
Terri Butler, a Labor member of the Australian Parliament, had called for the government to revoke Mr. Newman's visa this week. In a letter to Mr. Dutton, she cited passages from a book that Mr. Newman co-wrote that called for abortion doctors to be executed. [The New York Times, 10/2/15]
Newman Wrote That The U.S. Government "Abrogated Its Responsibility To Properly Deal With The Blood-Guilty. This Responsibility Rightly Involves Executing Convicted Murderers, Including Abortionists, For Their Crimes." Right Wing Watch noted that Newman wrote about his beliefs about Scripture and abortion providers in the 2003 version of his book Their Blood Cries Out. Although Operation Rescue maintains that Newman has "never advocated violence against abortion providers or facilities," excerpts from his book suggest that he believes abortion is a crime on par with murder and that it should be convicted as such to "expunge the bloodguilt from the land and people":
When moms, dads, abortionists are added together, well over 100,000,000 people bear personal bloodguilt for at least one abortion. The doctrine of community bloodguilt found in Scripture further implicates the entire nation. The perpetrators are far too numerous and the bloodguilt has spread too far. We deserve God's judgment.
In addition to our personal guilt in abortion, the United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people. Instead, the act of abortion has been elevated to a "God-given right" and the abortionists canonized as saints. Consequently, the entire nation has the blood-red stain of the lives of the innocent upon its head. [Right Wing Watch, 10/1/15]
Newman Reportedly Suggested 9/11 And AIDS Were God's Warnings About Abortion. Right Wing Watch wrote of Newman's writing in Their Blood Cries Out:
After concluding that "judgment for America is a foreseeable inevitability" because of legal abortion, Newman explores what that judgment might look like. He posits that God is already "warning this nation, preparing her for a day of reckoning" through everything from road rage to terrorist attacks to AIDS.
It is possible that America is already within the clutches of remedial judgment. One needs only to analyze the current societal dilemmas to see the hand of God moving upon our land. The historical record of the Bible shows that God chastens before He sends cataclysmic destruction.
Listing a parade of current "societal dilemmas," including the "drug epidemic," "school shootings," "unbridled pornography," "divorce, marital infidelity, and rebellious children," "terrible violence, from rape to road rage" and "unprecedented terrorist attacks," Newman writes, "In all of these, it may be that God is showing that His hand of protection is being withdrawn." [Right Wing Watch, 9/14/15]
2. Operation Rescue’s Vice President, Cheryl Sullenger, Has A History Of Anti-Choice Violence
Cheryl Sullenger Was Sentenced To Prison For Conspiring To Bomb An Abortion Clinic. Cheryl Sullenger's Operation Rescue biography states that she is the group's vice president and "has been involved in the pro-life movement since 1984." That involvement includes attempting to bomb a San Diego abortion clinic in 1987. The Los Angeles Times reported in 1988 of Sullenger's sentencing:
Saying he wanted to set an example for those who would consider breaking the law even for a righteous cause, a federal judge Thursday imposed stiff prison terms on the first of the Rev. Dorman Owens' followers to be sentenced for conspiring to bomb a San Diego abortion clinic.
U.S. District Judge Earl B. Gillam sentenced Cheryl Sullenger, 32, to three years. He sentenced her husband, Randall Sullenger, 35, to an 18-month term--six months of it in a halfway house so he can continue working at a warehouse before leaving for one year in prison.
The Sullengers are the first of eight members of the fundamentalist Bible Missionary Fellowship in Santee to be sentenced for their part in the attempted bombing of the Family Planning Associates Medical Group on July 27. The gasoline bomb failed to go off when wind blew out the fuse. [Operation Rescue, accessed 4/8/16; Los Angeles Times, 5/6/88]
Sullenger Communicated With George Tiller's Murderer Before His Death, Helped Him "Track Doctor's Court Dates." The Kansas City Star reported that Scott Roeder, who was convicted of killing abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, "apparently kept track of the state prosecution against Tiller through a senior member of Operation Rescue, the anti-abortion organization":
Roeder apparently kept track of the state prosecution against Tiller through a senior member of Operation Rescue, the anti-abortion organization.
At the time of Roeder's arrest Sunday afternoon along Interstate 35 in Johnson County, a television station captured the vehicle on video. There on the dashboard was a note that read "Cheryl" and "Op Rescue" with a phone number.
Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue out of Wichita, said Tuesday that she has spoken to Roeder in the past, but she said he would initiate the contact. She said she hasn't had any recent contact with him.
Sullenger served about two years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic in California in 1988. She has since renounced violent action.
She said Roeder's interest was in court hearings involving Tiller.
"He would call and say, 'When does court start? When's the next hearing?' " Sullenger said. "I was polite enough to give him the information. I had no reason not to. Who knew? Who knew, you know what I mean?" [Kansas City Star, 6/3/09]
3. Operation Rescue Threatens Clinics By “Systematically Harassing Their Employees”
MSNBC's Maddow: "Allies of Dr. Tiller In Kansas Say That Until Recently, Operation Rescue Also Posted Online The Doctor's Real Home Address And The Address Of His Church." MSNBC host Rachel Maddow reported in 2009:
MADDOW: Operation Rescue maintained and still maintains something that they call "Tiller Watch" on their Web site. Allies of Dr. Tiller in Kansas say that until recently, Operation Rescue also posted online the doctor's real home address and the address of his church -- which, of course, is where Dr. Tiller was ultimately murdered this weekend allegedly by Scott Roeder. [MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/3/09]
Operation Rescue Tries To "Shut Down Abortion Clinics By Systematically Harassing Their Employees Into Quitting." From a 2004 Rolling Stone profile:
Operation Rescue's smear campaign against Phares is part of a new strategy to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting. Banned by law from blockading clinics as it did in its early days, Operation Rescue has taken its offensive to the front lawns and mailboxes of clinic workers. In Wichita, members of the group rummage through employees' garbage in search of incriminating information. They tail them around town as they run errands. They picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they're inside having dinner and castigate them while they're standing in line at Starbucks. Operation Rescue is also visiting companies that do business with the clinic and threatening them with a boycott if they don't sever their ties with the facility. This is America's new abortion war, and the objective, in military terms, is to cut off the supply lines to abortion clinics and demoralize their troops.
Troy Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, calls it the Year of Rebuke -- and if it works in Wichita, he plans to unleash the campaign of intimidation on abortion clinics all across the country. "I want these employees to realize that their lives have changed," he says. "As long as they're embedded in the abortion industry receiving blood money, they can't live a normal life. They just can't."
When I arrive, Newman and his small staff of zealous pro-lifers are buzzing with the news that the clinic's office manager has quit -- a result, they believe, of their name-and-shame campaign. The manager had been accosted by a neighbor in a grocery store who recognized her from an Operation Rescue flier that featured her photo. "You're that baby killer!" the neighbor screamed at her. Then Newman, through investigative methods he'd rather not reveal, discovered where the woman's husband works. "We think that's what clinched it," he says. "He probably realized we were going to picket his workplace. I imagine he's the major breadwinner in the family, and he didn't want to risk his job." [Rolling Stone, 8/19/04, via Internet Archive]
Operation Rescue Claims Pro-Choice People Are Engaged In An "Abortion Holocaust." The group stated in an August 2008 press release:
For those in the area of Southern California, Operation Rescue invites you to join the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust for a pro-life prophetic outreach at SaddleBack Church, were (sic) Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain will be appearing.
We want to bring a strong pro-life witness to the church community, the media and the nation at the Saddleback Civil Forum, where the eyes of the nation will focus. It doesn't matter if you are a Survivor of the Abortion Holocaust (born after 1973), or born before the American Holocaust began, please invite your friends and come and take a stand for life! [Operation Rescue, 8/11/08]
Harassment, Violence, And Threats Against Abortion Providers And Clinics Are Increasing
National Abortion Federation: 2015 Had “Dramatic Increase In Hate Speech and Internet Harassment, Death Threats, Attempted Murder, And Murder” Of Abortion Providers. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) releases annual statistics quantifying the amount of violence against abortion providers. In its 2015 report, NAF found that there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder.” According to NAF, “the sharp rise in threats in violence in 2015 is alarming, and directly correlates” with the release of CMP’s deceptively edited smear videos (emphasis added):
Our 2015 statistics reflect a dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder, which coincided with the release of heavily-edited, misleading, and inflammatory videos beginning in July. Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 185 arsons, and thousands of incidents of criminal activities directed at abortion providers. Three of those murders happened in November 2015, when Robert Dear opened fire at an abortion facility in Colorado Springs, killing three people and wounding nine others. This clinic is part of the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains affiliate, which was featured in the highly-edited, inflammatory videos. When police arrested Dear, he made a reference to part of the video smear campaign
The sharp rise in threats and violence in 2015 is alarming, and directly correlates to the release of inflammatory videos aimed at demonizing providers. We cannot continue to allow anti-abortion extremists to use violence to advance their own personal, political agendas. Nor can we continue to allow them to contribute to a climate that encourages violence against abortion providers. We’ve seen firsthand what can happen when abortion providers are targeted and demonized: clinic staff are threatened, facilities are set on fire, and doctors are murdered. Law enforcement and communities across the country need to seriously address these threats so that violence doesn’t continue to escalate. We cannot be silent or ignore this dangerous, unacceptable, and often criminal behavior. [National Abortion Federation, 4/5/16]
FBI Warned About An "Uptick" In Violence. In September 2015, the FBI reportedly released a new intelligence assessment to law enforcement officials across the country, noting the recent increase of violence against abortion providers and warning of a sustained threat. As explained by CBS News on September 19, 2015, the FBI cautioned that "it is likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities":
With Congress grappling over the future of funding for Planned Parenthood, CBS News has learned that law enforcement authorities are seeing an uptick in attacks on reproductive health care facilities.
A newly-released FBI Intelligence Assessment says, "it is likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities," reports CBS News' Jeff Pegues.
Since the release of the initial video by pro-life organization Center for Medical Progress in July, investigators say there have been nine criminal or suspicious incidents across the country.
The incidents include reported cyber-attacks, threats and arsons. The FBI believes the incidents are, "consistent with the actions of lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement." [CBS News, 9/19/15]
Vox: "73 Successful Attacks" On Abortion Providers "Since 1997" Show "Violence Against Clinics Is Not" Rare. In a November 27 article for Vox, Sarah Kliff analyzed NAF data and explained that while shootings at clinics are currently rare, overall violence against them is not:
Shootings at abortion clinics are rare. But violence against clinics is not: There have been at least 73 successful attacks on American abortion clinics since 1997, according to the National Abortion Federation.
Forty of those acts of violence were arson attacks, including four in 2012. There have also been 20 attacks aimed at abortion providers themselves with different weapons, either shootings, stabbings, or acid attacks.
The NAF database ends in 2012 -- but more recently, the FBI has reported an uptick in abortion against clinics in the wake of sting videos taped inside Planned Parenthood locations, which purported to show the sale of fetal body parts. [Vox, 11/27/15]
Anti-Defamation League: Attack On Colorado Planned Parenthood "Only The Latest In A Long And Troubling Series" of Violence Against Abortion Providers. In 2015, the Anti-Defamation League released a comprehensive report detailing the ongoing trend of anti-choice violence in the United States. Highlighting the connection between the deceptively edited CMP videos and recent attacks, the report concluded that the November 2015 attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood was "only the latest in a long and troubling series" of violent events against abortion providers and facilities, some of which "constitute terrorist acts":
If Dear's motive was indeed related to abortion, the Colorado Springs shooting spree represents the most deadly single act of anti-abortion violence in the United States. However, at the same time, it is only the latest in a long and troubling series of shootings, arsons, and other acts of violence directed against women's reproductive rights over the years. Many of these acts of anti-abortion violence have gone under-reported, not making it past the local news. In 2012, the Anti-Defamation League issued a report describing anti-abortion violence as "America's Forgotten Terrorism" and that is a label that is just as true today as it was three years ago--indeed, the list of violent anti-abortion acts has grown longer still.
A lot of anti-abortion extremist activity can be described as efforts intended to support the use of violence. Websites and documents created by anti-abortion extremists provide the addresses of clinics, as well as the names and personal information of doctors and others who work at such clinics. As with other extremist movements that use the same tactic, the hope is that individuals will be inspired to use such information in the commission of an act of violence. Some anti-abortion extremists have even provided instructions on constructing bombs and incendiary devices. Prominent anti-abortion extremist Dave Leach, for example, used his Prayer & Action magazine to distribute information about making plastic explosives and fertilizer bombs.
For those people who do commit violent acts, the movement acts as a support network, providing moral and other support for people convicted of acts of anti-abortion violence. Such prisoners--including notorious killers Paul Hill, Eric Rudolph, James Kopp and Scott Roeder, among others--are considered martyrs to the cause of ending abortions.
Threats and harassment attempts have increased sharply in recent months after the release of the Center for Medical Progress videos in July 2015. According to the National Abortion Federation, harassment incidents rose sharply in the months that followed.
Some anti-abortion extremists are willing to do more than threaten and harass. They engage in violence against property, taking advantage of the fact that women's health clinics are permanent, immobile and mostly "soft" targets. This sort of violence can range from vandalism, petty or severe, up to more serious attacks such as bombings, firebombings, and arsons. [Anti-Defamation League, 12/2/15]
- Posted In
- Reproductive Rights, Gender, Justice & Civil Liberties
- MSNBC, CBS
- Troy Newman, David Daleiden
- Rachel Maddow Show, The New York Times, Albuquerque Journal, The Washington Post, Right Wing Watch, The Los Angeles Times, Kansas City Star, Rolling Stone, CBS News, Vox
- Center For Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood, Select Investigative Panel On Infant Lives