Before and after the deadly November 27 attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood that killed three and injured nine more, right-wing media misleadingly argued that the risk of violence against abortion providers and clinics is now “rare.” However, in September the FBI released a report to law enforcement concluding there has been an uptick in anti-choice violence against abortion providers and clinics following the release of deceptively edited videos from the Center for Medical Progress, and that the threat was significant and ongoing.
Right-Wing Media Argued Violent Incidents Have Been Isolated And Are Decreasing Overall
Rush Limbaugh: Violence Against Abortion Providers Is “So Rare.” During the December 2 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, host Rush Limbaugh alleged that reports of anti-choice violence were inaccurate. Instead, Limbaugh argued that the fatal attack on the Colorado Planned Parenthood was “really a testament to the nonviolent nature of the pro-life movement” (emphasis added):
RUSH LIMBAUGH: So here we have this lunatic, who lives in a shack with no running water and no electricity, who goes out and shoots people at a Planned Parenthood clinic and all of a sudden, this guy is a poster boy for the conservative movement and the Republican party. As far as the news media is concerned. When, as I said, the number of such incidents, abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood, whatever, being victimized by violence--it's so rare.
That what it really is a testament to is the nonviolent nature of the pro-life movement! The pro-life movement is a faith based movement and it is nonviolent at its heart and they had nothing to do with this Colorado shooting. But the drive-by media is perfectly content to make it up and lie, create their never ending narrative, that this was the pro-life movement or inspired by the pro-life movement because they're a bunch of violent, lunatic, gun-loving racists. None of that's true. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 12/2/15]
Erick Erickson: “It Really Is Surprising More Planned Parenthood Facilities” And Providers “Are Not Being Targeted.” Fox News contributor Erick Erickson wrote in a December 1 blog post that he was surprised “more Planned Parenthood facilities and abortionists are not being targeted.” Erickson suggested that the murder of providers was “getting rarer” and that there was an overall decline in violence:
There is one surprising thing about the Colorado Springs shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic. It is that it is a rare event. According to NARAL, there have been eight people killed and seventeen injured in attacks on American abortion providers in twenty-five years. And they have been getting rarer: this is only the second such killing - after the 2009 murder of George Tiller - in this century. In Chicago alone over Thanksgiving weekend, there were eight people killed and twenty wounded. [Media Matters, 12/1/15]
Fox's Andrea Tantaros: Violence Against Abortion Providers Not Systemic, Just “A Kook Here” And A “Kooky Pastor There.” In a December 1 segment from The O'Reilly Factor, Fox's Andrea Tantaros disagreed with GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson who admitted there were “some pro-lifers who will say things like 'I can understand why someone might come into an abortion clinic and shoot it up,'” a sentiment he said was “over the top.” In response, the Fox host asserted that the “guy who shot at the Planned Parenthood center” was merely “a kook,” anti-abortion groups were largely peaceful, and that violence was just “a kook here” or “a kooky pastor there” (emphasis added):
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): There's a difference between very afraid and talking about violence. I don't know if Dr. Carson was in good territory there unless he can name people. Because if he said it to me I would have said give me a couple names, doctor, because what you are doing is demonizing a pro-life movement that is generally peaceful and has been for decades.
ANDREA TANTAROS: Bill, I think this was very foolish of him. The pro-life movement is driven to persuade. Their rhetoric is based on reality, on cold hard truth.
O'REILLY: There are kooks. There are people who go over the line.
TANTAROS: That's true. There is a kook here and there kooky pastor here and there. There is a guy who shot at the Planned Parenthood center. But, the pro-life movement has been peaceful. They lobby for legislation to educate. And you know what they tweak the conscience of Americans and it's working as you know, because polls don't support late term abortions.
O'REILLY: Overwhelmingly, I think Leslie would agree, the pro-life lobby has conducted itself in a very professional manner. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 12/1/15]
Fox Contributor Robert Jeffress: “All These Years,” Only A “Total Of Eight” People Have Died In Clinic Bombings. In a November 18 segment of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Robert Jeffress argued that the risk of “Muslim terrorism” was of far greater concern than anti-choice violence. Jeffress claimed that “in all of these years,” a “total of eight” people had died in clinic bombings, concluding that the attacks weren't “even a good half-hour's work for a Muslim terrorist” (emphasis added):
ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, I'll tell you these numbers are disturbing but let's cut to the chase. What the President finds offensive is the idea that there's a difference between Muslims and Christians when it comes to terrorism. But the fact is there is a difference.
Would you please show me the Christian terrorist in the world today? Where are Christian terrorists who go around killing and maiming people and yelling “Jesus Christ is great” instead of “Allah is great”? You don't find that anywhere. And people are always saying “what about the abortion clinic bombings? There's an example.”
Gretchen, do you know how many people have died in abortion clinic bombings? A total of eight. In all of these years, only eight--that's not even a good half-hour's work for a Muslim terrorist. There is a difference between Muslim terrorism and Christian terrorism which is almost non-existent in the world today. [Fox News, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, 11/18/15]
But FBI And Others Confirm Increase In Anti-Choice Violence, Warn Of Continuing Threat
FBI Warned About An “Uptick” In Violence. In September, 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, 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]
National Abortion Federation (NAF) Reports Incidents Of Violence And Harassment Have Seen An “Unprecedented Increase.” In a November 28 article, Mother Jones reported that there had been an “exponential increase in threats and violence against abortion providers” since the release of the deceptively edited CMP videos. According to new data from NAF, “harassment, threats, and attacks against abortion providers, their staff, and facilities have surged dramatically across the country”:
Since the release of the Center for Medical Progress' videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal issue, harassment, threats, and attacks against abortion providers, their staff, and facilities have surged dramatically across the country, according to new numbers from the National Abortion Federation.
The clinic attacked on Friday is part of the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains affiliate, which was featured in the Center for Medical Progress' videos.
“Since the series of highly edited, misleading anti-abortion videos was released in July, we have seen an unprecedented increase in hate speech and threats against abortion providers,” says Vicki Saporta, the president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, which has been tracking violence against providers since the 1970s. [Mother Jones, 11/28/15]
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, while shootings at clinics are currently rare, overall violence 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: Colorado Attack “Only The Latest In A Long And Troubling Series” of Violence Against Abortion Providers. The Anti-Defamation League recently 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 Colorado attack was “only the latest in a long and troubling series” of violent events against abortion providers and facilities, some of which “constitute terrorist acts” (emphasis added):
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]
Center For Medical Progress Videos That Coincide With Recent Surge In Anti-Choice Violence Are Thoroughly Discredited
Videos Smearing Planned Parenthood Are Deceptively-Edited And Show No Illegal Behavior. Since July 14, the Center for Medical Progress, a previously unknown anti-choice group, has released 11 deceptively-edited videos containing undercover footage of discussions with Planned Parenthood personnel and staff members of private, for-profit biomedical procurement companies. The videos purport to show, and the accompanying press releases allege, that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling fetal tissue and altering abortion procedures in order to profit from the sale of fetal tissue. Scores of media outlets have reported that the combined footage shows no illegal behavior by, or on behalf of, Planned Parenthood, and that the words of Planned Parenthood personnel who were secretly filmed have been “grossly [taken] out of context.” Multiple state investigations and the Department of Health and Human Service have also found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. [Media Matters, 8/31/15]