New Report Finds Sharp Increase In Violence Against Abortion Providers

New Report Finds Sharp Increase In Violence Against Abortion Providers
Photo by Jenny Warburg/Ms. Magazine

In the nine months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, a new report shows violence directed at abortion clinics has increased, and most incidents have occurred in states where abortion rights remain protected.

According to the “2022 Violence & Disruption Statistics Report” published on May 11 by the National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortion providers, there’s been a sharp rise in the numbers of “arsons, burglaries, death threats, and invasions” targeting abortion clinics. The report says that anti-abortion centers have been “ramping up efforts to deceive and obstruct patients seeking abortion care.”

“The data is proof of what we have known to be true: anti-abortion extremists have been emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the cascade of abortion bans that followed,” Melissa Fowler, chief program officer at the federation, said in a statement. “As clinics closed in states with bans, extremists have simply shifted their focus to the states where abortion remains legal and protected, where our members have reported major increases in assaults, stalking, and burglaries.”

The report found a 229 percent increase in stalking incidents in 2022, including stalking of both patients and abortion staff. Providers and patients reported being followed into and out of clinics.

The rate of burglaries rose 231 percent in 2022, and an Ohio clinic reported receiving “an envelope with a threatening note, white powder, and the word ‘Anthrax.'” The envelope did not contain anthrax, but the incident harkened back to one in October 1998 and another in 2011 in which facilities received similar envelopes, according to the report.

Death threats at abortion clinics increased by 20 percent in 2022, the report found, with extremists using hate speech via text messages, phone calls, and social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Telegram to post rhetoric that included “Me and the boys about to bomb a planned parenthood,” “This is 2022. Its[sic] time to take all the abortionists and burn them at the stake. They are witches,” and “Death to abortionists.”

The report refers to the case of a planned abortion clinic in Casper, Wyoming, that was set on fire in May 2022. Lorna Roxanne Green, 22, was arrested in the case in April of this year, Ms. Magazinereported, and admitted committing the arson. The Associated Press reported in April that despite extensive fire damage, the Wellspring Health Access clinic was able to open.

“In addition to an increase in major incidents, extremists are becoming more organized; for example, we’re seeing them target clinics on days when they know they will have more patients, are shorter staffed, or have less security,” Michelle Davidson, the National Abortion Federation’s director of security, said in the organization’s statement accompanying the release of its report.

The report also points to a rise in the use of what it calls “confusion and chaos” by anti-abortion centers, also known as “crisis pregnancy centers” or “pregnancy resource centers.”

These so-called clinics present themselves as legitimate reproductive health care facilities, offering ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, and testing for sexually transmitted infections. But in actuality, the facilities discourage people from obtaining contraception or abortion care.

“Despite experiencing one of the most devastating years in reproductive access, abortion providers persevere. Our members have remained steadfast in their duty to provide care by accommodating an increase in out-of-state patients, tracking local legislation, and traveling to different states to provide care—all while dealing with daily threats of violence,” Fowler said.

The National Abortion Federation says it is providing around-the-clock security support and safety training to its members.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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