Virtually from the moment the Supreme Court ruled in Roe vs. Wade in 1973, the terrorist wing of the deceptively named “pro-life” movement launched a campaign of bombings and burning of clinics. Organized mobs lined up outside the clinics to harass the women, blocking the way or grabbing them and lecturing them. While some protests fell well within legal boundaries – the kind of actions that must always remain a guaranteed right – others went far beyond simple freedom of expression and assembly. And often, in a reversal from their usual stance, local law enforcement authorities have been more sympathetic to the protesters than to those they are protesting against.
However, when Dr. David Gunn was assassinated in Pensacola, Florida in 1993, the political dynamic changed for a time. From this act came the Freedom of access to the clinic entrances law. This makes force, the threat of force, and physical obstruction that interferes with or seeks to intimidate a person from seeking or providing reproductive health services a federal crime punishable by criminal and civil penalties. In the Senate, there were 25 votes against this law. One of the opponents, Charles Grassley of Iowa, still holds a Senate seat.
Although it took time, FACE managed to curb the violence and clashes in the clinics. That’s because President Bill Clinton’s administration took the law seriously. In its time, the Justice Department has prosecuted an average of 10 defendants per year under FACE, 17 of them in 1997 alone. Under President George W. Bush, however, the average was two per year. Like Daphne Eviatar from Washington Independent reported:
It’s unclear whether the decline in prosecutions is because the FACE Act was successful in deterring crimes after it was enacted or because the Bush administration was uninterested in prosecuting them. “The number of activities really dropped a lot after FACE was enacted and it was starting to be enforced,” said Cathleen Mahoney, executive vice president of the National Abortion Federation, who has served as an attorney at the Department of Health. Justice until 2006. “It is certain that the policy the will was not there.”
That’s disappointed Janet Crepps, associate director of the legal program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “I don’t think the government has done enough,” she said, noting that while the Clinton administration had created a Justice Department task force to coordinate responses to threats and violence from clinics, during the Bush years, “we” I heard during that time were providers calling the DOJ for help and getting no response.”
In April 2007, Paul Ross Evans planted a bomb containing two pounds of nails in the parking lot of the Austin Women’s Health Center in Texas. Nail bombs are particularly dangerous items in the terrorist’s arsenal. They kill and maim indiscriminately. If the bomb had exploded, the victims could have been anyone: clinic patients, passers-by, doctors or toddlers. It didn’t matter to Evans. In his view, what he sought to achieve went beyond conventional petty morality. Fortunately, in this case, the bomb did not explode. And today, Evans is in his 15th year of a 40-year sentence at Federal Penitentiary in McCreary, Kentucky, prisoner #83230-180. He is glorified as “prisoner of God” on several websites.
Two years later, with a bullet to the head, another “pro-lifer”, Scott Roeder, killed Dr. George Tiller while the doctor was serving as an usher at his local church in Wichita, Kansas. He had performed abortions for 34 years and had survived two gunshot wounds in a previous assassin attack in 1993.
Roeder — who is currently serving a 25-year sentence at Hutchinson, Kansas, state prison — had been virtually ignored by authorities, both local and federal, despite his criminal record and despite repeated vandalism of the clinic where Tiller worked, clearly interfering with people’s right to obtain reproductive services. Pistol in hand, Roeder took the ultimate approach to this interference.
In the usual reverse direction of extremist factions of the anti-choice movement, Reverend Donald Spitz – whose “Army of God” considered the killing of anyone who performs abortions as justifiable homicide – said the FACE law was itself- even responsible for Tiller’s death. because he fed the anger and the frustration of the enemies of reproductive choice:
“I understand this anger,” he said. “You know kids are dying, and you want to do something about it. And just, you know, people can’t take it anymore. It could lead them to this. Forcing politicians to pass these laws.”
It is quite understandable that, although the “lone nut” theme is trumpeted by, among others, Operation Rescue and other similar anti-choice outfits, some people who had fought to uphold women’s rights to reproductive choice saw the Kansas massacre as the possible beginning of a renewed reign. of terror. Just after the November elections, thinking like other groups that the election of President Barack Obama could mean a wave of right-wing violence, Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, sent a security alert to abortion providers. Saporta said Rachel Maddow at the time:
By tracking abortion-related violence, we know that often when these extremists see themselves losing an election or not winning in political, legislative or legal battles, they often resort to violence. And we feared to see an upsurge in violence; we wanted our suppliers to be on heightened security alert. And we’ve seen that the threats and the activity and the intensity of the activity outside of abortion clinics has increased.
Among the dwindling number of doctors who perform abortions, some are wearing bulletproof vests. Tiller often did, although he was not wearing it the morning he was shot. Not that a vest necessarily protects a doctor who wears it all the time. As Dr. Warren Herna Colorado physician who has performed abortions in Boulder, Colorado, since 1974, said THE Los Angeles time:
“I think [Tiller’s murder is] the inevitable consequence of more than 35 years of constant terrorism, harassment and violence against abortion,” he said. “I get messages from these people saying, ‘Don’t bother wearing a bulletproof vest, we’re going to get shot in the head.’ “
Dr. Hern still lives, carefully keeping the blinds closed at the clinic and at home. But arson, bombings, death threats and invasions of clinics remain commonplace. And, as the NAF notes, are increasing. Considering the gunslinger atmosphere that is spreading overseas in the country these days, it seems likely to escalate further.
But while even some anti-abortion activists speak out against such attacks, the overthrow of deer with the decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization by the Supreme Court has created its own type of violence. Pregnant women risk sepsis and death from carrying dead or non-viable fetuses because doctors fearing prosecution under state law will not perform abortions unless the pregnant woman’s life is clear. threatened. In other words, no abortion unless the patient is definitely about to die. If a patient is 13 in one of the 12 states that now have no exceptions for rape or incest in their anti-abortion laws, the politicians who imposed them are guilty of another kind of violence: child abuse. children. And then there is the violence that has demolished reproductive rights as a whole, taking away the basic right to bodily integrity from half the population and making women second-class citizens.
Solving this problem is like so many other problems these days and it’s no small feat. It requires replacing the state and federal politicians who brought this violence to us with people who are actually “pro-life,” instead of just using it as a slogan to impose their bigotry on the nation.