The National Abortion Federation released a report last week documenting what should come as no surprise to anyone: that anti-abortion harassment, threats, intimidation and violence have spiked dramatically since July 2015 when the Center for Medical Progress began releasing deceptively edited videos aimed at discrediting Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation practices.
Despite the Center for Medical Progress’ videos having been widely discredited, and the indictment of its leader, the group continues to release videos — which federal and state politicians are using to justify invasive government investigations into abortion clinics and further abortion restrictions. This one-two punch of anti-abortion activity almost guarantees that the increased violence against abortion providers NAF documented in 2015 will continue into 2016 and beyond.
The report shows a dramatic change from 2014 to 2105. For instance, in 2014 there was one reported death threat against an abortion provider; in 2015, there were 94 threats of direct harm against providers. One such threat involved a message left on a clinic’s voicemail system saying that the caller was going to “pull a Columbine and wipe everyone out.” Another unknown caller told a North Carolina hospital that “we will kill all [hospital] abortion doctors.”
In a threat related directly to the Center for Medical Progress videos, an online poster wrote, “I’ll pay ten large to whomever kills [a doctor who appears in the videos]. Anyone go for it.” Online threats like this proliferated in late 2015.
In fact, the volume of online threats was so immense that NAF had to hire an outside firm to document them, something the organization has never had to do in the past. In just six weeks, from mid-November to the end of 2015, this outside firm found more than 25,000 incidents of hate speech against abortion providers, far exceeding the double-digit totals from previous years.
Anti-abortion extremists have not been afraid to carry out these threats. As the report notes, one extremist posted online, “One person setting fire to an abortion clinic will not do anything but thousands setting fire to an abortion clinic will speak volumes…. If thousands rallied together to set each murder house on fire, we would see the end of abortion.”
In 2015, there were four arsons carried out against abortion clinics after the videos were released, along with 67 acts of vandalism, some extreme enough to shut down clinics during repairs.
The most extreme acts of violence following the videos occurred on November 27, 2015, when Robert Dear opened fire at the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Colorado Springs, killing three and injuring nine. He reportedly said “no more baby parts” to police upon arrest.