The anti-choice movement has stepped up its attempts to intimidate abortion providers and their patients this week through a series of online attacks targeting the country’s largest reproductive health care provider, Planned Parenthood, and ancillary access assistance groups the National Network of Abortion Funds and Abortion Care Network.
On Sunday night, a group of self-professed anti-abortion hackers claim to have breached Planned Parenthood’s employee database with the intention of decrypting and releasing personally identifying provider information.
“Trying to mold an atrocious monstrosity into socially acceptable behaviors is repulsive,” the hackers, who call themselves “E” and claim to be part of a group called “3301,” told The Daily Dot. “Obviously what [Planned Parenthood] does is a very ominous practice. It’ll be interesting to see what surfaces when [Planned Parenthood] is stripped naked and exposed to the public.”
No provider data have been released, and there’s no evidence any patient information was accessed. But with the climate of escalating provider targeting and violence, any reference to a list of names is reminiscent of the infamous “Nuremberg Files” website, which listed known abortion providers with an ominous legend: “Black font (working); Greyed-out Name (wounded); Strikethrough (fatality).”
“There’s definitely something similarly sinister about seeing a list of abortion providers, given the history of the Nuremberg Files,” David S. Cohen, a Drexel University associate law professor and author of Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism, tells Rolling Stone. “Many providers already can’t proudly talk to their friends and family about what they do because they live with the threat of violence….This is a world where you see a list, you get concerned about safety.”
This attack comes as Planned Parenthood is already handling fallout from a series of deceptively spliced “undercover” videos being released by the well-funded anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress, and fielding threats from 18 male Republican members of the House to shut down the government again over non-existent federal abortion dollars.
The House left for August recess without taking action, but the Senate has a week left in its session. Despite a lack of support from pragmatists Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), a contingent lead by presidential hopeful Rand Paul (R-KY), could call for a vote on Monday to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding.
While fielding this onslought from all sides, Planned Parenthood hardly had time to reassure patients and notify the Department of Justice and the FBI before the next attack came on Wednesday.
“Today, the Planned Parenthood websites experienced a wide scale distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, a hacker tactic to overwhelm websites with massive amounts of traffic to block any legitimate traffic from getting in,” the group’s executive vice president, Dawn Laguens, said in a statement to Wired.
Thursday morning, the National Network of Abortion funds used social media to announce its own DDoS attack (later confirmed in a conversation with Rolling Stone).
Abortion Care Network Executive Director Nikki Madsen also confirmed a DDoS attack Thursday morning, speaking unequivocally about the intent of coordinated action that interferes with potential patients’ ability to access help finding timely, safe abortion care.
“Anti-choice zealots will go to any length to stigmatize providers, politicize women’s health and put abortion care out of reach,” says Madsen. “This week they have hit a new low by hacking and disabling websites that provide individuals health care information and resources, including the Abortion Care Network.”
The NNAF site came back online Friday morning; there’s no word yet when the ACN site will be restored.