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FBI Warns of Rising Abortion-Related Violence on 'Both Sides'

Abortion patients and providers face normalized violence from anti-abortion activists—yet they're the ones being threatened and scrutinized by law enforcement.

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Days after a preacher showed up with a semiautomatic assault rifle to Beto O’Rourke’s town hall to confront the candidate about abortion, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate that his bureau has opened “a number” of investigations into abortion-related violent crime incidents from both abortion opponents and abortion rights supporters, which he says have surged since the Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade leaked in May. Wray testified Thursday that there’s been “a general intensification of violence across the issue,” echoing warnings issued by the Department of Homeland Security in June.

Wray’s testimony naturally gave anti-abortion senators, led by Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R), an opportunity to bemoan reported attacks on churches and anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers”—the same organizations that deceive, surveil, stalk, and harass pregnant people to try to force them to give birth. To this, Wray said the FBI is “looking actively for potential threats of the very sort you’re talking about,” and FBI joint terrorism task forces are “specifically focused” on “pro-life organizations,” churches, and CPCs.

Government panics about violence from supporters of abortion rights aren’t new: In 2019, Jezebel reported on a briefing the FBI sent to law enforcement agencies that warned them about the threat of “pro-abortion extremists.” Between that year and 2020, reported physical violence targeting abortion providers surged by 125% 

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Responding to Wray’s testimony about rising abortion-related violence and the FBI’s ongoing investigations, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said that last year, attacks targeting abortion clinic staff and patients “increased 128 percent over the previous year, including a 600 percent increase in stalking.” Since 1977, abortion clinics have reported at least 11 murders and 26 attempted murders of abortion providers, 42 bombings of clinics and providers’ homes, 194 incidents of arson, and many supposedly more mundane acts of violence, like stalking and doxxing. As recently as 2015, a gunman shot and killed three in a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, calling himself a “warrior for the babies” and parroting the “pro-life” talking points of mainstream Republican politicians—Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) himself has a working history with members of Operation Rescue, the militant anti-abortion group that’s been connected to the 2009 murder of abortion provider George Tiller.

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Photo: Getty
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But it seems no matter what anti-abortion activists do—assassinate abortion providers, create online registries doxxing clinic staff and volunteers, conspire to kidnap abortion providers’ children and, as for those in government, violent compel unwanted pregnancy and birth—abortion advocates and patients will always be the ones on law enforcement’s radar. Abortion providers are literally being threatened with years of prison-time for offering care.

Clinic staff and volunteers who call the cops after being harassed or assaulted by anti-abortion protesters are often told “this is what you signed up for” as a provider or volunteer, Lauren Rankin, an author and clinic escort, previously told Jezebel. Earlier this year, the city of Louisville paid a police officer $75,000 in settlement fees after the officer had been suspended for protesting outside a local abortion clinic armed and in uniform. Yet it’s people who have abortions or miscarry who are increasingly facing criminal investigation and charges. And, as Wray’s concerning testimony and the DHS’s recent warnings show, it’s abortion rights supporters who face the full weight of law enforcement’s scrutiny.