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Pro-Life Apparently Also Means Pro-Firebombing

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Everyone remember the transvaginal ultrasound state-rape law that was proposed in Virginia before an amended version was passed? Well, Texas has one of those laws on the books right now. It’s been the subject of several rallies and protests over the past few weeks because it’s invasive, unnecessary, and a violation of the bodies of people seeking abortions. Wendy Davis is a Democratic state senator from Texas, an outspoken advocate of Planned Parenthood who recently attended one of those rallies opposing anti-choice attacks on reproductive rights and justice.

This afternoon, her office was firebombed. Incredibly, no one was injured in the firebombing. If they had been, it wouldn’t have been the first time that someone was harmed or died due to anti-choice violence. You can go ahead and say that I’m making a leap, assuming that this is motivated by anti-choice politics, but I don’t really think it is. You see, anti-choice politicians don’t really find themselves getting firebombed, do they? This violence typically comes from one side of the issue. So we won’t know the exact motivations until the suspect is caught (if they are caught), but given a pattern of anti-choice violence I’m about to discuss I don’t think anyone would be surprised if the firebombing was over abortion rights.

Because in January, a clinic in Pensacola was firebombed. That’s how the year started off for advocates of reproductive justice. With a clinic set on fire. In 2011, a man plead guilty to arson at a Planned Parenthood in California. A man drove into a Planned Parenthood in St. Paul in 2009, claiming Jesus told him to do it. In New York an explosive went off outside a Planned Parenthood in 2001. I could go on listing instances of violence against abortion clinics and providers indefinitely. Arson. Firebombing. Explosives. Murder. Over 200 instances of arson and firebombing related violence have occurred since 1979. So it’s not really a stretch to assume a pro-choice politician’s office was firebomed because she is pro-choice since that happens a whole lot.

In the U.S. anti-abortion violence has directly caused the deaths of 4 doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort. The first was David Gunn, in 1993, then John Britton the next year, then two receptionists in 1994, the death of guard Rob Sanderson in 1998 when the clinic where he worked was bombed, Dr. Slepian in 1998 who was shot at his home, and finally the most recent death in 2009 was the assassination of Dr. Tiller at his church in Kansas. Since 1977, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 assaults, and 3 kidnappings. One of the first major assaults was of Dr. Tiller, when a woman shot him in both of his arms to prevent him for performing more abortion. Dr. Tiller being the incredibly person that he was, worked to rehabilitate himself and despite this showed up to work until his death, usually wearing a bullet proof vest. His clinic was also firebombed in ’86, after this he hung up a banner saying “hell no, we won’t go.”

None of these events are isolated, of course. There’s a clear pattern here. A clear pattern of violence by one side of the abortion debate against another. Violence that is “justified” by belief in God or because abortion doctors are “baby-killers” (Bill O’Reilly coined the name “Tiller the Babykiller” inflaming hatred against George Tiller and spawning threats to his life). And the violence goes hand-in-hand with other tactics that the anti-choice movement uses. Tactics that students at JMU are familiar with, like comparisons of abortion to genocide and large displays of images allegedly depicting aborted fetuses.

In the 1990s, “Wanted posters” issued by Operation Rescue, an anti-choice terrorist organization, were widely disseminated, and a major factor in the murders of four doctors who performed abortions. These posters are terrifying, and contained the photos, names, addresses, phone numbers, and personal descriptive statistics of doctors and clinic employees. All four doctors that have been murdered had Wanted posters made about them, distributed by Operation Rescue. In 2010, new Wanted posters started cropping up in North Carolina, once again targeting clinic employees and doctors. Interestingly enough, Operation Rescue maintains they have no links to any of the individuals who murdered doctors, an utterly false statement (as you can see in the above Rachel Maddow clip) – Scott Roeder, the man who assassinated Dr. George Tiller, was in contact with their lawyers and actually became an anti-choice activist after being recruited by a friend in Operation Rescue. The first shooting of Tiller took place two years after the first Summer of Mercy – an event where thousands of Operation Rescue and radical anti-abortion activists convened outside his clinic for months with huge posters of aborted fetuses, among other things.

So there’s a history of violence against providers and clinics. A long history. A history of terrorism by people who claim to be pro-life against people seeking abortions, people who work at clinics, and doctors providing abortion. Is it any wonder that I’m assuming this recent firebombing is another example of anti-choice violence? It needs to be called like it is: this is domestic terrorism , and it’s going to continue as long as the “pro-life” side uses inflamed language and creates databases of abortion providers and get away with it. Is it any wonder that that sometimes I’m afraid because I’m dedicating my life to reproductive justice and this is what happens? This is what happens to people who want to protect the fundamental human right to one’s own body. But like Dr. Tiller, we won’t go, because this is important and we’re not going to stop fighting for the bodily autonomy of all people.

[Note: many of the links regarding abortion violence were originally posted by].

6 Responses to “Pro-Life Apparently Also Means Pro-Firebombing”

  1. nonsequiteuse

    So awful, but not surprising. The police have a suspect in custody. Who knows what the final story will be, but I’ve been working for reproductive rights for a long time, and this attack has the hallmarks of anti-choice, anti-woman violence. I hope the person in custody is the right person, that any accomplices will be caught, and that the violence will stop. And if anyone thinks this will stop women from demanding our rights, they’re wrong. We won’t be intimidated!

    • Katie O.

      It’s pretty sad when violence like this isn’t surprising. And thanks for updating me that the suspect is in custody. I totally agree that this is anti-choice violence to the letter, it mirrors most of the other attacks that have occurred historically. And I agree that we won’t be intimidated! Violence like this is terrifying, but there is no way this terrorism will stop women and women’s rights advocates from fighting for what we deserve. Plus, it only hurts their side of the argument anyway. Thanks for commenting! I thought your post was great 🙂

      • nonsequiteuse

        Now, the story seems to be that the suspect suffers from severe mental health issues, and that it wasn’t motivated by politics at all. I’m deeply relieved, in one sense, to know that it likely really was a very unwell person not in his right mind, rather than politically-motivated violence. But, it is also still so sad to think both that we were all so ready to believe it was politically motivated, because of the long, clear pattern of such violence, and that we have someone who is clearly in need of significant help and intervention living on the streets because we do not have a great system – not a government system, but not even, really a mental health or healthcare system regardless of funding mechanism, that is set up to help someone like this man.

        Just tragic all around.

  2. eszenyme

    I had to take time to research this after first reading your post. (I spent like an hour watching news videos on YouTube). Anyways, I think the way she is handling the situation is incredible/awesome. First, she’s so articulate and understanding that taking a public service job really does put your life on the line. Also, she’s back to work…today! Even if I was ok getting back to work after someone tried to fire bomb me (and on purpose), I don’t think I could do it the next day. She is definitely sending a strong message about maintaining government stability (which I’m sure is intended). I think she is also sending a strong message for women. The fact that she was standing outside her office all day giving interviews, staying articulate, recognizing the bigger picture of the bombing, etc., shows that she is a great example of a woman in politics.

  3. parklena

    I agree with eszenyme. That woman is very strong and to be admired. The attacks against pro-choice activists and doctors who perform abortions are so horrible. I do admire Dr. Tiller who worked till the end to offer women safe abortions. It’s also terrifying that these doctors are targeted but the fact that there are still doctors who perform abortions shows that the pro-choice movement is strong and will not back down so easily. These doctors are courageous and to be congratulated and looked up to.

  4. FemOnFire

    This is such an important issue, and one that I find comes up so infrequently in discussions of abortion rights. Even though both sides have a right to their expression, civil discourse is necessary. Just because the topic is so taboo does not give anyone the right to employ terrorism, especially when used in such a disgustingly hypocritical way.


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