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This Is Terrorism: Anti-Abortion Group Creates Database of Reproductive Health Providers

As Sady just noted at In These Times, 2012 is going to be a year of anti-reproductive justice laws, specifically targeted at effectively ending abortion in the United States. In shocking news, a recent study concluded that when abortion is illegal, rates of unsafe abortions rise, and globally, we are having a serious problem with access to safe abortion services. Conservatives in the United States are warring not just on the right to access reproductive health care, but also quite literally the right to be alive with their proposals to ban abortion. Scaremongering and dramatic tactics are going to be on the increase among anti-choice ‘activists,’ and they’re coming out swinging already: An Oklahoma legislator just introduced a bill to ban the use of fetal tissue in food.

Because, you know. Fetal tissue in food is a pressing public health issue that requires immediate action.

We’ve just been reminded by Rick Santorum that pregnancy after a rape is ‘a gift from g-d,’ indicating the extreme to which some anti-choicers will go to protect ‘the sanctity of life.’ For people who think life is a gift from the heavens, though, they’re surprisingly cavalier with the lives of people providing reproductive health services:

Since 1977, the National Abortion Federation has documented eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings, 175 instances of arson, 391 invasions, 100 butyric acid attacks, 662 anthrax threats, 523 instances of stalking and 418 death threats against clinic workers. (source)

Message received: If you provide reproductive health services, including abortion, you wear a target on your back. Abortion providers and the staff who assist and support them, from receptionists to nurses, do things like wearing bulletproof vests to work. Consulting with security services to discuss safety issues. Making sure their numbers are unlisted.

Meanwhile, people seeking abortions and reproductive health services are forced to run a gauntlet to get them, while clinic escorts do their best to protect them from the abusive and horrific tactics of protesters trying to limit their access to reproductive health services. You should not have to look at pictures of dead fetuses to pick up a prescription, people, any more than you should have to go to work in a bulletproof car.

Abortion providers and their support teams care so much about making sure people get access to the health care they need that they are willing to risk their lives to provide it. Dr. Tiller was threatened and shot at before his assassination, for example, enduring the kind of abuse that would make most people throw their hands up in despair and go ‘okay, enough.’ Abortion providers have stepped up to fill gaps in reproductive health services, to cover for people who  have been murdered or terrorised so much that they can’t work.

Which is why the latest from Operation Rescue gives me chills. The extremist organisation is creating a database of service providers, their locations, and personal information, which is basically like a Rolodex for stalkers, protesters, and of course readers who will decide to put the violent rhetoric of the anti-choice movement into violent action. Recent years have seen an escalation in violence against reproductive health care providers and this website represents a very real threat, one that appears to be under evaluation by government agencies and law enforcement to determine if it violates the law.

This is terrorism. Seriously:

1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

While reproductive rights organisations have long been labeling it what it is, the media seems more reluctant. These attacks on reproductive rights are not just ‘radical,’ they are not the work of ‘activists,’ they are not ‘worrying,’ they are terrorism. And they need to be reported as such, because we need to start talking about why only some things are defined as domestic terrorism in the United States, and why only some people are held accountable for acts of terrorism.

It is not coincidental that the people behind terrorism aimed at shutting down access to reproductive health care are usually white, Christian, and middle class. That plays a significant role in why their actions, which involve things like threatening people with death, attempting to bomb facilities, and suggesting they have access to bioweapons, are apparently not considered terrorism. Quite simply, a failure to label domestic terrorism as such when it involves white, middle class Christians is a reflection of racism and the other -isms that dominate social attitudes in the US, because you can damn well bet that if the people involved were nonwhite or people of colour, low-income, and/or non-Christian, they would be treated as the enemy, and the government as well as the media would be vilifying them.

Instead, the vile tactics of the anti-abortion movement have been tolerated for an extended period of time, and this has given members of the movement a considerable degree of boldness and bravery. Dr. Tiller was shot in broad daylight in church. This is terrorism. And it’s time for everyone, not just the reproductive justice movement, to start talking about it like it is. This is terrorism. This is terrorism. This. Is. Terrorism.

It’s also time for everyone to stop distancing themselves from the effects of violent rhetoric by attributing violent action to ‘crazy people.’ Members of the anti-abortion movement are not crazy. They are domestic terrorists who are willing to stop at nothing to achieve a political aim, and they use their rhetoric to inflame their movement, justify their actions, and draw followers. This is terrorism.


  1. Servalbear wrote:

    When I saw an article on the OK bill yesterday, I just had to shake my head. 2012 is going to be a bumpy ride.

    Everything about your article resonated with me, especially this:”a failure to label domestic terrorism as such when it involves white, middle class Christians is a reflection of racism and the other -isms that dominate social attitudes in the US, because you can damn well bet that if the people involved were nonwhite or people of colour, low-income, and/or non-Christian, they would be treated as the enemy, and the government as well as the media would be vilifying them.”

    Thank you for bringing to the front the database of providers and the very real threat of terrorism every day for providers and employees of clinics.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  2. THANK YOU. “Terrorist operative murders doctor.” “Terrorist attack at local healthcare clinic.” That would be true, unbiased reporting but I’m not holding my breath.

    Both sides of the equation, the terrorist AND the target, are portrayed in some alternate universe where anti-choice extremists are “concerned activists;” whereas the doctors, nurses, mothers, women and girls and others who are being *victimized by terrorists* are given the suspicious/ “controversial” treatment by the press. It makes my blood boil.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  3. Anita wrote:

    Wow, I know a lot of pro-lifers and can’t imagine any of them committing acts of violence or even threatening violence. I don’t think all pro-lifers are identical, as some have very different motivations and tactics than others. I know some who have actually confronted those with a very abrasive style and asked them to be kinder and more respectful in their approach. A pro-life stance that doesn’t include compassion and love for the patients and abortion providers is not one that is truly pro-life.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Permalink
  4. Hayley B wrote:

    ELOQUENTLY SAID, as always. s.e. always states so well the exact hypocrisy at work. geez i love your writing. (/praise)

    Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 12:21 am | Permalink
  5. James M wrote:

    “Members of the pro-choice movement are not misguided. They are domestic terrorists who are willing to stop at nothing to achieve a political aim, and they use their rhetoric to inflame their movement, justify their actions, and draw followers. This is terrorism.”

    One often hears and remarks upon the toxicity of American politics; this is no more apparent than with abortion politics where each ‘side’ regularly appears totally unhinged, blindly partisan, hysterical and paranoid.

    Unfortunately America’s psychoses in this department do not only affect America. The unwillingness of the pro-choice movement in America to confront the role played by ultrasound access (seeded by western agencies with western funds) in leading to the sex ratio imbalances currently spreading throughout much of the world and which directly threaten the welfare of women worldwide, is directly tied to the ‘Holy War’ the movement believes it is fighting at home.

    Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 5:55 am | Permalink
  6. Catherine wrote:


    so do your rational pro-lifers stand up and decry their compatriots who do stalk and kill?

    Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink
  7. topaz_grrl wrote:

    @James M

    When was the last time you heard about a pro-choicer actually STALKING those that work at ‘pregnancy crisis centers’? Or assassinating someone who protests against abortion? Bombing/setting fire to churches? Sending death threats? (All of which are acts of terrorism)

    So no. The “tactics” employed by the pro-choice movement are in no way comparable to those of the pro-life movement. The pro-choice movement does not have a history of bullying, threatening, and utilizing violence in order to “intimidate or coerce” people into having abortions. You know, the whole having a “choice” thing.

    I’m not sure what you’re referring to re: the pro-choice movement, ultra-sound access, and sex ratio imbalances. Could you clarify or provide some stats/research?

    Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink
  8. RTR wrote:

    The very politically and racially selective use of insanely punitive and constitutionally highly suspect federal terrorism laws is one of the most obvious ways our justice system reveals what a sham its claims of fairness are. Also, the OK bill is actually much worse than it sounds, as it doesn’t just ban nonexistent food made with fetuses, it also bans any medication that was made using techniques that use fertilized eggs. Altzheimer meds developed years ago with stem cells? None for you grandma!

    Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  9. PatientC wrote:

    The only media person I see consistently calling such acts terrorism, which I believe them to be, is Rachel Maddow. She has a special on Dr. Tiller’s murder that is a must see.

    I am so tired of the false equivalency that gets pulled out of various unsavory orifices and has started here in the comments. Usually I enjoy and am almost as edified by the commenters here as the fantastic Tiger Beatdown staff. That said, the sides on this issue are not equal, are no where near equal, and will never be equal. People fighting for bodily autonomy are not going to take it away from someone else – except in self defense.

    Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Permalink
  10. @PatientC, mea culpa about those comments! They descended in a swarm and I let a couple on purpose because there were, all of a sudden, a good number of them. I thought it was OK to approve a couple so that people would have an opportunity to mock them. And I didn’t even approve some of the most ridiculous ones (like the person who said pro choicers were part of the “Israel lobby” [!!!!!!] ).

    Friday, January 27, 2012 at 5:23 am | Permalink
  11. Yes! (I have written about this, too.) I think that the whole it’s-not-terrorism-unless-a-Muslim-does-it has gotten a lot worse since 9/11, at least in the U.S. Back when the Oklahoma City bombing was the last “big” bombing, it was easier for people to get it through their heads that not just Muslims can be terrorists, but after 9/11 they went back to their default of “terrorist=Muslim”. It’s mind-boggling that bombing things or flying a plane into a building isn’t obvious terrorism to everyone.

    The whole “we’re at war” meme may also be contributing to the idea that someone has to be “foreign” to be a terrorist. (And of course, subconsiously some Americans think of a nonwhite American Muslim as more “foreign” than a white British Christian .)

    Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  12. Claire wrote:

    This is terrorism, ethnicity, gender, stereotypes aside. It is going to be a long year.

    Monday, January 30, 2012 at 4:17 am | Permalink
  13. Hari wrote:

    Thank you for telling the truth so clearly on this issue. Yes, we are dealing with terrorism, and this needs to be called by name everywhere.

    I have asked several anti-abortion persons over time: “Since you are so supportive of life, what are you doing to help the womyn who don’t have abortions, and their children? What kind of programs do you support to help single mothers with childcare, and basic necessities, so their lives can be good once the baby is born?”

    None can ever answer this question–not beyond things like “god will provide, and bless them for choosing life”. This tells me exactly how much ‘reverence’ they have for life. and how much they care about all the little children. Why is this–and their terrorist tactics–so hard for most to see?

    Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink