A new report points to the prevalence of increasingly hostile anti-choice rhetoric and policy proposals from elected officials as a cause of escalated activity among extremists who oppose the reproductive rights of women.
"We know that hostile rhetoric, including rhetoric from anti-abortion elected officials, can incite some to take the law into their own hands by threatening abortion providers and committing acts of violence," Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), said in a statement.
From 2016 to 2017, according to NAF's report (pdf) on violence and disruption against abortion providers, trespassing at health clinics by anti-abortion activists tripled. During the same time period, death threats and threats of harm as well as obstruction of clinic entrances doubled.
Last year also saw the first attempted bombing of an abortion clinic in several years, according to NAF. A homemade explosive was found wedged into a window at a healthcare facility in November, forcing the clinic to close for the day, and acts of vandalism at another clinic cost more than $32,000 in damage.
The group has tracked anti-choice activity since the 1970s, including murders and attempted murders of abortion providers, arson, and thousands of other incidents targeting women who seek abortion care and the clinics that provide care. Last year's rise in extremist activity caused concern at NAF that the anti-choice movement could become further emboldened.
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"Given the political climate and the increase in hate incidents throughout the country, it is more important than ever that law enforcement and prosecutors appropriately respond to anti-abortion criminal activity," said Saporta.
The report follows the passage of the nation's most restrictive abortion bill in Iowa, banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed last week. GOP lawmakers who pushed the bill through openly acknowledged that they supported the unconstitutional legislation in the hopes that it would be legally challenged and lead to a Supreme Court battle over Roe vs. Wade.
It also follows a year in which elected officials spread lies about abortion care at the March for Life, with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) telling a crowd that "abortion involves dismemberment of a child" and calling Planned Parenthood "the most dangerous place today for a child."
"We cannot be silent as others continue to publicly vilify doctors and clinic staff, thereby jeopardizing their personal safety, in order to advance their own personal and political agendas," said Saporta.