According to the data of the Prosecutor’s Office Projecta nonpartisan organization that tracks and analyzes federal criminal cases related to political violence.
In the year since Dobbs decision, at least 30 abortion opponents were charged federally with those crimes, a dramatic increase from only four people who were charged in 2021. The 30 post-Dobbs Federal defendants account for nearly one-third of all people charged with federal abortion-related crimes over the past three decades, according to project data.
At the same time — and perhaps for the first time — the Justice Department has also accused some abortion-rights advocates of some of the same behaviors traditionally associated with the anti-abortion fringe. Prior to this year, the Prosecution Project (which is financially sponsored by the Peace and Justice Studies Association at Georgetown University) found no federal abortion-related charges against abortion-rights advocates. But since last June, six supporters of the right to abortion have been denounced. One was accused of bombing an anti-abortion group. Four have been charged with vandalism. And one allegedly tried to assassinate Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
The vast majority of federal prosecutions identified by the Prosecution Project involve crimes against abortion providers. Yet the FBI says most of its abortion-related domestic terrorism investigations involve crimes against anti-abortion groups.
Some Republicans argue that this apparent disparity between investigations and charges means federal prosecutors are more aggressive in pursuing right-wing extremism.
« There’s a double standard at the Justice Department, » Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), head of the House Judiciary Committee, told POLITICO. « I don’t mean the same thing we always say, but it further confirms that there is a double standard. »
But some experts say the relatively high number of prosecutions against abortion enemies rightly reflect the greater threats. Rita Katz, head of the SITE Intelligence Group, argued for this case. Her group tracks terrorist threats and shares information with law enforcement.
“For the far right, the Roe versus Wade tipping was never a signal to sit back and bask in victory,” he told POLITICO. “It was a green light to inject more vigilance and violence into their culture wars, which is why they seem to be waging more anti-abortion attacks now than ever beforeDobbs, according to these numbers. They believe they can do whatever they want now. »
The attacks take place
On May 3, 2022, POLITICO reported that the Supreme Court had privately voted to overturn Roe versus Wade. The disclosure sparked immediate outcry and public outcry from abortion-rights advocates and, in some corners, more militant acts. Within days, dozens of so-called crisis pregnancy centers — organizations that oppose abortion and have been criticized for misleading pregnant patients — were covered in graffiti that read one version of the message: « If abortion is not sure, then neither are you.” A group known as Jane’s Revenge – which The Atlantic called both « an abortion rights group » and « a major social media bogeyman » – took credit for a number of attacks.
At least seven buildings housing these centers have been targeted by arson or firebombs, according to the FBI, which offered $25,000 for information leading to the identification of any suspects. The arsonists also targeted at least two other buildings housing anti-abortion political groups, according to the same FBI material.
Bodies of decapitated animals were left outside an anti-abortion pregnancy center in Orlando, according to a local report. And in one particularly nasty episode, a 75-year-old man in Michigan shot an 84-year-old woman who came to her door defending abortion rights. as explained by the Associated Press. The woman received medical attention and the man was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
Meanwhile, attacks on abortion facilities, in a decades-long pattern of violence, continued. Just last week, the Justice Department charged two men, including an active duty Marine, with firebombs at a California Planned Parenthood clinic.
The National Abortion Federation, which represents abortion providers, has been tracking attacks on its members’ facilities for decades. His 2022 report showed that burglaries tripled over the year Dobbs decided: from 13 in 2021 to 43 in 2022. Since the group began tracking burglaries in 1977, only 2016 has had more, with 66. Stalking has also skyrocketed, from 28 incidents in 2021 to 92 in 2022. There were also four fires in 2022 (compared to two in 2021 and five in 2020).
Another threat has also materialized: « For the first time in more than a decade, facilities reported receiving suspicious envelopes containing a white powdery substance, » the report reads. Abortion providers received four total mailings in 2022, three of which arrived after the Dobbs news.
At the same time, some types of crimes against abortion have decreased. There were fewer than half as many breaking and entering cases in 2022 as in 2021: 395 cases, compared to 977. The group attributes this in part to the fact that dozens of clinics closed after Dobbs.
Melissa Fowler, chief program officer at the National Abortion Federation, said anti-abortion activists sometimes use social media while harassing providers.
“We see people live streaming themselves invading clinics,” he said. “They use social media to plan invasions, to invite other people to participate and to brag about their activities. But I think that’s all really part of this environment where people are really encouraged.
This year, he added, the threats have persisted.
« We know these activities continue and people are being harassed and things continue to feel really intense, » she said.
The feds respond
As threats developed in 2022, the FBI opened 28 abortion-related domestic terrorism investigations, more than the previous four years combined, according to the Department of Justice. An FBI spokesman told POLITICO that 70 percent of these investigations involve attacks on institutions that oppose abortion rights.
« More than two-thirds of the FBI’s FACE Act or abortion-related domestic terrorism assessments and investigations involve some type of crime against a pro-life facility or religious institution, » the spokesperson said, referring to the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a 1994 federal law that protects access to reproductive health facilities.
« At the FBI, the focus is on violence and threats of violence, » the spokesman added. « The FBI will vigorously pursue investigations into violence or threats of violence, regardless of ideology. »
Most Justice Department prosecutions charge people with crimes against abortion providers and facilities. At least four people, including the Marine, were charged with arson for targeting abortion clinics. And more than two dozen people have been accused of violating the FACE Act by blocking entrances to abortion clinics.
In the wake of the ruling, the Justice Department created a task force focused on protecting abortion rights and access.
« THE Dobbs decision was and is devastating to people and communities across the country,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta told POLITICO. “We established the Reproductive Rights Task Force to bring a department-wide approach to protecting access to reproductive healthcare. And we remain committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect reproductive freedoms in the days ahead. »
There has been a significant change since then Dobbs on how the Justice Department prosecutes abortion-related crimes: For the first time, the DOJ used the FACE Act — a law previously used only to protect facilities that provide abortions — to prosecute people who vandalized abortion centers pregnancy against abortion. Prosecutors charged four people in Florida with violating the statute by vandalizing several centers.
This new use of the FACE Act has come with the backing of DOJ leadership; Kristen Clarke, head of the department’s civil rights division, he teamed up with a US attorney and a senior FBI official to announce the charges.
The move has drawn criticism from people who support abortion rights.
« The history of reproductive health care in the United States, especially that involving abortion, is a history of undue violence, threats and intimidation of health care workers and volunteers, » said Michael Loadenthal, head of the Prosecution Project. « Given this history and the need to protect providers, it is concerning to see the FACE Act – designed to ensure safe access to healthcare – being used to prosecute people accused of vandalizing a site whose function is to muddy the waters for those seeking to terminate a pregnancy or explore their reproductive health care options.
Meanwhile, Jordan and other Republicans say the Justice Department isn’t doing enough to fight abortion-related left-wing extremism.
« The stark discrepancy between the number of investigations into attacks on pro-life centers and the lack of legal action taken further confirms the bias against pro-lifers at the DOJ and the FBI, » said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, said.