The growing overlap between anti-abortion activism and far-right extremism has started to spill into the real world in high-profile ways.
By Tess Owen and Carter Sherman
Feb 3, 2022
On New Year’s Eve, a fire ripped through the last Planned Parenthood in East Tennessee, turning the Knoxville abortion clinic into a hunk of rubble. As the ruins smoldered, some anti-abortion activists and members of the far-right celebrated online.
A Telegram meme account affiliated with the Proud Boys, a far-right street-fighting gang, responded to the literal fire with a string of fire emojis. “Aww, what a shame,” they wrote. “That will set their genocidal plans and baby parts market back for months.”
Jan. 21, 2022
By Eyal Press
This Saturday marks the 49th, and quite possibly the last, anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in every state. Roe’s precarious future can be attributed to various factors: the tenacity of the anti-abortion movement, the addition of three conservative justices to the court during Donald Trump’s presidency, the opportunities that pro-choice advocates may have missed. But if, as is widely expected, the Supreme Court upholds a Mississippi statute that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and overturns or guts Roe later this year, I will be thinking about something else: not the legal precedent, but the role that lawlessness and terrorism — and the medical community’s response to it — played in hastening Roe’s demise.
The act of terrorism that particularly haunts me took place on Oct. 23, 1998. That evening, an obstetrician-gynecologist named Barnett Slepian was standing in the kitchen of his home in Amherst, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo, when a sniper’s bullet struck him in the back. He collapsed to the floor and, within a few hours, was pronounced dead. At the time, Dr. Slepian was one of three abortion providers in the Greater Buffalo area. One of the others was my father, Shalom Press, an obstetric gynecologist who performed abortions on certain days in his private practice.
This is the second violent act against the clinic since an evangelical protest organization moved in a year ago, ramping up anti-abortion rhetoric in the city
By MARISA KABAS
Jan 7, 2022
As the ruins of the Knoxville Planned Parenthood smoldered in the background, vocal Pastor Ken Peters, a prominent anti-abortion figure, spoke to a reporter from the local ABC affiliate. “This is not gonna stop abortion,” he told them. “It’s the changing of hearts and minds, it’s the changing of laws. This might temporarily halt abortion, but this doesn’t stop it. We just pray that nobody was hurt and that who whoever did this is caught and prosecuted, and we pray that abortion would stop right here in the state of Tennessee.”
This past New Year’s Eve, less than one year after a gunman shot out the glass doors of the Planned Parenthood in Knoxville, Tennessee, the entire clinic burned to the ground in the midst of a $2.2 million renovation and expansion project. (No one was injured.) Investigators from the Knoxville Fire Department have ruled it an intentional fire — an arson, started by a person or persons who, just like the gunman, have yet to be identified. As investigators continue putting together the pieces, abortion rights activists can’t help but wonder: Did the rhetoric of Pastor Peters’s extreme anti-abortion church literally help stoke the flames?
Arson attempt, trespassing, and harassment: The consequences of extreme anti-abortion rhetoric
"This kind of language is an invitation to that radical fringe."
Amanda Michelle Gomez
May 6, 2019
Someone tried to light Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen on fire April 8. The Texas abortion clinic, the only provider serving the Rio Grande Valley, where the average household income is just $37,000, has been around for decades. The clinic has proved resilient, outlasting Texas laws that shuttered other clinics like it.
The arsonist struck at night, after hours, when nobody was at the clinic, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health. A neighbor noticed the fire and immediately called 911, so the fire department was able to extinguish the flames before the clinic could be too badly damaged. The clinic remained open, but there was residual smoke damage, and the staff could still smell the accelerant used to burn the clinic’s fence.