A new report by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) shows a dramatic escalation in threats and violence against abortion providers after the release of several highly-edited, deceptive videos created by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP).
The report finds that last November’s attack—when anti-abortion extremist Robert Lewis Dear shot and killed three people and injured nine others at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood—“followed a documented and unprecedented increase in hate speech and threats immediately following the release of the misleading videos.” According to media reports, after his arrest, Dear told law enforcement, “no more baby parts,” a reference to the language in the CMP videos. He has since said that he is a “warrior for the babies.”
But as the NAF report demonstrates, the Colorado shooting did not happen in a vacuum. Following the release of the videos, there was a sharp rise in all types of harassment, intimidation and violence. The number of reported death threats increased from 1 in 2014 to 94 in 2015. Instances of picketing outside of clinics increased four-fold from 5,402 in 2014 to 21,715 in 2015—the largest number found in the 40 years that NAF has published their threat assessment.
“The sharp rise in threats and violence in 2015 is alarming, and directly correlates to the release of inflammatory videos aimed at demonizing providers,” said Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of NAF. “In the last year, we’ve seen the consequences of this firestorm of hate firsthand. When abortion providers are targeted and demonized, clinic staff are threatened, facilities are set on fire, and doctors are murdered.”
Although the deceptive CMP videos, which falsely accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue, preceded a spike in threats and violence, the problem in not new. One in five women’s health clinics in the United States reported experiencing severe violence—such as blockades, stalking, clinic invasion, physical violence, bombing, gunfire, arson, or death threats—in 2014, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) 2014 National Clinic Violence Survey. In addition, threats and intimidation against abortion providers increased from 26.6 percent of clinics affected in 2010 to 51.9 percent of clinics in 2014.
Despite the ongoing threats of violence, harassment, and intimidation against abortion providers, politically-motivated attacks against women’s health care clinics continue. Just last week, the House Select Investigative Panel – formed in the aftermath of the videos to investigate abortion providers – issued 12 new subpoenas to force healthcare providers, universities, and others to disclose the names of doctors, medical students, researchers, staff, and administrators.
So far, the House Select Investigative Panel has not been willing to investigate CMP leaders or other anti-abortion extremists. In the wake of increasing violence and threats against abortion clinics nationwide, FMF launched a campaign late last year calling on the House Panel to redirect its focus to anti-abortion violence, intimidation, and harassment, or to disband.
To date, federal and state-level investigations have turned up zero evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood and the fraudulent videos have been debunked repeatedly. The only people to be indicted are two of the people behind the misleading videos, including CMP head David Daleiden, who has been charged with a felony. Just yesterday, Daleiden’s California home was searched by authorities in connection with an ongoing investigation into whether CMP may have violated any California laws.