Sentiliano Canko, 32, was charged this week with a bomb threat directed to a New Jersey abortion clinic. Last week, anti-choice protesters stormed the waiting rooms of at least two abortion clinics. An attorney general and president determined not to enforce the law have birthed a new generation of anti-choice terrorism. While the far right uses terrorism as a guise for undermining civil liberties, they ignore one of the most common forms of terrorism: anti-choice terrorism. Here’s what you need to know.
Anti-Choice Terrorism is On the Rise
2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, was the most violent year in recent history for abortion clinics. In that year alone, there were more than 20,000 incidents involving anti-abortion picketers.
There Have Been Hundreds of Acts of Anti-Abortion Terrorism
Between 1973-2003, abortion providers were the subject of more than 300 acts of extreme violence. In 2015, for instance, a man stormed a Planned Parenthood and killed three people. Forty-two abortion clinics have been bombed, or faced attempted bombings. There have been at least 11 anti-abortion murders, and more than 185 clinics have been the subject of arson attacks.
Violence is Commonplace at the Nation’s Abortion Clinics
In the first half of 2016 alone, half of all abortion clinics experienced at least one act of violence. Those with poor support from law enforcement were significantly more likely to experience violence. Almost all clinics report experiencing threats or altercations with protesters. This suggests that anti-choice violence is not, as the far right insists, anomalous. It’s a strategic tactic for punishing women who seek abortions and terrorizing other women out of considering an abortion.
Anti-Abortion Terrorists Rarely Face Legal Consequences
Anti-abortion terrorists often face few or no consequences for their behavior. In 2016, an anti-choice activist who had counseled Dr. George Tiller’s killer was found not guilty of threatening an abortion doctor. The woman allegedly sent a doctor a letter telling him any day could be the day someone placed a bomb under his car. Later that year, Scott Roeder, who admits to murdering Dr. George Tiller, saw his sentence reduced. This reduction followed a courthouse rant during which Roeder insisted his crime was justified.
Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, anti-abortion terrorists may face an even more lenient enforcement climate. The federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act was designed to protect women’s access to abortion clinics. The statute makes it a crime to block a woman’s access to an abortion clinic (though protesters are still free to picket). Recent attacks on clinics have specifically blocked access, as was the case with protesters who recently stormed two abortion clinics. So far, the Department of Justice has done nothing to stop this escalation–even though Jeff Sessions has extensively ranted against terrorism. It seems the attorney general may only be interested in certain types of terrorism–those that target men, or people Sessions deems worthy of protection. Do women matter under a Trump presidency? The answer increasingly seems to be no.
Under Roe vs. Wade, the right to an abortion is a Constitutional right flowing from the right to privacy. The primary duty of government is to ensure equal access to Constitutional rights. Yet government at both the federal and state level have consistently failed to protect the right to abortion, putting women, doctors, and protection of Constitutional liberties in danger.