Report Details Alarming Rise in Violence Against Abortion Providers

Anti-abortion activists' "ultimate goal is to eliminate abortion facilities across the country."

Image of white man holding anti-abortion sign
States that moved to protect abortion access leading up to and in the wake of Roe v. Wade falling experienced a disproportionate increase in clinic violence and disruption. Austen Risolvato/Rewire News Group

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The most extreme and violent corners of the anti-abortion movement are more emboldened than ever, thanks to the Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade last June.

That’s the inevitable conclusion to draw from the 2022 Violence and Disruption Report, which the National Abortion Federation released this morning. The annual report details an alarming increase in major incidents like arson, clinic invasion, and death threats.

How sharp were some of the increases? Incidents of arson at clinics were up 100 percent in 2022 compared to the year prior. But that seems almost tame compared to the increase in incidents of stalking of abortion providers, patients, and staff in the year since Roe fell: an astounding 229 percent.

States that moved to protect abortion access leading up to and in the wake of the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization experienced a disproportionate increase in clinic violence and disruption—stalking incidents increased by 913 percent in abortion-protective states. In other words, the worst of the anti-abortion movement directly targeted the areas they knew had some level of abortion access remaining.

In a press call before the report’s release, NAF Security Director Michelle Davidson said anti-abortion groups had issued a call-to-action to move to states that have moved to protect access.

“Their ultimate goal is to eliminate abortion facilities across the country, by any means necessary,” Davidson said.

The numbers really are staggering, and they become bone-chilling when you attach them to individuals simply trying to provide or receive reproductive health care. And when you fold this violence into the overall increase in targeted violence like the most recent mall shooting and migrant attack out of Texas—two major stories becoming blips in a narrative of increasing fascist violence in this country—it’s terrifying.

I was pretty new to journalism when Dr. George Tiller was murdered in 2009, shot in his Kansas church by Scott Roeder. But I’ll never forget covering that story. I still remember where I was and who I was with when the news broke. I remember the atmosphere in Kansas leading up to his murder where Republicans in office often encouraged the worst of the anti-abortion movement.

It was that ongoing permission from the state to carry out targeted harassment and violence against abortion providers that ultimately created the conditions where Tiller’s murder was possible. I worry we are in a more amplified version of Kansas at the moment and don’t have clear messages from the Biden administration that this kind of threat and intimidation cannot stand.

The FACE Act exists for a reason. The Biden administration should enforce it.