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Kentucky Enacts ‘Born Alive’ Bill, Based on Fear-Mongering Lie About Abortion

Terrible news, everyone.

SB 9—the “Born Alive” bill enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature in Kentucky—is now law because Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear failed to veto it. That’s good news for forced birthers in Kentucky—not so much for pregnant people.

The bill sat on Beshear’s desk for a period of ten days, during which he could have vetoed it. But he didn’t. Instead, he just let it go into effect. And the cherry on top of the shit sundae? It happened on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling that made abortion a Constitutional right.

So what exactly is the Born Alive law? It is a fear-mongering and myth-making law based on the lie that abortion providers are somehow aborting newborns with regularity. (Aborting a newborn is called murder or infanticide where I’m from.)

It is utter propaganda as well as a blatant attempt for Republican legislators to control how and when physicians provide care, as Calla Hales previously wrote for Rewire News Group:

These bills are worded very intentionally, with the aim to further the false narrative that abortions regularly occur immediately before or, according to [Trump], at the time of birth. While it should be apparent, it is still necessary to point out that any intentional action to end the life of an infant is already illegal.

Kentucky’s SB 9 requires a physician performing an abortion to take all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of a “born alive” infant.

But here’s the thing: ABORTION PROVIDERS ALREADY DO THAT.

So let’s count the ways Kentucky’s “Born Alive” law is horseshit.

  1. Legal abortion care does not involve murder or infanticide. Duh.
  2. Murder and infanticide *are already crimes* so why do we need a law reiterating that you shouldn’t be murdering infants.
  3. “Born alive” is nonsense terminology because—wait for it—if you’re “born alive” it means you’ve been “born.” BORN ALIVE DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING.
  4. Doctors are already required to care for babies that are born. This is common sense.

But critically, these laws are cruel: While a healthy fetus can survive outside the womb after 24 weeks, abortions this late in pregnancy are incredibly rare and often involve heartbreaking circumstances like fetal anomalies or the pregnant person’s life being at risk.

In cases where a newborn doesn’t have a chance of surviving for very long outside of the womb, abortion providers provide compassionate end-of-life care for newborns according to what the patient wants.

Some people opt to let the baby die naturally. Others opt to try to resuscitate it. Others opt to provide some sort of palliative comfort care: to wrap their newborn, cuddle it, swaddle it, and just have a few moments with the baby before it dies. This is a decision that must be made between the physician and the patient.

These laws do nothing to protect “born alive” newborns. What they do is strip rights away from pregnant people to, for example, sign a Do Not Resuscitate order to limit their newborn infant’s distress. Republicans in Kentucky want to interfere with a patient’s decision regarding end-of-life-care for their newborn.

So not only are “Born Alive” laws based on junk science and scare tactics, they make an already difficult situation even more difficult for pregnant people during a particularly painful time. These laws are cruel and unnecessary.

And the Kentucky law is, of course, not the first of its kind—anti-choicers are not the most creative people. We’ve had our eyes on “Born Alive” legislation for a few years now, including on the federal level.

This post was adapted from a Twitter thread.

Has Sex Ed Even Changed From the ‘Bridgerton’ Era to Today?

If you’re anything like me, you spent much of the past two weeks enthralled with the world of Bridgerton, a Gossip Girl-esque show set in 1813 that’s largely centered on the lack of knowledge the female characters have about sex and pregnancy.

It’s worth the binge if you haven’t already seen it. The smolder! The dresses! The jewelry! The parties! The scandals!

And the egregious absence of sex education.

Within hours of the show’s release on Netflix, I started to get text messages from family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues—all fired up and demanding answers to the same questions: “WHY WAS THERE NO SEX TALK?!” “How could they send young women into the world without knowing about their own bodies, reproductive health, or basic anatomy?”

And my ironic favorite: “Thank god things are different now.”

Is it though?

While it’s true that today’s young people have a wealth of information at their fingertips via the internet—and for many of them, conversations about sex, sexual health, and reproduction require far less formal investigation than for the young ladies of Bridgerton—sex education in the United States still varies wildly by state, and even by school.

Far too many young people are given no information—or sometimes even worse, intentionally wrong information—about their sexual health, bodies, and rights. And they find themselves having to make big decisions they otherwise wouldn’t if the adults in their lives trusted them with accurate information upfront.

Today, more than three out of four young people have sex before turning 20, and the period between the first time they have sex and when they get married (if they get married) is over a decade. Because schools often wait until the end of high school to teach sex ed, many young people don’t receive needed sex education before they first have sex.

That is, if they receive any sex education at all. In the United States, only 39 states and D.C. mandate sex education or HIV education in schools. And just 17 states require sex ed content to be “medically accurate.”

Episode six of Bridgerton ignited Twitter in a conversation about consent, power, reproductive coercion, and autonomy. Even today, too few young people in the United States are taught anything about consent, reproductive coercion, and reproductive rights. Only nine states require the importance of consent to be covered in sex ed curricula. And just 24 states and D.C. require sex ed to include information on asserting personal boundaries and refusing unwanted sexual advances. Does this feel inconsistent? That’s because it is.

But there are states adopting comprehensive sex ed policies and working to ensure that students are receiving accurate, complete, and accessible information. In the past three years, Colorado, Illinois, and Maryland approved broadening their approach to sex education, and Washington state doubled down on a comprehensive sex education law with a statewide vote in its favor in November 2020.

 

These conversations matter. And yet we have lawmakers actively blocking inclusion of such nuanced, critical, and necessary subjects in our sex ed curricula.

Like our heroine Daphne, too many young people today don’t receive the information they need from their parents either. While parents may have a heart-to-heart with their kids sooner than the wedding night, these family conversations can still be too little, too late. The belief that a single parent-child conversation meets a young person’s needs has been disproven again and again—there need to be ongoing, honest conversations. (By the way, I had to explain the Duke’s pull-out method as a contraceptive strategy to my mom, so learning can happen in both directions!)

While—obviously—much has changed since 1813 (including the ability to binge-watch a TV series in our pajamas and text everyone we’ve ever met about Lady Whistledown), the bottom line is that many young people are still denied accurate information about their own bodies.

And as in (almost every) plotline in Bridgerton, the lack of information means that too many young people have to piece together knowledge that affects their own lives—often too late, and without the support they want and need.

Whether it’s wanting to get pregnant like Daphne, avoid pregnancy like the Duke, end a pregnancy like Miss Thompson, or just make sense of pregnancy like Eloise and Penelope, each character’s life in Bridgerton is unnecessarily complicated by the hush-hush, stigma-laced standard of 19th-century sex education.

Just like in the world of Bridgerton, there is a very reasonable way to approach all of this in the present day: good sex education and ongoing conversations between adults and young people.

We can do it. We’ve traded in our horses and carriages. It’s time to trade in our bad sex education models and give young people the respect and information they need and deserve to take care of themselves, their bodies, and their relationships. Ignorance is not bliss in the fictional world of Bridgerton—or in the world young people live in right now.

Capitol Violence Leads to New Protest Protections at the Supreme Court

“The terror was visceral, and I had to sit down, close my office door, and have my panic attack in private. I cried again in my car and when I got home. It wasn’t until hours later that I was able to even recognize that I reacted in that way because of the constant fear of violence that we live with every day.”

That was Dr. Diane Horvath’s reaction when she heard the news of the January 6 insurrection. Horvath is an abortion provider in Baltimore, and like many abortion providers nationwide, for her the violence at the U.S. Capitol was not unfamiliar.

That’s because every single day, abortion providers go to work with the knowledge that they are targets of violence—that their colleagues have been assassinated and their patients are often taking a risk simply by entering the building. They keep bulletproof vests on hand, and offer escorts to usher patients through aggressive crowds of protesters. This is the reality of providing abortion in the United States.

This sort of violence became the reality for members of Congress who gathered earlier this month to tally electoral votes. And within 24 hours of the siege, a big fence—a buffer zone, if you will—was placed around the Capitol to protect lawmakers from more violence.

It took one (very violent) uprising in Washington for barricades around the Capitol to be erected. Even the Supreme Court got a brand-new fence, to keep the nine justices safe from terrorism. But abortion clinics have been under siege for decades, and there are no physical barriers or legal buffer zones protecting them. Which raises the question: Why not? Why aren’t the protections afforded to Congress allowed at abortion clinics?

Because six years ago, the Supreme Court—which itself enjoys the protection of a buffer zone—ruled in McCullen v. Coakley that clinic buffer zones are an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment rights of so-called sidewalk counselors.

McCullen involved a Massachusetts buffer zone law enacted in the wake of violent attacks on clinic workers in the early 1990s. The conflict culminated in 1994, when John Salvi opened fire on two abortion clinics, killing two people and injuring five others. Witnesses said he shouted, “This is what you get! You should pray the rosary!” while he shot one of the victims ten times.

Following this massacre, Massachusetts enacted a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics. The law didn’t prohibit anti-choice protesting altogether; it just ensured that clinic workers and patients would not have to walk a gauntlet of people shouting “Baby killers!” at them for trying to enter an abortion clinic. Seems rational enough, right?

Well, not for the Supreme Court, which struck down the law in 2014, saying it violated the First Amendment. The protesters argued that a buffer zone violated their freedom of speech, and the Court agreed, handing down a decision that jeopardized the safety of providers and patients nationwide.

At the heart of the issue is the question of what kinds of speech the First Amendment protects. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio that the government cannot restrict violent speech unless it’s “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

But the kind of speech spewed by anti-abortion terrorists is incitement to violence. This isn’t hyperbole: For years, Bill O’Reilly waged war on Dr. George Tiller, calling the abortion provider a “baby killer” operating a “death mill.” That is until an anti-abortion extremist walked up to Tiller one morning at church and assassinated him. Years later, after anti-choice activists doctored videos to accuse Planned Parenthood of selling “baby parts,” Robert Dear opened fire in a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic and shouted that exact phrase.

These are not coincidences—they’re cause and effect. The same way it’s not a coincidence that the insurrectionists spew the same rhetoric Trump does.

So the question becomes: How many more acts of violence will it take for the courts to realize abortion clinics deserve the same protection as our lawmakers? How many more days will providers have to go to work in fear, with targets on their backs, without the same protections Congress gave themselves overnight?

Because while members of Congress return to work behind the protection of barriers and increased law enforcement, abortion providers continue to do the critical work of providing care for patients while worrying if they’ll be next.

5 Reasons We’re Glad Betsy DeVos Is No Longer the Education Secretary

The Betsy DeVos era in public education is over. And it couldn’t have come a minute too soon.

Last week, after an insurrection at the Capitol incited by the president himself, the administration’s staff and cabinet members started jumping ship—because, for some reason, after four years of working under a white nationalist and fascist, inciting a violent uprising was a bridge too far.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was among those who resigned. DeVos is perhaps best known for making the lives of sexual assault survivors a living hell. But her tenure was filled with all kinds of craven and bigoted decisions that made our nation’s education system a more hateful and dysfunctional place for students.

In a perfect world, DeVos would have resigned because she was a terrible education secretary, not because she likely didn’t want to be involved in a cabinet vote to remove the president from office under the 25th Amendment.

But these days we take our wins where we can find them, and DeVos being out of a job is a win for certain. Sen. Elizabeth Warren called her “the worst secretary of education ever.”

Here are five reasons we’re glad to see her go.

She made schools safer for rapists

DeVos made a lot of bad decisions about sexual violence in schools and on college campuses. She rolled back Title IX protections for students on college campuses by increasing protections for abusers and rapists and loosening the obligations of college administrators when a student reports sexual violence. And just so no one felt left out, she also gutted protections for K-12 students and required schools to investigate only claims of extreme sexual harassment.

Devos herself called it an attempt to improve Title IX and better determine which cases are “real” or legitimate, and which are not. “Any perceived offense can become a full-blown Title IX investigation. But if everything is harassment, then nothing is,” she said. And she did all this after holding “listening sessions” with organizations that claim to advocate for wrongly accused students while really just smearing rape survivors as liars.

She made schools more dangerous for trans students

Under DeVos, the Department of Education immediately rescinded guidance protecting transgender students’ access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Then it sought to reframe the definition of “sex” under Title IX to discriminate against transgender students. And make no mistake, these orders came from the top.

She also made schools more dangerous for students with disabilities

Sexual violence is a disability issue. People with disabilities are three times more likely to experience sexual violence; they’re also significantly less likely to report. DeVos’ attacks on Title IX and survivors came down especially hard on students with disabilities. The added hurdles to reporting and the lack of protections were devastating for all students, but for those living with physical disabilities or mental health conditions, they only exacerbated the already volatile effects of sexual violence.

And she made schools more dangerous for Black students

DeVos made no secret of her racism during her tenure as the secretary of education. She lied to leaders of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and used them as a distraction to promote “school choice”—as Rewire News Group’s Imani Gandy wrote at the time, that’s a “buzzword used by folks who want to eliminate public education in favor of vouchers, charter schools, and virtual schools, all of which reduce resources available to already underfunded public schools”—and to support other policies that would adversely affect students of color under the guise of doing just the opposite.

Overall she made school less … educational

Beyond her overt bigotry and her penchant for protecting rapists and attacking survivors of sexual violence, DeVos was a nightmare for the quality of education of students nationwide. While she touted the importance of school choice and charter schools. DeVos took every chance she could to undermine the quality of public education. This pattern began long before she entered the Trump administration: The charter school policies she spent millions backing in Michigan were such a failure that students in Detroit even filed a lawsuit in 2016 claiming the city’s schools were “schools in name only, characterized by slum-like conditions and lacking the most basic educational opportunities that children elsewhere in Michigan and throughout the nation take for granted.”

New Education Secretary Must Prioritize K-12 Sexual Assault Survivors

When my friends and I were sexually harassed in high school, we were completely unaware of our rights under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. If our school’s anti-harassment policies had been more accessible and transparent, we could have gotten the support that we needed.

Our lack of knowledge was not unique—it’s shared by countless other K-12 student survivors across the country.

With a new administration coming in soon, we’re hopeful that it can make a difference.

Last month, President-elect Joe Biden nominated Miguel Cardona to be his secretary of education. Cardona is currently the Connecticut commissioner of education, a role he has held since the summer of 2019. Unlike his predecessor, Betsy DeVos, who has never served in public education, Cardona has been a public school educator for his entire professional career. Biden has committed to overturning Secretary DeVos’ anti-survivor Title IX regulations, which made it easier for schools to sweep violence under the rug. These efforts may take anywhere from “two months to two years,” according to HuffPost.

But if Cardona wants to correct the damage done by his predecessor and ensure no student is pushed out of school because of sexual violence, he must prioritize K-12 student survivors.

While Biden positioned himself as a champion for the movement against campus sexual violence during the Obama administration, little attention was paid to the high rates of violence and discrimination in K-12 schools. One in three teens have been victims of dating violence, and almost half of rape victims were assulted before the age of 18. This violence and the ensuing trauma can have devastating impacts on survivors’ education and lifetime success.

But very few students—and even schools—are aware of survivors’ rights under Title IX. When drafting new Title IX regulations, the next Department of Education must meet with K-12 student survivor groups and gain their input to ensure their unique needs are met by future Title IX enforcement.

Many K-12 schools have not ensured that all their students have access to an educational environment free from gender violence, either because of a lack of resources or lack of empathy––or both. Since 2018, at least 330 lawsuits have been filed against K-12 school districts for mishandling incidents of sexual misconduct and denying students adequate protection.

Navigating Title IX as a K-12 survivor can be difficult because of unclear policies and lack of knowledge about legal protections. Survivors often hesitate to reach out for help due to fear of punishment or retaliation. Unfortunately, their fears are not unfounded. Many schools devote their institutional power to persecuting survivors for asserting their civil rights. Schools have blatantly ignored survivors’ reports of sexual violence, expelled them for asking for help, or denied them basic protections that would help them stay safe in school. These actions often force survivors to transfer to another institution or begin homeschooling.

For example, in 2019, a Philadelphia mom filed a lawsuit against the school district for failing to take action to keep her daughter safe from physical, verbal, and sexual harassment—even after classmates ripped out her hair and scratched her face with scissors. Because of their inaction, her child was forced to withdraw from the school and transfer.

As a result of this retaliation and persecution, K-12 student survivors lose valuable classroom time and are pushed out of the classroom while their harassers’ educational experience remains uninterrupted.

As secretary of education, Cardona will have an opportunity to champion policies that protect young survivors—such as a concerted Title IX education and awareness campaign in K-12 schools; a requirement that every K-12 school have a designated and defined Title IX coordinator and a confidential victim advocate to assist the survivor through the reporting process; restorative justice options for survivors; and policies that shield students from retaliation and pushout.

K-12 student survivors deserve a safe educational environment where they can develop their academic and extracurricular interests. Only by crafting Title IX and sexual violence policies with K-12 survivors in mind can the Department of Education provide an educational environment where all students can flourish.

Amy Coney Barrett’s First Abortion Ruling Is No Surprise

The Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration Tuesday in a ruling that puts abortion patients’ health at risk—the first abortion-related ruling with Amy Coney Barrett on the bench.

The decision in FDA v. ACOG reinstates a federal policy that requires medication abortion patients to pick up their abortion medications in person. Providers had challenged the policy because of the pandemic and a federal court had blocked it. The ruling puts that policy back in place.

Of over 20,000 drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, there’s only one the FDA requires a patient pick up in person: mifepristone, which is used with misoprostol to terminate an early pregnancy.

The FDA requires patients to pick up mifepristone in person even if the patient has already been evaluated by a clinician by telehealth or in-person. Because of the added risks involved with travel and the COVID-19 pandemic, a court suspended this requirement.

That meant that in some states patients could manage their abortions completely remotely with clinician support. This is amazing—and the way abortion care should happen everywhere.

Why would the FDA single out mifepristone for treatment like this? Anti-choice lawmakers like to claim it’s because the drug is not safe. Those claims are total nonsense—shocking, I know.

The reason the FDA singles out mifepristone like this is simple: abortion stigma. But don’t take our word for it. That’s exactly what Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her dissent:

Patients’ health vulnerabilities, public transportation risks, susceptible older family members at home, and clinic closures and reduced services pose substantial, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles for women seeking medication abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under these conditions, the in-person requirements for mifepristone impose an unjustifiable and undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

The Court’s ruling is especially bad for people of color and low-income patients who are already the most impacted by the pandemic. In other words, the conservative justices just made the pandemic WORSE for these folks.

So, can anything be done about this no good very bad decision from the Supreme Court? Yes, something can be done about it!

Once it takes office, the Biden administration could issue a guidance that says the FDA won’t enforce the in-person requirement during the pandemic. That would be amazing.

The administration can then begin the process of undoing that requirement. That will take a lot more time and advocacy work though.

This post was adapted from a Twitter thread.

What the United States Can Learn From Argentina’s Abortion Victory

In a monumental step forward for human rights, at the end of 2020 Argentina fully legalized abortion care through the 14th week of pregnancy. Previously, Argentina permitted abortion only in cases of incest and rape or to save the life of the pregnant person. This victory was not sudden—it was a product of decades of grassroots organizing. And organizers’ victory provides a model for abortion rights advocates in the United States.

Abortion legalization in the deeply Catholic country reminds us of the transformative power of not just grassroots organizing, but also organizing without compromise—that means without making someone’s bodily autonomy contingent on how a pregnancy was conceived. In the United States, while abortion has been technically legal since 1973, not only is care widely unavailable due to hundreds of state and federal restrictions, but access is often conditional due to abortion restrictions with rape exceptions.

To usher in 2021, several U.S. state legislatures are already introducing and passing new restrictions, like Ohio’s latest law requiring costly burials for aborted fetuses. Argentina has provided a bold model of full legalization, and it’s time to fight for the same in the United States. That means refusing to accept the invasiveness and cruelty of making abortion access dependent on exceptions for rape, and recognizing that the struggles for reproductive justice and survivor justice are inextricably connected.

In recent years, state and federal lawmakers have introduced and passed a wide range of bans and restrictions, including bills to restrict abortion coverage and prohibit care at varying stages of pregnancy. These bills often come with exceptions for incest and rape. Abortion opponents have routinely weaponized the rape exception to make their cruel, extreme legislation seem more humane and compassionate.

This exception raises critical questions that too often go unasked—like how survivors with unwanted pregnancies are supposed to prove they were raped to law enforcement and doctors; whether they feel comfortable and safe doing so; and whether the rape exception can actually protect them if doctors and law enforcement don’t believe them. Rather than supporting survivors’ ability to get abortion care, the rape exception creates dangerous barriers for survivors, and instead benefits anti-choice politicians by improving the moral optics of violent and inhumane abortion bans and restrictions.

Rape exceptions to abortion restrictions send the false message that coming forward about one’s experience with rape, proving this experience to law enforcement and doctors, and seeking care are easy and simple. On all fronts, we know this isn’t true: One in five women experience rape or attempted rape—with women of color and LGBTQ folks more vulnerable to violence—and an estimated 65 percent to 85 percent of sexual assaults aren’t reported. One key reason survivors cite for not reporting their assaults is fear of being disbelieved and punished. The over-simplicity of the rape exception to abortion bans obscures this truth.

The United States continues to ban federal coverage of abortion care in order to prioritize a narrow minority’s personal and religious views over the health and autonomy of pregnant people.

Among anti-choice politicians, there’s little consensus on whether there should ever be exceptions to abortion bans. In 2019, white nationalist and former Iowa Rep. Steve King came under fire from across the political spectrum for arguing against the rape exception. Yet there was something sorely missing from this discourse: that abortion bans are violent and inhumane, with or without an exception that’s far more symbolic than effective in supporting survivors.

Survivor justice and reproductive justice are both rooted in a fundamental demand for autonomy and safety in one’s own body, home, and community. Any and all abortion bans and restrictions that push care out of reach serve to violate women and pregnant-capable people, exceptions or not. Similarly, rhetoric that insists people with unwanted pregnancies “take responsibility” dangerously equates consent to sex with consent to pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.

Abortion legalization in Argentina presents other contrasts with the state of care in the United States. Even though the country is deeply Catholic, abortion in Argentina will be covered by the government free of cost, all while the United States continues to ban federal coverage of abortion care in order to prioritize a narrow minority’s personal and religious views over the health and autonomy of pregnant people.

The myriad restrictions on abortion and the deep stigma in the United States have also increasingly rendered pregnant people vulnerable to criminalization and suspicion for miscarriages, stillbirths, and self-managed abortions, with several women of color investigated, charged and even jailed for pregnancy losses in recent years.

Abortion legalization in Argentina is a reminder that in the United States and everywhere, we don’t have to settle for stigma and barriers that violate and endanger pregnant people and people who have survived sexual violence. And we certainly don’t have to settle for laws that punish survivors by forcing them to come forward about their traumas to get health care.

Want to learn more about the movement in Argentina? Check out the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion.

Abortion Providers Watching Capitol Violence Say They’ve ‘Seen This Rage Before’

Trump supporters laid siege to our nation’s capital on Wednesday, storming past a flaccid and enabling law enforcement presence in an attempt to stage a coup. As they were filling the halls of Congress—stealing lecterns and paintings, and taking selfies at Nancy Pelosi’s desk—pundits lamented: This is not America; this is not who we are. Some even marveled at the cooperation from law enforcement, wondering how security could have been so lax.

Unfortunately, abortion providers are all too familiar with the sort of violence that played out at the Capitol.

Anti-abortion violence has wreaked havoc on clinics for decades: fire bombings, shootings, and ceaseless harassment, have forced clinic directors to barricade their medical facilities and stock them with bulletproof vests and staff trained to respond to mass violence at any given moment. All for providing necessary and critical medicine.

“Those of us who provide abortion care have seen this rage before,” Dr. Jamila Perritt, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “We have seen it in the eyes and hear it in the shouts of the protesters outside of our offices and clinics. We know that the individuals that breached the Capitol [on Wednesday] are the same ones standing outside our health centers in the morning.”

In the 40 years that the National Abortion Federation has been documenting violence against abortion providers, there have been 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 189 arsons, and thousands of incidents of criminal activity directed at abortion providers across the country.

Calla Hales, executive director of A Preferred Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic with branches in North Carolina and Georgia, is no stranger to anti-choice terrorism. Her clinic is a hotspot for harassment and protests. The health center is regularly inundated with hundreds—even thousands—of violent anti-abortion terrorists, who occupy the lot next door to harass patients and shout about baby parts.

Hales said watching the insurrection unfold in Washington was rattling.

“As an executive director of multiple abortion clinics, in the Bible Belt no less, the potential for violence is something that’s never far from my mind,” she told Rewire News Group. “Violence is something all abortion providers and advocates are familiar with. We deal with harassment and intimidation on a daily basis.”

Wednesday “made me think about how invading and blockading clinics over the past few decades must have been the perfect training ground for this insurrection,” Hales said.

The violence on Capitol Hill also hit home for Dr. Diane Horvath, an OB-GYN and abortion provider in Baltimore.

“The terror was visceral, and I had to sit down, close my office door, and have my panic attack in private,” she said. “It wasn’t until hours later that I was able to even recognize that I reacted in that way because of the constant fear of violence that we live with every day.”

Many others in abortion advocacy noted the similarity between Wednesday’s violence and the violence that clinics and providers face with regularity—and with far less visibility and protection. And these parallels extend beyond the symbolism of white nationalists overtaking a building by force and threatening those inside. There were also many familiar faces among the insurrectionists at the Capitol.

Sharp eyes spotted the anti-choice darling Abby Johnson in the crowd. And RNG has confirmed the presence and involvement of dozens of other well-known anti-abortion terrorists and protesters, including convicted clinic bomber John Brockhoeft.

In the coming weeks we will surely see calls for more security around the Capitol; we have already seen unearned gratitude paid to the police who did next to nothing in the face of a violent coup attempt. As we watch this unfold, it’s critical to hold the providers who have grown accustomed to this kind of violence in the forefront of our discussions. They have warned us of the terrors of right-wing extremism, reporting to the frontlines of a domestic terrorism battleground and fighting to keep their patients safe every day—and they have done so while being met with a thankless and merciless response.

Clinics around the country long relied on the protection of buffer zones—boundaries created outside of clinics to deter violence—that were instituted after John Salvi’s 1994 assault on two abortion clinics in Boston killed two people and injured five others. But when the constitutionality of buffer zones came before the Supreme Court, which itself enjoys the protection of a buffer zone, the Court ruled that the provision violated the First Amendment, leaving clinics at an increased risk for violence.

Remember: Many of the same political leaders who decried Wednesday’s display will vote for anti-choice laws that subject providers to the same kind of violence. Many in Congress see this as an entirely singular and unprecedented incident, while failing to realize that they confirm judges who would swiftly take away a clinic’s right to protect itself from right-wing extremism.

“The fear that someone will use violence to get inside a clinic is not theoretical,” Dr. Horvath said, emphasizing that she uses evidence-based safety measures to keep her patients safe.

“It has happened many times and will continue to happen as long as it’s tolerated by the public,” she said.

“What we need is systemic change. Laws that protect us and our patients (and enforcement of the laws we already have) would be a great place to start. Call your local and state legislators and ask them what they are doing to protect health-care facilities that provide abortion. See if your local clinics need escorts to help patients safely access care (or donate to help support others doing this work). Send postcards of support. Call us and tell us you appreciate us. Donate to an abortion fund so that patients who need care can get it.”

These are not coincidences: Fascism, white supremacy, and anti-abortion terrorism are inextricably linked. The desire to control other people’s pregnancy outcomes has a direct line to the racism that fueled Wednesday’s insurrection. The belief that Donald Trump and his ilk are entitled to power and control in this country is not distinguishable from the eugenicist foundations of the anti-abortion movement.

Editor’s Note: Violence at the Capitol Had Its Roots in Anti-Choice Violence

As members of Congress were certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election and formally declaring Joe Biden the winner, President Trump’s supporters laid siege to the Capitol building.

Wednesday’s events were the inevitable escalation of years of anti-democratic rhetoric coming from the Trump administration, and Rewire News Group has been covering it from the start. From the first days of Trump’s presidency, far-right agitators like the Proud Boys did not just find a home in the Trump administration—they also wielded influence with an ideology steeped in toxic masculinity that erupted once again Wednesday.

But it’s not just the Proud Boys. Before rioters stormed the Capitol, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (R) was photographed raising his fist in solidarity. Hawley, along with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, continued to advance Trump’s false claims of voter fraud even after Wednesday’s Capitol siege and in the face of indisputable evidence to the contrary. And while these actions are undeniably outrageous, they are also completely predictable from lawmakers who frequently peddle in lies in order to roll back abortion access.

For abortion providers accustomed to violent protesters who believe the rule of law does not apply to them, what happened Wednesday was eerily familiar. Rewire News Group has reported on the deep ties between fascists and anti-choice protesters. Last fall, we uncovered the troubling connections between the QAnon conspiracy and anti-choice movements, both of which were on full, treasonous display on Wednesday.

Fascists took their playbook national on Wednesday, but they’ve been training in anti-choice spaces for decades now, and RNG will continue reporting on their efforts to undermine the rule of law.