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Right-Wing Terrorism: Arson, Bombs, and Break-Ins at Women's Clinics Seek to Instill Fear

Bombs and fires at women's health clinics are happening where abortion rights are under assault.

"There's a history of terroristic violence by anti-abortion extremists, up to and including murders of doctors and clinic workers," Rachel Maddow said on Friday night, reporting on suspicious burglaries and fires at two women's health clinics in Georgia.  

It looks like that violent history's new chapters are being written in tandem with the continual legislative incursion on reproductive rights.

Friday, the day of Maddow's broadcast, was the very same day the healthcare providers at Women With a Vision, a provider in New Orleans that serves the most marginalized members of the population, woke up to find their offices charred and blackened, their equipment, files and resources devoured by flames.

A statement on the clinic's Web site reads, in part:

We lost everything. We do not have an office to operate out of right now. Most of our office equipment and all of our educational resources were destroyed. Because of the targeted nature, we can only assume that this was intentional.

Women With a Vision wasn't an abortion provider. But the very nature of their work did affirm the humanity and sexual agency of women, specifically poor women of color, the formerly incarcerated, HIV positive, and transgendered.

So the fact that they were targeted by arson comes as no surprise. As the national onslaught of reproductive rights restrictions known as the "war on women" incurs beyond just abortion toward all nontraditional sexuality and sexual agency--targeting birth control and cuts to preventive care, pushing back on domestic violence protections for immigrants and queer people-- so will the violence which goes hand and hand with these policies threaten more than just abortion providers, throwing a shadow of fear on anyone who aids women's health.

Furthermore, the vitriol and humiliation that's embedded in new anti-choice bills, laws and campaigns continues to ratchet up--with legislators exposing the names of doctors and patients, forcing humiliating ultrasounds on abortion seekers, allowing doctors to lie to patients, targeting minority women with racist laws and campaigns, and shutting down clinics--and thus the fringe and violent followers of their movement will also ratchet up their actions.

And yes, much anti-choice violence falls under the definition of  terrorism, randomized violence meant to target civilians and instill terror. Women arriving for a pap smear scared that their clinic will be set on fire; AIDS patients showing up to get treatment and finding the doors of their clinic shuttered; pro-choice doctors writing in to a newspaper refusing to sign their names because of the repeated death threats they receive. These are some of the fallouts of such violence.

Three years ago this week, late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was gunned down in his church, the most prominent victim of such anti-choice terrorism in recent years. As Jessica Valenti wrote in the Nation, the national attitude toward reproductive rights has only deteriorated since that tragic day: "I imagine that even for a man who had seen a lot of misogyny in his life, the current climate against women would be shocking."

Efforts to open another abortion clinic in Wichita are  faltering, stymied by aggressive anti-choice actions. The patients who relied on Dr. Tiller have one less place to turn to. And during this last long period of legislative onslaught coinciding with the GOP sweeping into power in states and nationally, the violence has continued.

In summer 2010, a Planned Parenthood in California was attacked with a Molotov cocktail. The FBI report notes that "as a result of the ensuing fire, the clinic sustained more than $26,000 of damage and had to close for two days."