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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.

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Last summer, a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas--one that did not provide abortions--was attacked with a Molotov cocktail, causing "serious damage." 

This past January, a man was charged with  setting fire to a Pensacola, Florida family planning clinic, "gutting" it.

In April of this year a clinic in Wisconsin was firebombed. The man who did it said it was because they were "killing babies."

The offices of a vocally pro-choice female state politician in Texas were also firebombed by a mentally disturbed man this year.

Now we witness this new spate of violence in Georgia: break-ins and burglaries, vandalism and theft of files that contain the names of doctors--and particularly heinous arson.

"We’re very concerned about the escalation of violence in Georgia. We started out with burglaries against some clinics. They escalated to arsons," Vicki Saporta of the National Network of Abortion Funds  told Amy Goodman. "And the last arson was set not in the middle of the night, as is the usual pattern, but during the day when patients and staff were at the facility. We were very lucky that no one was injured or killed in that fire."

On Friday night, Maddow said she feels that the specific nature of the violence in Georgia is of a pattern with and also different from past incidents. First of all, two men were seen on the scene. As Maddow said, "The possibility that two people were working together to commit violence is a significant thing." She notes that because perpetrators have "generally had connection to the extreme anti-abortion movement," but they have mostly "acted alone," this "adds alarm to an already alarming situation."

The other new facet to the Georgia violence Maddow noted? An apparent strong connection between the very details of the policy decisions in Georgia's legislative body and the nature of one of the burglaries. You see, as the legislators debated whether or not to release the names of abortion-providing doctors, the thieves in one of the clinics targeted a file containing...the names of abortion-providing doctors. The vitriolic nature of the public debate is bleeding out of the chambers of law, manifesting in criminal activity.

As with Women With a Vision in New Orleans, all of the physicians targeted did not perform abortions.

In this case, they had gone to the statehouse to speak to lawmakers about the issue of reproductive rights. Maddow pointed out that as a result of these actions in Georgia the threat of violence now hangs over doctors who not only perform abortions, but even speak up on reproductive rights at all. The War on Women is "fueling the extremism of the most extreme wing of the anti-abortion movement," the Feminist Majority and Kathy Spillar told Maddow.

Todd Stave is the founder of Voice of Choice, a small-donor funded group whose uniqe brand of pro-choice activism specifically aims at diffusing and ending harassment and bullying by anti-choice protesters. He said that the rhetoric from politicians can exacerbate these situations. "We're in a very desperate time in our economic cycle, when the most hopeless look to political leadership for direction," he says. "[Legislation that targets women] is the direction they're going in."

One problem he notes is that local law enforcement is beholden to the political currents--the same currents that push anti-choice extremism through legislatures. Stave says that in his mind, anti-choice violence and harassment is more like organized crime than terrorism, but the newfound ease of social media combined with a shrinking number of clinics has meant that there are a small number of targets against which "any idiots can get together and try to hatch a plan."