2 Years After Planned Parenthood Shooting, Abortion Clinics Are Still in Danger

On November 27, 2015, evangelical Christian Robert Dear methodically drove to a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic – asking for directions along the way — entered the building and began shooting with a semi-automatic rifle. He ultimately killed three people and wounded another nine, all before eventually surrendering to police.

In the two years that have followed, Dear — who proclaimed himself a “warrior for the babies” – has yet to be found competent to stand trial, remaining in prison indefinitely while his case is on hold.

But while it has been two years since an anti-abortion terrorist murdered staff or patients at a clinic, much has changed in the last year that makes another violent clinic attack nearly inevitable in the future.

In the last few months, there’s been a significant increase in suspicious packages found at locations that perform abortions. In some cases, these have been hoax devices meant to cause terror but not damage. Others, such as a package in Champaign, Illinois, may not have been so benign.

The attempted arson at Women’s Health Practice at the beginning of November and another two weeks later in California suggests that, once more, clinics are under attack as abortion opponents grow bolder with a new, anti-abortion administration at the national helm.

Arson and property damage are just a few ways that abortion opponents are showing they’ve been emboldened under the Trump administration. Trespassing, aggressive harassment and blockades are also on the rise, showing a newfound disdain for federal laws like the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

In the spring of 2017, about a dozen activists associated with Operation Save America physically blocked the doors to the only abortion clinic in Louisville, Kentucky, refusing to move until police physically pulled them aside. Then, in September, activists in three states coordinated simultaneous clinic “rescues” in three cities, entering clinics in Michigan, Virginia and New Mexico. They refused to leave the buildings until police arrested them and removed them physically from the premises.

So far, those arrested in the September actions have received only suspended fines and sentences. And organizer Monica Miller of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society announced plans to have a second “red rose rescue” in the future, noting in an email newsletter on November 21 that none of the earlier “rescuers” had been charged with a FACE Act violation.

Meanwhile, even those clinics that did have some protections are seeing them ebb in the first year of the Trump administration. An Engelwood, New Jersey, buffer zone enacted in March of 2014 has now been dismantled less than four years later, with the mere 8-foot buffer deemed “too expansive” and in violation of first amendment rights.

The ruling is one of the first attempts to roll back buffer and bubble zone protections in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision that struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone, with other cases still pending.

Trespassing, harassment, clinic invasions and even arson attempts all show that abortion opponents are escalating their tactics with the belief that we’ve turned a page on how aggressively the Department of Justice will prosecute those who attack abortion clinics, staff and patients.

The FACE Act is only as strong as the willingness of the federal government to charge the individuals who violate it. And without actual jail sentences as a deterrent, protesters will continue to test out the law. Slaps on the wrist only signal that activists who want to break what they believe is an “unjust” law can do so without repercussions, stripping down what little protections clinics currently have.

While those who are working to defang the FACE Act and trespass on clinic property may not be the ones committing acts like arson or murder, they’re still contributing to widespread violence and intimidation.

With mass shootings happening in the U.S. on a regular basis, it’s lucky that we haven’t experienced another situation like the one involving Robert Dear – an abusive, mentally ill, white Christian who unloaded his weapon into an abortion clinic full of patients. Unfortunately, unless police and the judicial system fully defend and prosecute those who violate any laws at abortion clinics, another horrific act of violence will be inevitable.

Photo credit: Robin Marty, via flickr

58 comments

Chad A
Chad A20 hours ago

Safe and legal so that people can make informed medical decisions.

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Christina S
Christina S8 days ago

Women, patients & staff alike deserve to be protected. These sickos are so not pro life. Pro control is more like it. As if the world's people aren't suffering enough... Sad times

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Joan E
Joan E10 days ago

STOP KILLING DOCTORS AND WOMEN BY NOT MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson11 days ago

There is nothing more murderous, more violent, more ignorant than a Fundamentalist terrorist who thinks he/she is doing the work of their God, even if that God has killed millions and millions of people, women, men, babies and their all time favorite, Fetuses, just because he was pissed that day, so everyone, plus animals, must die!

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pam w
pam w12 days ago

I should have added that, even here in liberal California, we at Planned Parenthood have elaborate protections against urban terrorists who try to interfere with us. Even though local laws prohibit them from obstructing business, they'll occasionally perform an elaborate charade which sees them ''wander unaware'' into our parking lot. We have regular training on how to respond/protect our patients. Sad, isn't it? They see themselves as ''god warriors''....which makes any crime they might commit justified, because they're saving a fetus. Who cares how much damage they do to a woman and her family?

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Janis K
Janis K12 days ago

Amanda M and Karen Swensen said it best, thanks!!

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson13 days ago

@Amanda M--Couldn't agree more--wish I could give you more stars!! Here are some from me--***************************************************************

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Amanda M
Amanda M13 days ago

Karen Swenson, that is why I have never and WILL never vote Rethuglican! With VERY few exceptions, they are against anybody having rights unless you happen to be a rich white hetero Christian MAN. If you're a woman, your job is to sit down, shut up, clean the house, and "pop till you drop" for your husband like it says in the Bible. FUHGEDDABOUDIT!

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Marija M
Marija M13 days ago

Winn A. I agree...my body is my body.

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pam w
pam w14 days ago

SOOOOOOO sanctimonious!

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