Within just a few months Georgia has had empty women’s health clinics that provide abortions burglarized and equipment stolen to arson investigations that doctors and lawmakers fear are connected to the contentious 20 week abortion ban passed during the 2012 legislative session.
Each of the four clinics targeted are linked to doctors who either visited the state Capitol or expressed concerns to lawmakers about the 20 week abortion ban. As Robin Marty reports, police are not yet willing to officially connect the violence targeting the clinics to a coordinated campaign targeting abortion clinics and providers, but they have brought in The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to assist with the investigation.
According to ATF spokesman Richard Coes, the Department is looking at the cases as possible acts of domestic terrorism or civil rights violations.
The federal authorities moved in after two clinic fires happened within just days of each other. The first fire happened on a Sunday morning and when the clinic was closed. The second fire though happened during the day, while the clinic was open and could have easily injured staff and patients at the clinic, not to mention innocent bystanders.
Clinics are taking the incidents very seriously. “We are concerned about the escalation and activity,” said Vicki Saporta, president of National Abortion Federation, which sent out notifications to all member clinics about the Atlanta incidents twice this week, urging them to take additional precautions. “It’s not a good sign when one arson follows another, after following several burglaries. Something clearly is escalating there and we’re hoping that the strong law enforcement so far can stop it.”
Even lawmakers who supported the ban believe these fires were specifically targeting doctors who opposed the ban. Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, who considers herself pro-life, is a veteran nurse opposed parts of the bill but eventually voted for an amended version believes the doctors were victims of retaliation. “I think the police are not political so they probably don’t see the connections,” Cooper said. “I hope they see it now.”
Violence against providers has dropped thanks in large part to a change in presidential administration and a Department of Justice willing to enforce civil rights laws designed to protect women and providers. The recent events in Atlanta remind us again why that federal presence remains so necessary.
Photo from SpecMode via flickr.