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Roundups Violence

Ben Sasse Doesn’t Understand How the Anti-Choice Movement Can Be Violent. We’re Here to Help.

Dennis Carter

"How is the pro-life side ever guilty of something that equates to violence?" Republican Sen. Ben Sasse asked during a recent judiciary committee hearing.

People have set fire to and driven trucks into Planned Parenthood clinics. The man who murdered people in a Colorado Planned Parenthood parroted anti-choice talking points. And the Trump presidency has coincided with a marked jump in threats against abortion providers.

But U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) says he can’t imagine how someone could associate violence with abortion rights opponents.

Sasse, in an exasperated rant during Wednesday’s Senate hearing on conservatives supposedly being censored on social media, asked a committee witness to explain “how the pro-life position is in any way violent” and deserving of censorship on major social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Sasse said violence can instead be found “on the abortion advocates’ side of the debate,” since “there’s violence in an abortion.”

“How is the pro-life side ever guilty of something that equates to violence?” Sasse asked.

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The junior senator from Nebraska must not be a faithful reader of Rewire.News, so we’ve compiled a (truncated) list of recent statistics about anti-choice violence.

Criminal Behavior: There have been 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, more than 185 arsons, and thousands more incidents of criminal behavior directed at abortion providers since 1977, according to the National Abortion Federation (NAF).

From Videos to Violence: 2015 saw an unprecedented number of threats and acts of violence against abortion providers, as an anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress waged a propaganda campaign. After the group released videos in 2015 spreading the lie that Planned Parenthood was illegally “harvesting” fetuses after abortions, the number of reported threats of direct harm against abortion providers rose to 94, compared to one reported threat of direct harm in 2014. NAF hired a security firm later that year that identified over 25,000 incidents of online threats during a six-week span. Abortion clinics in Washington, LouisianaCalifornia, and Illinois were victims of arson within three months of an anti-abortion extremist’s online post advocating for people to set fire to clinics.

“No More Baby Parts”: Robert Lewis Dear Jr., who killed three people and injured nine others in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in November 2015, called himself a “warrior for the babies” and reportedly shouted “no more baby parts” when he was arrested by police—echoing talking points from the Center for Medical Progress’ smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. Dr. Savita Ginde, the clinic’s medical director at the time of the shooting, was forced to flee her home after anti-choice protesters handed out flyers that said, “Savita Ginde murders children at Planned Parenthood with your consent.”

More Violence: Incidents of obstruction at abortion care clinics spiked from 580 in 2016 to more than 1,700 in 2017, after Trump won the White House and installed abortion rights foes throughout his administration. Death threats from anti-choice activists nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017, according to NAF’s statistics. Meanwhile, the president continues to accuse his political opponents of infanticide, leading pro-choice advocates to worry that such rhetoric could lead to even more anti-choice threats and violence.

Truck Attack: A man drove a truck into a New Jersey Planned Parenthood clinic in February 2018, injuring three people including a pregnant woman. The clinic, which provides abortion care, was closed for weeks after the truck attack. The driver had reportedly posted anti-choice content on social media.

A February Fire: A Missouri man was charged with arson last month in connection to a February fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Missouri. The man tried to start a fire in the facility using a “Molotov cocktail-type device.”

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