Department of Homeland Security Warns of Violent Abortion Protests on ‘Both Sides’

The bulletin warned of a heightened domestic terrorism threat due to midterms, shootings, and the upcoming reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Department of Homeland Security Warns of Violent Abortion Protests on ‘Both Sides’
Photo:Getty (Getty Images)

Last month, when pro-abortion protesters led demonstrations outside Supreme Court Justices’ homes following the leaked decision reversing Roe v. Wade, Congress wasted no time passing a bill funding security for the justices and their families. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) went so far as to call the cops over the existential threat posed by polite chalk writing outside her home.

This swift and decisive action notably comes nearly a decade after McCullen v. Coakley, where SCOTUS ruled that abortion clinics don’t have the right to buffer zones to protect themselves from anti-abortion protesters, who have quite a rap sheet. Since 1977, there have been at least 11 murders and 26 attempted murders of abortion providers, 42 bombings of clinics and homes, nearly 200 incidents of arson, and everyday stalking, doxing, and threats.

In any case, as the Supreme Court gets closer and closer to releasing its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health opinion that sure seems like it’s going to end legal abortion in America, the Department of Homeland Security is taking a page from Congress and sounding the alarm on the real threat: “individuals who advocate both for and against abortion.”

Per a Tuesday National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin from DHS, the expected reversal of Roe could yield increased violence from those “who advocate both for and against abortion.” The bulletin continued that both sides have encouraged violence “against government, religious, and reproductive healthcare personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies.” These possible threats are supposedly part of a greater, potential security crisis, which includes misinformation about the US-Mexico border that could further contribute to violence. Additionally, other recent surges in attacks—from the continued fallout since the Jan. 6 insurrection, to Uvalde and the dozens of other recent mass shootings this year—could give cover to “foreign adversaries” to “exploit the dynamic threat environment to sow discord.”

Specific to its warnings about abortion-related attacks, it sure sounds like DHS is playing the “both sides” card with pro-abortion and anti-abortion protesters. This comes just months after the National Abortion Federation found abortion providers had reported a 125 percent increase in assaults and altercations instigated by anti-abortion protesters between 2019 and 2020. The DHS bulletin notably comes just days after a DC-based anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center—you know, the same organizations that shame, deceive, stalk, and harass pregnant people to try to force them to give birth—was vandalized. News about the attack has since gone viral across right-wing corners of the internet, while the everyday vandalism and harassment of abortion clinics fall under the radar because it’s become virtually impossible to track all of it at this point.

What’s perhaps most concerning about the DHS’s total misread of who is perpetrating abortion-related terror attacks—on top of the fact that this is an agency that is supposedly tasked with protecting us—is how it speaks to a broader issue with policing and the reproductive justice movement. Sure, some anti-abortion protesters who engage in overtly egregious acts like storming clinics, physically assaulting clinic staff, or say, stealing five aborted fetuses, face arrest and criminalization. But abortion clinic volunteers, staff, and journalists have long found that in general, police either don’t take seriously the threat posed by anti-abortion protesters or often enough, are overtly supportive of them. Clinic staff and volunteers who face harassment and violence and call the cops are all too often told, “This is what you signed up for,’ as a provider or volunteer,” Lauren Rankin, author and clinic escort, has told Jezebel.

In stark contrast, we live in a country where criminal charges for pregnancy loss and self-managed abortion have tripled in recent years—a stat that’s almost certain to get worse when Roe is reversed. In states like Texas, Idaho, and Oklahoma, which have enacted abortion bans enforced by citizen surveillance and costly lawsuits, you can be bankrupted for doing literally anything to help someone get an abortion. Louisiana’s legislature is currently considering legislation to criminalize abortion providers once Roe falls.

It hardly seems possible for pregnant people to “overreact” to being reduced to state-controlled baby incubators, or the prospect of facing surveillance, punishment, and greater pregnancy and birth-related complication risks. Yet, when Roe is reversed later this month and shit hits the fan, we all know who will—and won’t—be policed and punished for how they respond to the literal eradication of pregnant people’s humanity in the US.

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