Weeks After Man Plowed Into Illinois Abortion Clinic, a Vandal Tears Down Repairs
Clinics across Illinois are seeing a surge in anti-abortion violence as the state becomes a rare abortion haven in the Midwest.AbortionPolitics
At the end of May, an independent abortion clinic under construction in Danville, Illinois, was attacked by a 73-year-old man who repeatedly drove his car into the walls of the building structure, destroying most of the front lobby and the back of the clinic site, prosecutors say. The building is meant to house Affirmative Care Solutions, a sister clinic to Indiana’s Clinic for Women. Officials said the man was arrested before he got a chance to set the building on fire.
Then on Monday, Abortion Care Network (ACN), an organization of independent clinics including Affirmative Care Solutions, shared that the under-construction clinic faced another attack from a different vandal just two weeks after the first. Per a GoFundMe organized by ACN’s Midwest Reproductive Freedom Fighters to fundraise for the Danville clinic, the “extremist” in question “tore down the temporary repairs to the back wall of the building and may have tried to get in the building.” The clinic now “needs to hire security guards, rebuild destroyed walls and the lobby, and fortify and refurbish the entire structure.”
In a statement to Jezebel, LaDonna Prince, the Danville clinic property owner, characterized the first attack on the clinic as the work of an “anti-abortion terrorist” and said the second attack has “[caused] another wave of panic and fear.” Attacks like this, Prince said, are meant “to intimidate and terrorize us out of providing abortion care.”
The attacks on the Danville clinic site are delaying its opening at a time when Illinois—a rare abortion haven in the Midwest—is being inundated with out-of-state abortion seekers. Illinois faced the second-highest increase in abortions in any state since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, seeing a 28% increase in abortions between April and August in 2022. Self-reported data from Illinois abortion providers show the proportion of out-of-state patients they’ve offered care to increased from 6% before the fall of Roe to one-third after, per a December report in Chicago Tribune.
Prince noted that while Clinic for Women in Indiana remains able to “provide quality reproductive health care in Indianapolis, we don’t know what the future holds for legal abortion in Indiana.” The state’s Supreme Court is currently weighing the legality of a near-total abortion ban in the state—which is temporarily blocked.
“Small, independent providers do not have the name recognition or resources to fall back on for funding like national organizations,” the GoFundMe continues. Independent clinics provide abortion services to nearly 60% of abortion patients, ACN has reported, but most lack the resources, funding, and public support that larger organizations like Planned Parenthood receive.
In May, Rolling Stone reported that the Danville clinic site’s repurposing to become an abortion clinic wasn’t public or well-known information—until high-profile anti-abortion activists including Lee Dickson and lawyer Jonathan Mitchell (the architect behind Texas’ famous “bounty hunter” abortion law) began organizing against the construction of the clinic. Yet, after the 73-year-old man, Philip J. Buyno, allegedly drove into the building, Dickson quickly tried to distance himself from Buyno in an email to Rolling Stone: “Phil Buyno does not represent the peaceful, non-violent, and non-destructive pro-life movement that I am a part of. I find it despicable that someone who claims to value life would do something so stupid to risk both his own life and the lives of others,” he wrote. Back in 2019, Buyno was arrested three times for trespassing on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Peoria, Illinois.
Brooke Thomson, development director at ACN, told Jezebel in a statement that despite indie clinics’ “essential role in providing and protecting abortion care in the US, most people”—except “anti-abortion extremists” who target and harass these clinics—“don’t even know these clinics exist.”
“The people who work at indie clinics typically pour every dollar and every spare minute into caring for patients, running their clinics, and navigating politically-imposed restrictions—leaving them little time to do the fundraising and sustainability work necessary to keep their doors open,” Thomson continued. “Dealing with harassment and vandalism demands even more time from indie providers—time they should be able to spend with patients.”
The consecutive attacks on the Danville clinic site come at a time of mounting hostility toward abortion access in the region, as providers from states that have banned abortion migrate to Illinois and both out-of-state patients and protesters follow them. Early last month, Danville city council members voted to instate a ban on mailing abortion pills, which Democratic lawmakers in the state have said is illegal. And across Illinois, providers have reported a surge in anti-abortion violence, including the January firebombing of the same Peoria Planned Parenthood where Buyno was arrested in 2019.
This tracks with a May report from the National Abortion Federation that showed anti-abortion violence targeting clinics surged everywhere in 2022, but especially in the dwindling states where abortion clinics have remained open. As more and more clinics shut down, those remaining become more vulnerable to anti-abortion violence.