Capitol rioters mirror abortion protesters

Capitol rioters mirror abortion protesters January 11, 2021

By Barbara Alvarez
Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern
Freedom From Religion Foundation

The rioters were out for blood.

As domestic terrorists incited by President Trump and senators like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz stormed the Capitol in an attempt to annull a fair election, they chanted “Hang Pence!” and brought zip ties, restraints, guns and pipe bombs. Signs and flags embossed with phrases like “Jesus 2020” and “God Wins” were scattered throughout the crowd. Five people died, including two Capitol police officers.

The warning signs of this type of violence have been around for years.

One type of campaign that foreshadowed this assault is the harassment and cruelty exhibited by anti-abortion protesters. Indeed, for decades reproductive health clinics have endured demonstrators slinging vitriolic phrases about murder, shame and eternal damnation at women seeking legal abortion care and the heroic people who staff the clinics. And the harassment isn’t just verbal; anti-abortion groups have admitted to tracking the license plate numbers of those who go to abortion clinics. Additionally, there have been bomb threats, extreme vandalism, fire bombings and even murder in the name of “pro-life” protests.

In fact, a 2015 report by the National Abortion Federation documented more than 16,000 reported cases of hate mail or harassing phone calls, over 1,500 acts of vandalism, more than 400 death threats and over 200 bombings and arson attacks at abortion facilities. Since 1993, there has been a steady stream of abortion providers and clinic staffers who have been killed, including Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion physician who was murdered in church in 2009.

And these attacks have not subsided. A Missouri physician who provides abortions said two years ago that the daily “harassment, stalking and death threats” has only gotten worse as state laws pass unscientific, polarizing mandates that restrict abortion care. Since 2010, more than 400 state laws have eroded abortion access, brought on by Religious Right legislators. Even in a global pandemic in which getting too close can endanger lives, abortion clinic protesters “accost patients face to face” and “block, stalk, push, shove, talk and scream” at women who are seeking reproductive health care.

The people who stormed the Capitol last Wednesday were emboldened by the same Christian Nationalist rhetoric (and the politicians who spew this nonsense) that has infiltrated anti-choice protesters for decades. Indeed, the same man who is considered by anti-abortion organizers as “the most pro-life president in our nation’s history” urged his supporters to march to the Capitol and “try and give [the Republican legislators] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take our country back — resulting in loss of life.

It is more than contemptible for some anti-abortion leaders to now claim that “Trump does not represent us” when, in fact, he vowed to appoint only anti-abortion judges and justices, inaugurated a more draconian global gag order and was the only seated president ever to address in-person the March for Life.

Abortion clinic providers and patients alike have experienced  terrorism for decades. Unless we embrace secularism as a hallmark for American democracy, these violent acts will only continue.

Image via Shutterstock By Valerio Pucci

Barbara Alvarez is from Madison, Wis., and attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on a Ph.D. in library and information sciences with a minor in gender and women’s studies. Alvarez was a major winner in last year’s FFRF essay competition for graduate students, writing about the bible’s role in the abortion battle. She is FFRF’s first Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern, a program set up to memorialize FFRF’s principal founder, who was an early abortion rights activist and author of the book Abortion is a Blessing.
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