As Attacks on Pro-Life Organizations Continue, Pro-Lifers Call Biden Administration’s Response Tepid
More than 50 attacks by abortion supporters on pro-life organizations and people since the draft Dobbs case decision leaked on May 2 have occured, and the FBI is investigating.
MINNEAPOLIS — Four broken windows and red spray paint saying “Abortion Is Liberation” greeted workers at Minnesota Concerned Citizens for Life one morning last week — one of the latest in a string of attacks on pro-life organizations, churches and pregnancy-resource centers.
In May, someone spray-painted graffiti on the back of the building. Last week’s vandalism and property damage, discovered June 15, was on the front facing the street.
A group calling itself Jane’s Revenge claimed responsibility for the Minnesota attack and for a more recent attack on a pregnancy center in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, where someone broke windows and glass doors and left graffiti saying, “If abortion isn’t safe, neither are you!”
The group — which is shadowy enough that some have questioned whether it is organized or just a loose association of like-minded abortion supporters — is calling for a “night of rage” starting at 8pm the day the U.S. Supreme Court publishes its decision in the Dobbs abortion case. The decision is widely expected to end the high court’s 49-year claim of a federal constitutional right to abortion and return abortion law to the states.
In the Minneapolis pro-life office, about a dozen people typically work there during weekdays. Glass from one of the windows covered a desk normally occupied by an intern.
The one-story commercial building with no sign is next to a real estate agency and across the street from a hair salon and a hamburger restaurant that closes at 10pm on weeknights. There are no dwellings in the immediate area. A Minneapolis police spokesman told the Register on June 21 that forensic scientists processed the scene, but no arrests have been made.
The incident has prompted the organization, which is the local affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee, to install a security camera.
“It’s a little troubling. It’s kind of a weird feeling, I guess,” said Paul Stark, communications director for Minnesota Concerned Citizens for Life, in a telephone interview with the Register. “I wouldn’t say we’re afraid. We’re keeping up our work. … We want to be safe. We want to take precautions. But we want to keep doing our work, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Around 1am June 20, someone broke 11 windows and four glass doors at the Lennon Center, a pro-life pregnancy resource center in Dearborn Heights. Mimicking the Minneapolis attack, reddish-purplish spray paint warned, “If Abortion Isn’t Safe, Neither Are You!”
The center provides online classes and practical products, such as diapers, to about 100 women and families a month, said Gary Hillebrand, the president of the center’s board of directors. Pregnant women are offered free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. After giving birth, mothers are offered assistance for up to five years, he said.
Asked by the Register how he feels about the attack, Hillebrand responded, “I just think what a tremendously stupid thing to do. Even if you were totally convinced that abortion is someone’s right and you couldn’t possibly take it away, what possible good could you do to put someone out of business trying to help women who do choose to give birth? … I have trouble understanding the motivation behind the whole thing.”
More Than 50 Attacks
The Family Research Council, a pro-life organization, has compiled a list of news stories describing 53 attacks by abortion supporters on pro-life organizations and people since the draft Dobbs case decision leaked on May 2. The list goes through June 12, so it doesn’t include the Minneapolis attack last week or the more recent Michigan attack, which took place sometime between June 19 and June 20.
Of those on the list, 20 describe arson or vandalism at pregnancy centers. Twelve describe damage at Catholic churches. Two describe disruptions of Mass at Catholic churches. Three describe attacks on pro-life advocacy organizations.
Three Protestant churches have also sustained damage, and one Protestant church service was disrupted. Four stories describe physical or verbal assaults on pro-life advocates.
Four attacks have taken place in Oregon, including one around 10:30pm May 8, at the office of Oregon Right to Life in Keizer. An individual tried unsuccessfully to break a window with a flower pot, apparently to try to set the inside of the building on fire. Instead, the person threw two Molotov cocktails at the outside of the building. One failed to work, but a second started a fire that destroyed a heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit connected to the exterior of the building, said Lois Anderson, executive director of the pro-life organization.
A witness called police. Police and firefighters responded quickly and have taken the incident seriously, Anderson said, for which she expressed gratitude.
But the attack is unsettling for pro-lifers there.
“Oregon Right to Life has been in this office for decades and never particularly attracted any attention,” Anderson told the Register by telephone. “So it was particularly jarring for us that someone would want to attack our office and vandalize it.”
Online posts, purportedly from Jane’s Revenge, have threatened more attacks after the expiration of a deadline the group set for pro-life organizations to close their doors.
“We offered an honourable way out,” Jane’s Revenge said, using the British spelling of the word “honorable.” “You could have walked away. Now the leash is off. And we will make it as hard as possible for your campaign of oppression to continue. We have demonstrated in the past month how easy and fun it is to attack. We are versatile, we are mercurial, and we answer to no one but ourselves. We promised to take increasingly drastic measures against oppressive infrastructures. Rest assured that we will, and those measures may not come in the form of something so easily cleaned up as fire and graffiti.”
Muted White House Response
Republicans and pro-lifers have criticized President Joe Biden’s administration in recent weeks for what they consider a muted response to the attacks on pro-life groups.
Biden, a Democrat who supports legal and publicly funded abortion, has made no direct public statements about the attacks on pro-life organizations. On May 9, the day after the attack on the Oregon Right to Life office, the White House released a statement saying that the president “strongly believes in the Constitutional right to protest. But that should never include violence, threats, or vandalism.”
The statement continues with a reference to protests outside the homes of three U.S. Supreme Court justices who are expected to sign the majority decision in the Dobbs case. (They are Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh.) The White House statement said, “Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety.”
About a month later, on June 8, Kavanaugh was the target of a 26-year-old man who showed up outside Kavanaugh’s home in Maryland with a gun, a knife and ammunition, intending to kill the justice and then himself. The man was arrested a short time later.
A White House press spokesman condemned the man’s actions that same day. But the president has made no direct statement about it himself.
Some observers have argued that the protests outside justices’ homes violate a 1950 federal statute designed to protect federal judges from intimidation. On June 15, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking why federal authorities have not arrested protesters outside justices’ homes. During a press conference last week, Garland acknowledged McConnell’s letter and said he has acted swiftly to protect the safety of justices. But he has not said whether the U.S. Department of Justice will arrest protesters.
On June 13, during a White House press briefing, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about arson and vandalism attacks on pro-life organizations.
“Well, that’s something, clearly, the DOJ is looking into,” Jean-Pierre said in response. “And they’ve taken that very seriously. We have seen an uptick of that type of arson and bombing and — or attempt to bomb, as we saw just recently over the weekend. And so, again, that’s for — DOJ is taking that very seriously, and they’re going to continue to do so.”
The Register contacted the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this week seeking comment on the attacks on pro-life organizations. A spokesman referred the Register to a statement sent to the Register by email by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
It states, “The FBI is investigating a series of attacks and threats targeting pregnancy resource centers and faith-based organizations across the country. The FBI takes all threats seriously and we continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners and will remain vigilant to protect our communities.”