Violence against abortion providers and clinics skyrocketed following the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Roe v. Wade last year, according to a new study.
The National Abortion Federation released its annual report on violence and disruption against abortion providers on Thursday morning, and the numbers are striking. NAF found that all forms of violence ― including arson, burglary, death threats, stalking, invasions and bomb threats ― has increased significantly since 2021.
From 2021 to 2022, around the country, burglary increased by 231%, stalking of clinic staff and patients increased by 229%, arson increased by 100%, and invasions of clinics increased by 25%.
Several states enacted near-total abortion bans immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision, which forced many abortion clinics to shut down in red states. Anti-abortion extremists then shifted their attention to states that continue to protect abortion care, leading to a disproportionate increase in violence and threats of violence in areas.
“The threat of violence against abortion providers unfortunately remains on the rise despite dozens of clinic closures across the nation,” Michelle Davidson, security director at NAF, said during a Wednesday press call. “The 2022 violence and disruption statistics indicate that anti-abortion extremists were emboldened by the SCOTUS decision and state level wins.”
In states where abortion is protected, stalking increased by 913% (from eight cases in 2021 to 81 in 2022), bomb threats increased by 133% (from three in 2021 to seven in 2022) and burglaries increased by 100% (five in 2021 to 10 in 2022). The National Abortion Federation defined these states using Guttmacher Institute’s analysis of abortion care in the U.S., including states that fall into the categories of “most protective,” “very protective,” “protective” and “some restrictions/protections.”
“This is definitely an ongoing issue and fear for us,” said Julie Burkhart, president of Wellspring Health Access abortion clinic in Casper, Wyoming, and co-owner of another abortion clinic, Hope Clinic, in Illinois.
Burkhart recounted how weeks before the Dobbs decision came down, anti-abortion extremists broke into her Wyoming clinic and set the building on fire. She and her team were set to open the new clinic in just a few weeks, but the fire destroyed everything ― forcing them to renovate for another 11 months before they could finally open and see patients.
Marva Sadler, the senior director of clinic services at Whole Woman’s Health, has also experienced an increase in violence and disruptions in her work since Roe fell. Sadler was forced to relocate her clinics in Texas after the state’s near-total abortion ban went into effect.
“We had a very high volume of violence in disruption at our former Texas clinics, and we’re bracing ourselves to see that same energy follow us to our new clinics, especially in New Mexico,” she said.
Anti-abortion extremists regularly protest outside of Whole Woman’s Health clinics and use creative ways to disrupt access to care, Sadler said. Anti-choice activists were successfully packing the clinic’s schedule by booking appointments and then not showing up to the appointment ― rendering much of the clinic staff helpless.
“The threat of their presence and the history of their actions is always on our minds,” Sadler said, noting that this stress takes a toll on staff and causes a high turnover rate.
The National Abortion Federation has tracked incidences of violence and disruption since 1977. In that time, anti-choice extremists have committed 11 murders, 42 bombings, 200 arsons, 531 assaults, 492 clinic invasions and 375 burglaries.
Melissa Fowler, Chief Program Officer at NAF, noted that anti-abortion centers ― also known as crisis pregnancy centers ― have had an outsized impact on the mis- and disinformation being spread in the current post-Roe world. In some places, Fowler noted, these anti-abortion pregnancy centers have moved into old abortion clinic spaces that were forced to close after the Dobbs decision.
“In this post-Dobbs landscape, we know these centers are capitalizing on the chaos and confusion that exists on the ground,” she said.
Anti-abortion pregnancy centers are faith-based organizations that claim to offer pregnancy services like pregnancy tests, contraception, prenatal care and, in some cases, abortion services. But pregnant women who come in are discouraged from having abortions and are given scientifically inaccurate information by staff that many times do not have medical training or licenses. Many times these clinics are government funded in states with anti-choice legislatures.
“It’s really hard for people to know their options and to get the care that they need, especially in states that have banned abortion,” Fowler added. “It’s more important than ever that people seeking abortion care have access to accurate and factual information and that they can get to a clinic that is a real clinic and that can provide the care they need.”
Read NAF’s full report here.