The History and Harm of Anti-Abortion Terrorism

“Anti-abortion terrorism blatantly exemplifies the contradiction of claiming human rights for the unborn while denying them to women and clinic workers,” begins Carol Mason in an article titled “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Dare? Confronting Anti-Abortion Terrorism After 9/11.” The article details the change in the pro-life movement from a mindset focused on “rescue” to one more concerned with the “End Times.”   

Before the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Mason says the federal government largely ignored the killing and terrorizing of clinic workers and abortion seekers. However, in the new security focused world that was created after 9/11, the attacks on personnel at clinics was finally characterized as terrorism.   

The FBI defines “domestic terrorism” as “the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The bombing of clinics and the sending of, albeit harmless but very scary, anthrax letters fit the bill under this definition.    

In 2001, the “Army of God, Virginia Dare Chapter” took responsibility for anthrax threats that were sent to women’s clinics. The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism describes the “Army of God” as “an underground network of terrorists who believe that the use of violence is an appropriate tool for fighting against abortion” although in reality, not much is known about this elusive organization.   

The underground manual for the organization, Mason says, details methods used to close abortion clinics, as well as describing the fact that the Army of God is “a fantastic way of envisioning oneself in the midst of a holy war against evil.” The group is known to practice leaderless resistance and forbids its members from revealing plans they create even to other members.   

While the anthrax threats and letters sent by this organization were a hoax, Mason says their timing forced Attorney General John Ashcroft to finally define these types of attacks as domestic terrorism. It should be noted however, that Ashcroft also refused to meet with pro-choice representatives because of his own anti-abortion beliefs.   

The hypocrisy behind the extreme pro-life movement is staggering. Mason describes the apocalypticism to be akin to that of Al Qaeda, citing the advertisement of an “Embryonic Jihad” by pro-life groups as early as 1994. The extremists within these groups believe that lethal force is an appropriate response to prevent abortions from occurring. The dramatic duplicity within that type of thinking should be obvious.   

Even in 1984, the question of whether or not the murder of clinic personnel was considered terrorism was something the federal government was grappling with. Former Director of the FBI, William Webster, is quoted saying that bombing “a bank or a post office is terrorism. Bombing an abortion clinic is not an act of terrorism.”   

In response, Mason writes, “The second situation involved perpetuating a double standard that privileges white American Christian men who commit or are charged with lethal acts that may be deemed terrorism as well as murder or manslaughter and, conversely, subjects non-white, non-American, non-Christian men to extralegal tactics of investigation, detention, and trial.”  

Meaning that in comparison to the Guantanamo Bay treatment that awaited the terrorists responsible for the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Clayton Waagner – responsible for the anthrax hoax – and Eric Rudolph – responsible for a series of bombings at abortion clinics – were sent to standard American prisons.   

“Therefore, despite Ashcroft’s reluctant admission that some anti-abortion tactics constitute terrorism,” Mason writes, “none of those white Christian American men actually charged with or convicted of anti-abortion terrorism have been treated like foreigners merely suspected of terrorism.”   

Mason concludes her article with thoughts on how best to approach changes. “Instead of seeking common ground or compromise,” she says, “now is the time to articulate fully the political differences that distinguish United States Feminism not only from conservatism but also from liberalism, in which individual women seek to advance their own personal station in society.”   

She insists that we must not only stand up for women who are badgered by protestors and fighting against legal restrictions, but also refuse to give into terrorism inflicted by the hypocritical extremists who make up a small portion of the pro-life movement.   

“We need to rearticulate how access to abortion, as one aspect of reproductive freedom, is imperative for wresting women from subordination in societies that devalue us,” Mason concludes. “Recognizing and articulating common struggles among those who are subjected to apocalyptic ideologies and imperialist regimes, rather than compromising with those who perpetuate them, is how to confront anti-abortion terrorism and fight for reproductive freedom now.”  

To read the entirety of Mason’s article, click here  

By Kyra Young