The number of violent acts against abortion clinics doubled in 2017 after President Trump’s election and hit a record high in 2018 amid a spike in attacks on clinics in states that have cracked down on abortion access, CBS News reports.
In 2017, the National Abortion Federation tracked 1,081 violent acts against abortion clinics and doctors, double the total from the previous year and the highest number since the group began tracking these attacks in 1977.
Last year, the number hit another record high: 1,369 reported violent acts against abortion providers.
Providers told CBS that “they've seen a direct correlation between the rise in violence and the wave of anti-abortion legislation passed this year.”
“So far in 2019, lawmakers in the South and Midwest have passed 58 restrictions, nearly half of which would ban the vast majority of abortions in their respective states, according to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights and reproductive health research organization,” CBS News reported.
Abortion providers say right-wing rhetoric fuels violence:
Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, a priest that heads the National Abortion Federation, told CBS that anti-abortion violence is fueled by anti-abortion rhetoric.
“You can pretty much always draw a line from public rhetoric to violence,” she said, adding that terms like “infanticide” and “baby killers” are “dog whistles” for anti-abortion extremists.
"These aggressive bills that keep getting introduced have a tone to them that's incredibly fringe and introduces violent language," added Amy Hagstrom Miller, who heads Whole Women’s Health.
"When you put something like that out there, it can motivate anti-choice people to act," Democratic Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono told CBS News. "That's what happens when you call a whole bunch of people 'baby killers.' The rhetoric is very, very harmful."
Providers say the problem is getting worse:
Ragsdale said that the violence providers face today is “beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.”
"We're seeing a dramatic increase in violence and disruption against clinics," she said.
Colleen McNicholas, the chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told CBS that the “situation is getting worse” and her organization has had to ramp up security. She has had to increase security at her own home too, she said.
Hirono, who has been a vocal opponent of anti-abortion legislation said that her comments have resulted in “hundreds” of threatening messages and death threats. She has had to increase security at her office, she said.
"I'm really afraid that this kind of language will motivate people to do something harmful and violent," Hirono said.