One year ago today, terrorists acting as so-called “patriots” stormed the Capitol as we all watched in horror and lawmakers hid in fear. The escalation of violence and the extremists in attendance were all too familiar for abortion providers. They are inextricably linked, and it shows just what our clinic staff are up against.
Several news outlets – from Mother Jones, Vice, Jezebel, Rewire News, and The Washington Post – have reported that prominent members of the anti-abortion movement were among the January 6th mob. Among the people identified are those who have firebombed clinics, violent protestors, and leaders of anti-abortion groups. Overwhelmingly, these were white men who, when not trying to tear down democracy, are regularly harassing staff and patients at abortion clinics.
The people who participated in the attempted coup aren’t the only concern. What’s more troubling is the violence, inflammatory rhetoric, and disinformation that has been mobilizing white supremacists and anti-abortion extremists for years. Just like followers of QAnon, who are being recruited to join the anti-abortion movement, conspiracy theories have united them and spurred them to action. They increasingly view an anti-abortion stance as synonymous with patriotism and think of those who seek and provide abortions as “others.” They feel vindicated and protected, which is evidenced by how many livestreamed their crimes one year ago today.
Abortion providers have been on the receiving end of violence and harassment for decades, and have long warned that it was only a matter of time before extremists expanded their targets of hatred. New research shares how emboldened the anti-abortion movement was in 2020, and it’s only getting worse. As Rewire News reports, we are entering a new era of disinformation in anti-abortion campaigns that could prove to be even more dangerous than before. Their ideologies have even infiltrated American politics with monstrous bans like Texas’ Senate Bill 8, along with many other restrictions and copycat laws.
There’s more to blame than social media and right-wing news outlets for this burgeoning disinformation. Abortion stigma is also allowing it to thrive. Abortion stigma explains why so few listened to abortion providers when they continuously warned that protestors are capable of terrorism and their movements are a breeding ground for racism and violence. Stigma also leads a lot of people to believe that abortion providers and patients deserve harassment, when the reality is that they are the true embodiment of love.
This is why WWHA’s mission is so vital. As the base of anti-abortion extremism continues to grow, we know that people, families, and communities flourish with access to abortion care. Despite their very real fears, our clinic staff show up day-after-day because they know their work changes lives. And the stigma that’s allowing all of this to proliferate? We’re working hard to combat it with evidence-based information and compassionate care.