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How the anti-abortion motion fed the Capitol rebellion

"The Venn diagram of the White Supremacists and Antis is a circle," said Close. Similar sentiments have been expressed towards Prisma by advocates for reproductive health, rights and justice in Ohio, North Carolina and West Virginia, none of whom were particularly shocked when anti-abortion leaders stormed the Capitol in support of Trump. Abortion advocates have long warned that it was only a matter of time before rhetoric turned violent.

In his Inauguration speech On January 20, President Joe Biden said the United States must "confront and defeat political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism." Abortion advocates want to know if this commitment applies to the threats, harassment, and violent rhetoric faced by anti-electoral movements. The threat of violence has been unchecked for decades and is minimized by law enforcement officers and legislators or immediately rejected, even if abortion clinics continue to be such Main target for domestic terrorism.

Abortion stigma is the number one reason why few in the media or the American public listen to abortion advocates when they warn of the violence right movements are capable of. But now that the nation has seen this violence firsthand, proponents are waiting to see if it will change anything.

"I don't know when people will just listen to abortion advocates because we've been victims of this violence for decades," said Close. "Are you going to listen to us now?"

"Far right white supremacist ideals"

There has been a list of reports since the coup attempt Mother jones, Vice, Jezebel, Rewire News Group, and The Washington Post about prominent members of the anti-abortion movement who were discovered during the coup. However, this is not about the unique appearance of specific antis in the Capitol storm. Many proponents of reproductive justice have argued that the anti-abortion movement is a white supremacist movement, but what is certain is that in recent years the many iterations of the anti-abortion movement with far-right groups – including militia movements and white supremacist groups – have taken hold.

Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of the abortion storytelling group We Testify, said in a statement that anti-abortion activists "are nothing but white supremacists organized around the criminalization of abortion". In fact, she explained, the anti-abortion movement "arose in an attempt to maintain segregation in schools and continued to organize around our nation's long history of subjugating the reproductive freedoms of black and brown people."

Given the context and failure of law enforcement officials to take threats from anti-election activists seriously, it is largely a matter for proponents of abortion access to protect themselves. In part, this requires conducting opposition research or the practice of identifying anti-election protesters outside clinics and monitoring their online activities to assess the threat they may pose. To fill these information gaps, groups like Abortion Access Front have "compiled a database of anti-abortion extremists from across the country," according to Lizz Winstead, the group's founder.

The abortion access front quickly identified at least a dozen anti-abortion activists who were in the Capitol. The group shared a document with Prism; It includes social media from the anti-abortion that were there, some of which have links to militia movements and the extreme and aggressive anti-abortion group Operation Save America known for Harassing abortion providers and demanding that people seeking abortion assistance receive the death penalty.

"The leadership of these anti-election organizations is telling the public that they don't believe in violence, but they can't have it either way," said Winstead. “They support violence and use inflammatory rhetoric like 'murder babies',' Children slaughter & # 39; and abortion as & # 39; Holocaust & # 39; denote. Unless the public begins to connect these dots and see that they are the same people in movements who practice the same terrorism The people who practice abortions will be forced to keep fighting this violence themselves. "

In a video by Jason Storms, assistant director of Operation Save America and founder of the Faithful Soldier Training Camp, he stands on scaffolding in front of the Capitol during the coup and calls it a "revolution." Abortion Access Front also found a lot of footage online from Operation Save America regional leader Dave Daubenmire, Co-founder of Minutemen United Christian militia and director of a survivor training camp in Ohio. Tayler Hansen, a self-proclaimed "Pro-Life" activist and founder of Baby Lives Matter, filmed the shooting of fellow insurgent Ashli ​​Babbitt and did nothing to help her while she was bleeding.

Perhaps most alarming was the presence of two men: John Brockhoeft and Derrick Evans.

Brockhoeft bombed a planned parenting clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1985 and was convicted of bombing the Pensacola Ladies Center in 1988. More recently he has been doing this was active at Reopen Ohio rallies in response to coronavirus-related shutdowns. On January 6th, Brockhoeft shot a video in the Capitol declaring his "love" for Donald Trump while Trump's voice can be heard over loudspeakers in the background.

Before Evans was elected to the West Virginia House of Representatives in November, Evans had a long history of molesting patients outside of the West Virginia Women's Health Center, the state's only abortion clinic. “Evans was an integral part of the clinic for much of 2019. The reputation of the harassment was so severe that the clinic put up a 10-foot fence to keep him out. A voluntary escort received an injunction against him, accusing him of pursuing them. " The Washington Post reported. Evans was known for wearing a Make America Great Again hat while broadcasting his patient harassment live to thousands of followers. He was one of the many insurgents who made their way into the Capitol and filmed the crime. Days later, he was arrested and forced to resign.

None of the workers at the West Virginia Women's Health Center were surprised Evans had participated in the coup attempt, said Katie Quinonez, the clinic's executive director. You had to deal with Evans "up close," Quinonez told Prism. He regularly filmed patients' license plates, and he appeared to be investigating clinic staff and attendants by giving them their first names and calling out details about them. The implication seemed to be, "I know who you are and where to find you," Quinonez said.

Evans' harassment inspired others to come to the clinic, including armed members of one of the country's largest radical anti-government groups: The Oath Guardians, the tens of thousands of which are former law enforcement officers and military veterans. Quinonez told Prism that members of the group once showed up at their clinic "with guns on their hips" claiming they were there to guard against harassment against abortion.

The Oath Guardians have their own relationship with the coup attempt. January 19th Prosecutors filed conspiracy charges against members of the Oath Keepers in the Capitol attack, according to which three members of the group planned and coordinated prior to the January 6 attack.

"I definitely hope that the general public will become aware of the fact that the anti-abortion movement is about right-wing extremist ideals of the white supremacists – they don't care about pregnant people, they don't care about babies or families." They care about controlling people seeking medical care, LGBTQ people and people of skin color, ”Quinonez said. "When someone is aggressive against abortion, it's not just about disagreeing with you. It's ingrained in the values ​​of the white supremacists."

Building bridges with white supremacists

Close told Prism that it is the same people in Ohio who are protesting abortion clinics who are now pledging to protest the federal government and make threats against the Biden Harris administration. During the pandemic, the reproductive justice attorney said she went to reopen state rallies in Ohio to counter white supremacists only to see anti-abortion leaders like Sarah Cleveland the elected officials and well-known terrorists like Brockhoeft Shake hand.

Cleveland, who attended the Capitol on January 6, is part of a burgeoning segment of the anti-abortion movement that prism reported in partnership with the Social Justice Think Tank Political Research Associates. Anti-abortion activists like Cleveland, known as "abolitionists" claim that the pro-life movement is too secular, that abortion is murder and that abortion providers and people seeking abortion assistance should be punished by the death penalty. This ideology is largely informed by longtime leaders in the violent wing of the anti-abortion movement.

Close said that in Ohio, anti-abortion figures like Cleveland are trying to "build bridges" with white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and inviting them to protest outside the clinics.

When the coup took place at the Capitol, Michelle Davis, a patient support attorney for Women Have Options Ohio, was actually at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio to counter a Proud Boys rally.

Davis told Prism that Antis used to pretend they had "the moral superiority," but in recent years they have made little to no effort to hide their ties to white supremacist movements.

"We've had violent Trump rallies in our city and anti-chosers are always a big part of it. They can operate with impunity, and that makes me nervous because I know these anti-electoral groups are historically violent," said Davis and noticed that Antis left anti-election propaganda on her doorstep and sent packages to her home.

Escalating violence

On the morning of Jan. 6, Calla Hales spoke to her father on the phone while watching the news as mobs of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol. Hales is the director of A Preferred Women & # 39; s Health Clinic (APWHC) in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the busiest abortion clinics in the state. APWHC is the site of large weekly anti-abortion protests, orchestrated by anti-abortion group LoveLife, supported by Philip "Flip" Benham, director of Operation Save America, who is largely responsible for, "Anti-abortion extremismTo North Carolina. In 2011 the fundamentalist Christian minister was found guilty of prosecuting an abortion provider. In 2018 it was Benham Arrested outside the Hales clinic to communicate threats. In 2020 Benham was again Arrested outside the Hales clinic for refusing to disperse at home during COVID-19 orders.

"On the phone, my father joked about how I would likely see (Benham) at the Capitol, and it wasn't long before I actually saw faces that I recognized," Hales told Prism in a phone interview. "It's scary and upsetting, but it's also frustrating. Many abortion providers, clinic workers, lawyers and activists have stated that anti-election protesters are capable of terrorism and that their movements are a breeding ground for racism and violence."

Kelsea McLain, who coordinates the clinic's Triangle Abortion Access Coalition escort group in North Carolina, said she expected Antis at the Capitol – especially women. While white men constitute the vast majority of the more extreme wings of the anti-abortion movement, white women are also very active, but far less reported. In fact, one of the most famous anti-abortion figures first identified in the Capitol was Abby Johnson, the former director of Planned Parenthood who started a career as an anti-abortion fanatic.

At the North Carolina clinic where McLain volunteers her time, several women lead what McLain calls "the most insulting behavior."

"There's one woman in particular named Sharon Dooley who has become incredibly ubiquitous and has an abusive presence in the clinic," said McLain. “She uses it as armor to be a white, conservative woman. It escapes accountability and no one listens to us when we say that it is really abusive and violent. "

Avid believing in the QAnon conspiracy theory, Dooley falsely accused a volunteer of the attack and has doxxed clinic escorts – including McLain. Dooley is so committed to harassing patients outside the North Carolina clinic that after going to Washington, DC on Jan. 6 to support Trump, she again harassed patients outside the abortion clinic on Jan. 7.

As Antis openly embrace more open right-wing movements and conspiracy theories that incite violence, it is becoming increasingly difficult for advocates of reproductive health, rights and justice to know which threats need to be taken seriously. McLain said she was sitting in her house a few months ago looking out the back window when she noticed a person show up and take pictures of their car. Without thinking, she ran out to confront them. The person jumped into a car loaded with other people and sped away.

Close told Prism that she would like the public to understand that anti-abortion activists are becoming "more radical" and normalizing the idea Violence against providers and clinic staff is justified. The threat of violence is reaching a boiling point, she said, and it still seems like only abortion advocates take them seriously.

"It's really easy for people in society not to care about someone who needs an abortion who is harassed," said Close. "The stigma of abortion makes many people believe that we deserve this harassment, and we don't."

Law enforcement is looking the other way

While advocates of reproductive justice have long advocated abolitionist frameworks and many have supported the movement to defuse the police, it is important to note the role of law enforcement officers in the anti-election movement and their inaction with the threats abortion lawyers receive.

McLain said there is a direct link between the way insurgents were treated in the Capitol and the way members of the anti-abortion movement are treated outside of clinics where they harass patients.

"(Anti-election activists) pretend they are immune to impact and law enforcement because, for the most part, they are allowed to," McLain said, noting the threats that reproductive health, rights and justice advocates face , almost never be taken seriously. “They really do what they want; They break any rules they want. They are as abusive as they want to be and they know that nothing will ever happen to them through it. The police treated them with the tiniest of kid gloves, so of course they went to DC and stormed the Capitol, thinking nothing would ever happen to them. "

During the coup attempt, the nation watched police officers lead the white mob into one of the safest buildings in the country. Officers were seen cautiously Go senior domestic terrorists down the steps of the Capitol and Taking selfies with insurgentswho came from near and far to overthrow the government and overturn the election results. It has there was reported that some of the officers in the Capitol were politically aligned and in solidarity with the white supremacist and right-wing movements that attempted the coup.

Needless to say, Close received no such treatment in May and June 2020 when she was attacked four times by police officers while participating in protests against Black Lives Matter in Columbus, Ohio after police killed George Floyd. During the worst incident in May, the reproductive justice attorney said the police knocked her cell phone out of her hand, threw her glasses off her face and kicked her. An officer grabbed her ponytail, yanked her head back, and shot her pepper spray "up close" in the eyes. In June when Close was arrested, she was sprayed with pepper spray before being placed on the back of a police cruiser, where she stayed for six hours.

On the other hand, members of the anti-abortion movement who stormed the Capitol were so confident that nothing would happen to them that they followed their crimes live. Others who attended Trump's January 6 rally – now considered one of the nation's darkest days – have spent the past few weeks proudly calling out the day's events Feed and content for their social media accounts.

McLain said it is clear that anti-election activists are encouraged and it frightens her for her safety and the safety of others working on it in states like North Carolina where there is a large and active anti-election There is movement to provide access to abortion.

"They were let into the Capitol by the police and into the sanctuary of our clinic room by the police every day. Sometimes we see the cops high-five or we shake hands or pray with them," McLain said. "The truth is that the police protect harassment against abortion every day in a way that violates people's constitutional right to have access to abortion in every state in the country. This is not just a problem here in North Carolina or the southern states. There is an epidemic of law enforcement agencies that I believe will inevitably lead to the next domestic terrorist attack in a clinic. "

Tina Vasquez is a senior reporter for Prisma. She deals with gender equality, labor rights and immigration. Follow her on Twitter @TheTinaVasquez.

Prism is a nonprofit news agency, run by BIPOC, that puts the spotlight on the people, places and topics our national media are currently not reporting on. Through our original reporting, analysis and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives that are immortalized by the mainstream press, and work to create a complete and accurate record of what is happening in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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