Dramatic Increase in Threats, Violence Directly Correlates with Release of Misleading Videos

Today, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) released 2015 statistics on violence and disruption against abortion providers. The statistics reflect a dramatic increase in 2015 in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder, which coincided with the release of heavily-edited, misleading, and inflammatory videos beginning in July.

“The sharp rise in threats and violence in 2015 is alarming, and directly correlates to the release of inflammatory videos aimed at demonizing providers,” said Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of NAF. “In my more than 20 years with NAF, I have not seen such an escalation of hate speech, threats, and calls to action against abortion providers.”

Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 185 arsons, and thousands of incidents of criminal activities directed at abortion providers. Three of those murders happened in November 2015, when Robert Dear opened fire at an abortion facility in Colorado Springs, killing three people and wounding nine others. This clinic is part of the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains affiliate, which was featured in the highly-edited, inflammatory videos. When police arrested Dear, he made a reference to part of the video smear campaign.

“It’s not surprising that when abortion providers are publicly branded as ‘murderers’ who must be stopped, that someone will take the law into their own hands and resort to violence,” said Saporta.

The attack in Colorado followed a documented and unprecedented increase in hate speech and threats immediately following the release of the misleading videos. This hate speech contributes to a culture where some feel it is justifiable to murder doctors simply because they provide women with the abortion care they need.

“In the last year, we’ve seen the consequences of this firestorm of hate firsthand,” said Saporta. “When abortion providers are targeted and demonized, clinic staff are threatened, facilities are set on fire, and doctors are murdered.”

Despite the very real threats illustrated by NAF’s statistics, those who oppose abortion continue to show a lack of concern for the safety of abortion providers. Just last week, a Congressional Select Committee investigating abortion providers issued subpoenas and continues to push to reveal the names of those involved with fetal tissue research, including students who have been trained to provide abortion care.

“We cannot be silent as others continue to publicly vilify doctors and clinic staff, thereby jeopardizing their personal safety, in order to advance their own political agenda” said Saporta.

Notable statistics from 2015:

  • There were three murders in 2015. The Colorado Springs shooting was the deadliest anti-abortion attack in history.
  • The number of death threats increased dramatically from one in 2014 to 94 threats of direct harm in 2015.
  • NAF identified more than 25,000 incidents of hate speech and threats in just six weeks.
  • The number of clinic blockades nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015.
  • Incidents of picketing at facilities, which had been decreasing in previous years, increased from 5,402 in 2014 to 21,715 reported incidents in 2015—a number larger than numbers reported for any other year.

NAF has been compiling statistics on incidents of violence and disruption against abortion providers for almost 40 years. Our comprehensive database is an invaluable resource that enables us to report incidents of violence to law enforcement and detect patterns and trends in anti-abortion criminal activities.

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The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers. Our members include individuals, private and non-profit clinics, Planned Parenthood affiliates, women’s health centers, physicians’ offices, and hospitals who together care for approximately half the women who choose abortion in the U.S. and Canada each year. Our members also include public hospitals and both public and private clinics in Mexico City and private clinics in Colombia.

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