After the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade leaked on May 3rd, news reports blamed abortion-related violence over the summer on pro-life supporters.
“[W]e have seen a steady rise in violence and harassment against providers from anti-abortion extremists who continue to be emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision,” claimed Melissa Fowler, Chief Program Officer of the National Abortion Federation (NAF).
"People want me dead’: abortion providers fear violence after Roe overturned,” a headline in The Guardian read. Other news outlets, such as NBC News, also focused on the increased threat of violence against abortion providers. But national news sources don’t mention violence against people on the pro-life side of the debate.
It never made much sense, anyway. Why would a major win in the Supreme Court cause pro-life people to suddenly resort to more violence? The pro-choice people would be more upset and, presumably, more likely to lash out.
Using news searches and pre-existing data, the Crime Prevention Research Center, which I head, identified 135 attacks on pro-life entities and people between May 3 and September 24, 2022. By contrast, only six cases involve attacks on pro-choice people. That is a ratio of 22-to-1. And that may be an underestimate of the difference if the media is less likely to cover violence against pro-lifers.
All of the cases and links to the underlying news stories are available here.
To search for cases, we used keywords such as “Anti-abortion attacks,” “Attacks on Abortion Providers,” “Violence to the abortion clinic,” “Pro-abortion attacks,” and “Attacks on pregnancy centers.” Other sources that listed cases included the Catholic News Agency and the House Republican Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Many news stories cite the National Abortion Federation’s tracking of attacks on abortion providers. We reached out to the NAF for a list of cases. When we called, the NAF directed us to email the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF). Between October 10 and October 25, we emailed the NAF and DCAF seven times. While we received responses indicating receipt of our messages, we still haven’t received a list of cases.
We then reached out to reporters who had cited the NAF. Decca Muldowney of the Daily Beast informed us that she also didn’t see a list from the NAF, though it doesn’t appear that she asked for it.
The media just uncritically accepts claims of violence by pro-lifers. Surprisingly, the reporters didn’t even try to dig for current examples to provide to readers.
The US Department of Justice keeps an up-to-date list of recent violence cases against reproductive health care providers. But since the leak of the Dobbs decision, the DOJ has added only one case to its list: a case of property damage against a Planned Parenthood facility in July. This year, the Biden administration has been actively searching for cases to bring federal action against but has had to go back years to get many cases the US DOJ doesn’t collect cases of violence or property damage against pro-life individuals or organizations.
Unfortunately, the media’s misleading emphasis on right-wing violence isn’t unique to the abortion debate. The CPRC’s past research has shown that the news media has engaged in a similar false narrative of white supremacists doing mass public shootings.
Many anti-immigrant attackers, such as the Buffalo murderer, hold decidedly environmentalist views that are more in line with the Democrat agenda.
Of the 82 mass public shootings from January 1998 to May 2021, 9 percent have known or alleged ties to white supremacists, neo-Nazis, or anti-immigrant views. And many of the anti-immigrant attackers, such as the Buffalo mass murderer earlier, hold decidedly environmentalist views that are more in line with the Democrat agenda. Indeed, non-Middle Eastern whites are underrepresented, making up about 64% of the general population but 58% of the mass public shooters.
For example, In the Buffalo murderer’s manifesto, the gunman self-identifies as an “eco-fascist national socialist” and a member of the “mild-moderate authoritarian left.” He expresses concern that minority immigrants have too many children and will damage the environment. But if the mass murderer is a racist, the news media automatically classifies him as a racist.
Political violence is central to so much of the political debate in the US. As Democrat fortunes wane in the midterm elections, President Biden and others in his party have rallied supporters by emphasizing the threat of violence from conservatives. But Democrats can’t risk admitting the truth.
Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of “Gun Control Myths.”