Social Distortion

Planned Parenthood "Sting" Videos Led to More Violence, Death Threats Against Abortion Providers

The series of videos anti-abortion activists began releasing last summer to claim Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue – or “baby parts” – didn’t just spark multiple state and criminal investigations into the abortion provider. Not only were there widespread calls for lawmakers to defund the organization, but violence, harassment and death threats against abortion providers spiked last year after the release of the videos.

The National Abortion Federation, which compiles stats on clinic threats and violence every year, says that in 2014, there was only one threat of violence or death against one of its members. After the release of the videos surreptitiously filmed by activists with the Center for Medical Progress, however, the group documented 94 “direct threats of harm” against abortion providers last year – including someone who, in a voicemail to one member, said he wanted to “pull a Columbine and wipe everyone out.” The organization also reports that picketing and clinic blockades also spiked last year, as did the number of “hoax devices” left outside of clinics.

In fact, the National Abortion Federation says threats to its members got so bad last year that the organization couldn’t even track all of them on their own. The group says it hired an outside security firm in mid-November of last year. In a report yesterday, the organization said it was able to identify “more than 25,000 incidents of hate speech and threats in just six weeks.” The security firm also found an anti-abortion activist calling for people to burn down clinics. According to a report the National Abortion Federation released Tuesday:

Through our monitoring work, we uncovered another anti-abortion extremist who called for arsons at every abortion clinic in the country. He posted online, “One person setting fire to an abortion clinic will not do anything but thousands setting fire to an abortion clinic will speak volumes….It is not violent to set a building on fire…If thousands rallied together to set each murder house on fire, we would see the end of abortion…” NAF identified the perpetrator and shared this threat with law enforcement officials who were able to investigate and interview the perpetrator. This type of rhetoric incites some to take the law into their own hands by firebombing clinics and threatening abortion clinic staff. Within three months of the post, facilities in Washington, Louisiana, California, and Illinois were victims of arson. Additionally, a facility in New Hampshire experienced extreme vandalism when an individual broke into the facility and used a hatchet to destroy medical equipment, exam rooms, computers, phones, and plumbing fixtures, flooding the entire clinic. The clinic was closed for nearly six weeks for repairs.

In July activists with ties to the radical fringes of the anti-abortion movement began releasing the series of undercover videos with Planned Parenthood staff. David Daleiden, one of the activists who lied his way into a Houston clinic to film one of those videos last year, calls the footage proof of “Planned Parenthood’s barbaric harvesting and profiting off baby parts.”

To be clear, that’s not true. Or at least that hasn’t been the conclusion of the many state and criminal investigations into the abortion provider, none of which have turned up any wrongdoing. Including the one by Republican Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, who launched a criminal probe into the local Planned Parenthood affiliate last year after the release of the videos.

Not only did a grand jury clear Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing, but the investigation pivoted toward Daleiden and another activist who used fake driver's licenses to gain access to a local Planned Parenthood facility. The two were indicted by a Harris County grand jury on felony charges earlier this year. Still, that hasn’t stopped state health officials in Texas from saying the videos are reason enough to kick Planned Parenthood out of the joint state-federal Medicaid program, something the feds insist Texas cannot legally do.

Planned Parenthood says the videos were enough to push someone like Robert Dear over the edge. Dear faces charges for shooting and killing three people outside a Colorado Springs clinic last November. Dear reportedly told police “no more baby parts” upon arrest, and during his first court appearance called himself “a warrior for the babies.”

Rochelle Tafolla with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast insists the videos, and the rhetoric surrounding them, have enabled “violence and political extremism against Planned Parenthood health centers and abortion providers.”

“Words have an impact,” she said. 

See the full report below:

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Michael Barajas
Contact: Michael Barajas