In the six months or so since anti-abortion activists unleashed a barrage of deceptive videos falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of trafficking in fetal tissue for profit, women’s reproductive rights have been under siege.
Extremists have firebombed abortion clinics and torn them apart with hatchets. Clinic doctors have been targeted with online death threats.
“I’ll pay ten large to whomever kills Dr. Deborah Nucatola,” read a typical post, referring to a Planned Parenthood physician taped discussing fetal tissue donations, which are legal and crucial to medical research. “Planned Parenthood needs to be blown into hell,” another read.
In the month after the first video was released, clinics reported 849 incidents of vandalism, a 900 percent increase, according to a complaint Planned Parenthood filed Thursday. Security incidents in California offices have quintupled since July. One Planned Parenthood staffer was picketed at her California home during the holidays by demonstrators singing Christmas carols; later, her neighbors found their mailboxes stuffed with hate literature about her. The Planned Parenthood website was hacked.
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The organization has spent millions on security, repairs and lawyers. At least 18 states and several congressional committees have had to be convinced – successfully, so far – that Planned Parenthood engaged in no wrongdoing.
Not that that mattered to the madman accused of killing three people at a Colorado clinic during Thanksgiving weekend because, as he later told authorities, he was “a warrior for the babies” out to stop supposed dealing in “baby parts.”
The abortion wars are poised for a resurgence, even as abortion rates hover near all-time lows and Roe v. Wade prepares to turn 43.
Planned Parenthood sued this week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, accusing the Center for Medical Progress and its leaders of conspiring to defraud the contraception and abortion provider and undermine women’s health care access.
The complaint – which names, among others, the project’s young Davis leader David Daleiden, Sacramento activist Albin Rhomberg, and accomplices in San Jose, Long Beach, Ventura County and Kansas – charges that they violated federal privacy and racketeering statutes and engaged in wire fraud, mail fraud, trespassing, identity theft and illegal recording.
Planned Parenthood claims Daleiden and company lied to the Internal Revenue Service and the California secretary of state to get tax exempt status for the fake company they used to talk their way into Planned Parenthood meetings. And once in, the complaint alleges, they used hidden cameras to record hundreds of hours of private conversations in violation of California, Maryland and Florida statutes.
The suit isn’t the only litigation out there. The National Abortion Federation also has sued Daleiden’s group for breach of confidentiality and invasion of privacy. And the outrage makes sense. The video smear and the grandstanding around it has caused immeasurable damage, not just to a valuable nonprofit, but to human beings who have lost reputations, security and, in at least three cases, their lives.
But this won’t be the last word. The U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear its first major abortion case in nearly a decade, one that could greatly restrict access. Statehouses around the country, meanwhile, are reconsidering “fetal personhood,” urged by pro-life legal groups with model legislation.
And in pro-choice California, moneyed conservatives from out of state have suddenly materialized as backers for a perennial parental notification initiative that in years past went nowhere. Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan of Michigan and New York hedge fund manager Sean Fieler have alone given at least $850,000.
Records show the money has been spent on gathering the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot and for robocalls featuring Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. But some also has gone to a dark money specialist in Ohio who helps campaigns hide donor identities.
In short, this war is poised for resurgence, even amid a near-historic low in abortion rates. Lawsuits aren’t much, but maybe this will shed light on who’s bankrolling this divisive and apparently coordinated attempt to roll back Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to decide when and whether to bear children 43 years ago next week.