Would Feds Take Abortion Clinic Attacks More Seriously With Terror Label?


After killing three and wounding nine at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, Robert Lewis Dear reportedly said “no more baby parts,” a reference to accusations that the organization profited from the sale of fetal organs. Major news outlets have largely held off on labeling the shooting an ideologically motivated act of domestic terrorism, says Slate. A University of Illinois study found that the T-word is overwhelmingly applied to Muslims, even though Muslims constituted only 6 percent of domestic terrorism suspects between 2008 and 2012. The Colorado shooting has amplified a debate about the value of applying the “terrorism” label to the people who take up arms against abortion providers.

The National Abortion Federation has tallied 11 murders and 200 arsons and bombings at health centers since the 1970s. NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Sasha Bruce argues that viewing attacks on clinics as terrorism would help law enforcement tackle them more effectively. “What this means to us is, 'Use all resources,' ” she says. The federal task force that handles violence against clinics is under the Justice Department's civil rights division, but domestic terrorism is part of the national security division; if the national security side isn't involved, Bruce argues, “We're leaving expertise on the table.” “Certainly terrorism is a higher priority than most other crimes under federal jurisdiction at this point,” says Michael German, a former FBI agent and a national security expert at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The designation as terrorism would be more rhetorical than anything else, but it would have some implications as far as how seriously the DOJ and FBI are taking it.”

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