In the two and a half months since a draft of the Supreme Court opinion overruling Roe v. Wade was leaked, a wave of vandalism and violence has been unleashed against crisis pregnancy centers around the country.
Since early May, nearly 60 such facilities, which offer supplies, counseling, and services to pregnant women who choose not to get an abortion, have been targeted.
In one attack, arsonists firebombed CompassCare, a Christian pregnancy center in Buffalo, N.Y., shattering its windows and destroying much of its interior. Graffiti painted on the center’s walls read “Jane Was Here” — a reference to the extremist group Jane’s Revenge, which has declared “open season” on any organization that opposes abortion and vowed to strike them with “increasingly drastic measures” that will not be as “easily cleaned up as fire and graffiti.”
In other incidents, a crisis pregnancy center in Longmont, Colo., was set on fire and spray-painted with the words “If abortions aren’t safe neither are you”; the Mother and Child Education Center in Portland, Ore., suffered $10,000 in damage when militants attacked it on June 27; and the front door of the Community Pregnancy Center in Anchorage, Alaska, was smashed and the parking lot was strewn with nails. Two pregnancy centers in Worcester were vandalized in back-to-back attacks on July 7.
Last month the FBI opened an investigation into the spreading violence against pregnancy centers. The White House spokesperson denounced the attacks as “completely unacceptable regardless of our politics.” Yet many on the left, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, have been busily waging their own assault on crisis pregnancy centers. Because the centers, which are often religious and staffed by volunteers, don’t perform abortions or provide abortion referrals, they are accused of trying to “fool people” who want to end their pregnancies (Warren) and of “seek[ing] to prevent access to abortion care” (Healey).
Such accusations are preposterous. They are comparable to accusing a vegetarian restaurant of trying to “prevent access” to steak dinners, or condemning Apple stores for trying to “fool people” looking for an Android phone. The whole reason crisis pregnancy centers exist is to provide support for pregnant women who don’t want an abortion. They make their antiabortion philosophy clear to anyone who walks through their doors. Some, in fact, condition their services — which are provided free of charge — on participation in workshops or parenting classes that reinforce the antiabortion message.
In short, far from deceptively holding themselves out as providers of abortion, crisis pregnancy centers hold themselves out as providers of an alternative to abortion. That squares with research by Katrina Kimport, a professor of obstetrics at the University of California San Francisco. In a 2020 study published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Kimport found that most of the centers’ pregnant clients were “low income and had not been considering abortion when they visited a pregnancy resource center.” The women she interviewed reported that “they had gone to these centers for pregnancy-related services, material goods, and social support” and that “they were largely satisfied with their experiences.”
Anecdotal evidence reinforces Kimport’s findings. A Globe story last month profiled Veronica Adams of Springfield, who was “terrified” when she became pregnant at 16 two years ago. She went to Planned Parenthood in search of options. But the staff member she met with “was very pushy on the abortion issue,” Adams told the Globe. “She said I wouldn’t be able to go to college if I went through with this pregnancy.” Ultimately, Adams chose to have the baby and spoke gratefully about the help she received from local antiabortion pregnancy centers.
There is no one standard for pregnancy centers, but they typically provide ultrasound tests, childbirth education and breastfeeding classes, and supplies such as diapers, car seats, strollers, and baby clothing. In and of themselves, as Kimport emphasizes, they are no substitute for a well-developed social safety net. But then, neither are abortion clinics.
If there is one thing that supporters and opponents of abortion rights should be able to agree on in a post-Roe world, it is the right to function safely. Had 60 abortion facilities been vandalized, firebombed, or smeared with ominous graffiti in the last two months, officials at the highest level would rightly regard it as a threat to domestic security and be mobilizing against it. If antiabortion fanatics were doing what Jane’s Revenge is doing and issuing public “communiqués” that call for abortion clinics to be terrorized, politicians, journalists, and activists of every description would be reacting with appalled fury. Warren and Healey would be incandescent with rage.
Yet even with crisis pregnancy centers physically under assault, their response has been to double down on their hostility. Just days after the Worcester attacks, Warren was accusing pregnancy centers of committing “torture” and insisting: “We need to shut them down here in Massachusetts and we need to shut them down all around the country.” Asked about the vandalism, Healey’s office issued a boilerplate assurance that the attorney general condemns “all forms of violence and destruction of property within our communities,” adding: “Our office will continue to focus on ensuring that patients seeking abortion care are safe and well-informed about their options.” Note: patients seeking abortion care. The safety of pregnant women seeking prenatal care is apparently not among the AG’s concerns.
There is no excuse for that. Least of all in Massachusetts, where residents still recall with horror the 1994 attacks on two Brookline abortion clinics that left two young women dead and five other victims wounded. Pro-life or pro-choice, any organization that works with pregnant women is entitled to operate in safety — period. Violence against abortion providers should be unthinkable. So should violence against crisis pregnancy centers. If we can’t agree on even that much, we are in bigger trouble than we know.
Jeff Jacoby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeff_jacoby. To subscribe to Arguable, his weekly newsletter, visit bitly.com/Arguable.