New Orleans As horrifying as it was to read about a gunman with an assault rifle laying siege from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, killing three including one police officer and wounding eleven, it was as unsettling to read that that the clinic, a site of daily protests from a dozen to several hundred, anti-abortion activists, had a special security safe room. The safe room was equipped with bulletproof vests. The police even speculated that the killer may have availed himself of one of the vests. I found that chilling. To think that as part of the mission of Planned Parenthood they have to prepare, clinic by clinic, for the eventuality of armed assault so serious that they would have to train their staff about getting to the secure room if under attack and grabbing a flak jacket. This is what we might have been expected to read about in a field hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan or Baghdad, Iraq, not Colorado Springs at the foot of Pike’s Peak in the United States.
But, I wasn’t thinking. This must now be standard operating procedure at health care clinics that provide full, legal health services to women, and they have good cause to protect themselves. Studies have found that threats to clinics have doubled since 2010 with nearly 20% of them having faced severe violence. Stalking of physicians performing such services have risen from 6.4% to 8.7% from 2010 to 2014. Since 1990, there have been eight murders of doctors at such clinics. There have been 41 bombings and 173 cases of arson at abortion clinics since 1977. This is not something that happens somewhere else, but something that happens almost everywhere. In recent years, there have been violent episodes in Washington, Louisiana, Mississippi, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia, New Mexico, and the beat goes on. Everyone has terrorism on the tip of their tongue these days, well this is what domestic terrorism looks and feels like.
Make no mistake. The law of the land, regardless of all of the legislative assault from state to state, is clear that women have a right to protect their own personal health and manage their bodies as they determine best, including the right to abortion. These rights, no matter how much litigation is pending continue to the affirmed by the United States Supreme Court.
In such cases of domestic terrorism and attempts to take away legally protected rights, local and state jurisdictions are clearly failing to provide the protection needed. Where is the federal government when women’s rights demand enforcement and protection?
In Buenos Aires, where domestic terrorists have attacked synagogues, police are stationed permanently. During the civil rights struggles, eventually the FBI and the Justice Department had to play critical roles in protecting the right to vote and ensure that civil rights statutes were respected in integrating public facilities from universities on down. The National Guard was even mobilized in states where Governors and others wouldn’t protect citizens and enforce the law.
Terrorism is terrorism. The law is the law. Planned Parenthood and others should not be out there alone with targets on their backs and the front doors of their clinics. President Obama, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the full weight of the federal government needs to assure that women and their health providers are safe and secure. Whether in coming months or for the number of years it takes to move the culture and enforce the law, public authorities need to step up and make sure that the guns are aimed from the inside out in protecting these clinics rather than being pointed from the outside in from the domestic terrorists living all around us. The terrorists trying to pretend their violence is in God’s name need to be met by an equal and greater force fully authorized to act in the name of the United States and enforcement of the laws of the land.
This has gone too far and must be stopped.