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Ignoring Domestic Terrorism in Wisconsin | The Nation

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Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti

Feminism, sexuality & social justice. With a sense of humor.

Ignoring Domestic Terrorism in Wisconsin

When a Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin was bombed last weekend, it was widely reported but largely underplayed. Little in-depth reporting was done on the attack, few politicians spoke up about the bombing and the bomb itself was repeatedly described as “small” and “homemade.” (Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks noted, “Have you ever seen a media report when a Muslim puts a bomb somewhere and they go, ‘Well, don’t worry about it, it was just homemade’.")

Teri Huyck, president of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, released a statement saying that there was minimal damage and, thankfully, that no staff had been present.

“Our primary concern today—as always—is our patients, staff and volunteers. Women deserve safe and compassionate care, and we are proud to provide it. Rest assured, our doors will remain open for the thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin each year for high quality health care.”

Anti-choice organizations and politicians were quick to condemn the bombing. Rick Santorum released a statement that “violence against our fellow citizens has no place in a freedom-loving America,” but made sure to add that Planned Parenthood should still be defunded. Romney had no comment, despite the fact that the bombing happened just days before the Wisconsin primary. (A few weeks ago, Romney said to a local reporter, “Planned Parenthood, we’re gonna get rid of that.”) Wisconsin Right to Life Executive Director Barbara Lyons condemned the bombing, saying that the organization was committed “to using compassionate and non-violent means to end the tragedy of abortion.”

The lukewarm (or in Romney’s case, nonexistent) statements against the clinic bombing are just the beginning of a predictable response from the right—that most anti-choicers condemn violence, that the perpetrator was a lone lunatic and that the unwavering war against women’s reproductive health and freedom has nothing to do with the bombing. 

But this kind of domestic terrorism is a foreseeable result of a conservative culture that uses violent rhetoric and lies about women’s reproductive health to rile up the anti-choice public. Planned Parenthood has been accused (falsely) of supporting sex trafficking, trying to “hook” kids on sex so they’ll need abortions later in life and being mass murderers. Some anti-choice leaders have even accused abortion providers of eating fetuses. This is how incendiary and ridiculous the attacks against Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers have gotten.

Anti-choice legislation is no different. Just last year, South Dakota and Nebraska considered bills that would have made it legal to kill abortion providers—yes, kill them—by making it “justifiable homicide” to kill someone in defense of a fetus.

Right now, Tennessee is considering passing a bill that would force abortion clinics to publish a report on their website that details every procedure—including the name of the doctor. This comes on the heels of Operation Rescue publishing the names, addresses and pictures of abortion doctors on a website whose mission is providing “comprehensive, up-to-date information about the abortion cartel.” The site claims that it is meant “for informational purposes only,” and has a wink-wink-nudge-nudge disclaimer that says its work “is in no way meant to encourage or incite violence of any kind against abortion clinics, abortionists, or their staff.” 

Kathy Spillar, co-founder of the National Clinic Access Project, has pointed out that the site—and the listing of personal information of providers—“opens the possibility that some so-called 'grass-roots activist,' who does believe in the use of violence, will be able to use this as a tool for stalking doctors.” 

This, of course, has already happened. Scott Roeder, the man who assassinated Kansas doctor George Tiller (and who was connected to Operation Rescue), stalked Tiller, found out where he attended church, and killed him there.

The bomber who attacked the Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin—50-year-old Gerald Grady—has been arrested. In a court appearance yesterday, Grady said he bombed the clinic because “they are killing babies in there.” He also interrupted the judge to ask, “Do you even care at all about the 1,000 babies that died screaming?"

It’s unknown whether Grady has direct connections to any anti-choice organizations, but it’s safe to say his views on abortion didn’t materialize out of thin air. Though anti-choice leaders and legislators would like Americans to believe that their hateful and false attacks against Planned Parenthood and abortion providers have nothing to do with the violence of people like Grady and Roeder, there’s simply no separating them. There is no such thing as a lone wolf attacker in a political climate in which women and their healthcare providers are called murderers and the disdain for reproductive justice and bodily integrity is so intense that misogyny seems to seep out of every sound bite. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all responsible. 

For more information on clinic violence, look to the National Abortion Federation.

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