Like many people in the states, on January 1st at 1am, I was still celebrating the New Year. 2011, a year I like to call the Passing of Roe V. Wade, as over 50 states introduced over 1,100 pieces of legislation to counter the legality of the landmark bill by restricting reproductive health and rights-related laws. This dramatic increase was topped off with the year end decision by both Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama to prevent access to Plan B to girls under the age of 17, the salt in the wound if you ask me. All I knew is that I was ready to see 2011 out the door.
So when news came of a Pensacola abortion clinic being firebombed in the same time frame as many were ringing in the New Year, I can’t say that the radical action surprised me. I was just more concerned on why it hadn’t been covered at all.
The Washington Post reports that Bobby Joe Rogers, a forty-one year old homeless man with substance abuse problems had been arrested in the arson. Rogers told investigators that he purposefully burned down the clinic by filling a bottle with gasoline, lit with a shirt. When asked why he had set the fire, he responded point blankly that he had a “strong disbelief in abortion”, one that was fueled by his confession of becoming upset after seeing a young woman enter the clinic when he had been with other anti-abortion demonstrators. Rogers has an arrest record spanning nine states, including felony convictions in Alabama, Missouri, and Mississippi.
While the investigation is still ongoing, one of the more distressing aspects is the fact that this most recent attack only adds on to the history of violence against the Pensacola clinic. On Christmas Day in 1984 members of religious extremist group, “The Gideon Project”, bombed the clinic. Ten years later, head physician, Dr. John Britten and clinic escort James Barrett were both murdered by Reverend Paul Jennings Hill. The most recent attack only adds onto the already charged environment of abortion rights in America and what some will do to ensure that no one is able to receive an abortion in a safe, clean, and affordable environment. What further compounds that concern is how the lack of an outcry gives speculated license to extremist groups that this type of violence will not be punishable to the highest extent of the law. It will barely even be talked about.
Perhaps my confusion on this is compounded given my most recent viewing on the unrelated If A Tree Falls: A Story of The Earth Liberation Front. Daniel McGowan and several other members of ELF peak on their experiences of working with ELF by firebombing timber companies, SUV dealerships, and wild horse slaughterhouses. No one was present in either crimes, yet Daniel McGowan, who is now serving a sentence at the highly restrictive prison cell for high-risk terrorists, the Communication Management Unit, has been branded as a domestic terrorist for his actions. Rogers has one count of damaging a building by fire or explosive, for which he will supposedly serve twenty years if convicted. One has to ask, why one is branded a terrorist for destroying property based on their political views and why one is just regarded as a man who destroyed property based on his political views.
The silence on this issue, save very few media outlets, is deafening. Coming off 1,100 pieces of legislation solely introduced and
“…135 of these provisions had been enacted in 36 states, an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009. (Note: This analysis refers to reproductive health and rights-related “provisions,” rather than bills or laws, since bills introduced and eventually enacted in the states contain multiple relevant provisions.
Fully 68% of these new provisions—92 in 24 states—-restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26% of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions enacted in 2011 shattered the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005.
One thing is made very clear. But I think Sunsara Taylor at RH Reality Check
said it better than I ever could:
The fact that there has not been a single politician commenting on this violent assault on an institution that is essential to women’s freedom and that this act of terror has not been picked up on in the national or mainstream media should only serve as a further wake-up call to those who care about women’s rights.