Robert Lewis Dear, 57, who surrendered to authorities after an hours long standoff, appears to have been motivated by opposition to abortion. Abortion clinics have long been the targets of violence, including bombings, anthrax scares and mass blockades. This year alone, arsonists attacked four Planned Parenthood clinics in Washington, California, Illionois, and Louisiana.
In October, NARAL Pro-Choice America launched a petition urging the FBI to investigate the arson attacks, stating that “they’re perpetrated by an extreme minority that’s committed to ruling through fear and intimidation” and urging the FBI to treat them with the gravity warranted by domestic terrorism.
“We can’t wait until one more patient, doctor or nurse is hurt or killed before we say enough is enough. It’s time for an investigation to get to the bottom of this,” the group said.
Extremists have also thrown butyric acid into clinics, glued clinic locks shut, locked themselves into clinic property using items such as bicycle locks or chains, drilled holes into clinic roofs so that the clinic floods, invaded clinics, vandalized clinics, made threatening phone calls, tried to persuade patients to go to fake clinics, put spikes in driveways, talked outside clinics about bomb-making chemicals, laid down on sidewalks, jumped on cars, camped out in front of clinics for multiple-day stretches, and sent decoy patients into clinics to disrupt business. But none of these tactics resulted in death.
The most recent attack happened against a backdrop of increased hostility against Planned Parenthood, the result of a series of undercover videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal tissue. The videos have triggered renewed calls for the organization to be defunded, as well as a five-hour grilling of Planned Parenthood President and CEO Cecile Richards by a congressional select committee.
Friday's shooting left one police officer and two civilians dead.