When MAGA fash invaded the Capitol last week, abortion clinic workers were able to put names to faces as fast as anyone. This is because abortion clinics have been besieged by these people since Trump’s election. While anti-abortion protesters have been militant and violent for decades, Trump marked the beginning of a significant surge. They’re growing in numbers and getting bolder as they get closer to victory.
But their daily spectacle in front of abortion clinics—Red Rose Rescues, The Church at Planned Parenthood, Jumbotron ultrasounds, livestreams of clinic harassment with sports broadcast–style studio commentary—has never riveted the nation quite like their spectacle at the Capitol did. The former doesn’t threaten the status quo like the latter does, no matter how many of our lives are at stake.
The fascists from January 6 who are also clinic harassers include John Brockhoeft, a convicted clinic firebomber; Derrick Evans, a former elected official in West Virginia and convicted clinic stalker; Taylor Hansen, who has been painting “Baby Lives Matter” on the sidewalks outside of clinics; Abby Johnson, who has parlayed her former job at Planned Parenthood into a high-profile career in the anti-abortion movement; and Jason Storms, assistant director of Operation Save America.
This isn’t a coincidence. The interests and obsessions of the people who planned, carried out, and delighted in the attack on the Capitol converge neatly on abortion.
For the far right, the abortion fight is a vehicle for white supremacist fears of replacement (Iowa House Representative Steve King in 2017: “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies”). It’s a strategy for defending a social and economic order that’s been hollowed out by neoliberalism and unsettled by MeToo and the Black Lives Matter uprising, but still relies on women’s willingness to do unpaid work to keep chugging along. And it’s an expression of their contempt for women.
But the large majority of the right that doesn’t have the money or time to stockpile ammo and body armor is animated by abortion, too. A lot of them share the far right’s white supremacist and misogynist concerns. And the right’s vibrant caricatures of fetal life and of cartoonishly evil Planned Parenthood doctors making fortunes out of butchering babies have reached the level of collective delusion. The pro-life movement is in this way a forebear of QAnon.
For those of us who have abortions, at least, this is very disturbing. We have to run a gauntlet of these types just to get healthcare. The Supreme Court made sure of that recently when they ruled against medication abortions at home, no matter how safe they are or how deadly the pandemic.
But it’s clear that the ruling class just doesn’t care. Again, anti-abortion violence doesn’t threaten their legitimacy like the attack on the Capitol did. Having a large underclass of women reliant on male partners and poverty-wage jobs suits them fine.
Who else cares, then, other than patients and clinic staffers themselves? “I have been screaming about him for two years, trying to stop it, but nobody listened to me. Nobody,” said Jamie Miller, the clinic escort in West Virginia who fought for a restraining order against Derrick Evans for stalking. The day after it was granted, members of the Oath Keepers showed up outside of the clinic brandishing guns.
Clinic patients, workers, and volunteers are facing daily right-wing violence in their communities and they’re begging for help. If we fail to respond, we are ceding the most important ground that the right—not just the far right—has for meeting each other, mobilizing, and getting radicalized. And more than that, we are saying to working people across the South and Midwest facing forced birth under austerity what Democrats have been saying to them for decades: you’re on your own.
We need to build community organizations that can monitor and keep us safe from anti-abortion violence. We need to build real alternatives to the right’s massive anti-abortion social world, which offers connection and meaning for a lot of ordinary people, in addition to empowering others to do violence. And we need to build solidarity between all of us who could benefit from free abortion on demand with mass organizations and campaigns that speak to what we’re going through and what we need, such as Medicare for All. It’s up to us.