(MintPress)-A small, homemade explosive device detonated on the windowsill of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin Sunday night, causing minimal damage and shutting the center down for one day. No one was hurt or injured in the explosion, and the clinic reopened for business on Tuesday.
Teri Huyck, CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin expressed thanks to the law enforcement agents working on the case and said in a press release, “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.”
The bombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin over the weekend highlights a trend of violence against women’s health clinics in the U.S., which have faced increased scrutiny this election season as the “War on Women” heats up.
In 2011, there were 114 violent attacks and 5,165 disturbances including hate mail, bomb threats, picketing, and other forms of harassment against clinics that provide abortions. Abortions, however, only comprise 3% of all Planned Parenthood health services. Planned Parenthood, like most sexual and reproductive health clinics, focuses mainly on preventive services, breast exams, STI testing, and educational services.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) has reported a decline in violence and disturbances against abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada since the 1990s, however violent crimes did increase from 95 instances in 2010 to 114 in 2011 and several crimes have already been reported in 2012.
The year started off rough for women’s health clinics when a family planning clinic in Pensacola, Florida was burned to the ground on New Years Day. In March, the office of Texas Sen. Wendy Davis (D) was firebombed shortly after Texas announced it would cut funding to Planned Parenthood clinics.
Officials have not released a motive for the attack and have made no statement relating the two events, but many news and blog sites have speculated that Davis’ ardent support for Planned Parenthood and women’s abortion and birth control rights may have been a motivating factor in the attacks. Regardless of the motives behind the attack, the discussion that ensued alludes that violence against Planned Parenthood and its supporters is ever present in society.
Attacks on the Political Front
While isolated attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics persist, the bulk of attacks on women’s health issues like abortion and birth control are taking place in Congress. In 2011, states enacted a record number of abortion laws, further restricting constitutionally-protected rights for women.
In the last hours of the last day of Georgia’s General Assembly last week, Congress passed new restrictions on late-term abortions that prohibit abortions after 20 weeks except for instances of proven “medically futile” pregnancies where the fetus is diagnosed with an irreversible chromosomal or congenital anomaly.
Outrage over the bill led female Democrats to walk out of the Senate session for the second time this year. Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) joined protesters in the hallways shouting, “The GOP war on women is alive and well in Georgia.”
Commonly referred to as the “fetal pain bill,” HB 954 prohibits abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy regardless of instances of incest, rape, or mental and emotional conditions including suicidal tendencies of the pregnant women.
Opponents of the bill argue that it restricts women’s reproductive rights based on unfounded claims that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks while other studies show that a fetus does not feel pain until about 28 weeks.
HB 954, referred to as the “women as livestock bill” by its opponents because of a statement made on the House floor by Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) comparing pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm, requires any abortion after 20 weeks to “be done in a way to bring the fetus out alive.”
Robin Marty of RH Reality Check, says that this “would likely be performed by inducing labor in order to attempt to have a live birth of a fetus, despite the fetus having physical anomalies that render it non-viable after birth, and even when the abortion is being performed prior to viability.”
Only 1.5% of all abortions occur after 20 weeks, mainly to women in the direst of situations. While the Georgia bill does make exceptions for fetal anomalies, six other states with fetal pain bills do not. Arizona and New Hampshire are also waiting on approval for similar fetal pain bills.
Political Rhetoric and “Modern-day McCarthyism”
Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile sees the increased political attacks on Planned Parenthood as a symptom of “the modern-day McCarthyism that has put all of our institutions under attack from a set of right-wing aggressors set to remake everything in America in their own image.” While attacks on reproductive health care are not new, Brazile claims that “for years, a concerted minority…has made it their mission to politicize the issue at all costs.”
“And like McCarthyism itself,” says Brazile, “they will continue to succeed in poisoning our civic culture until America’s broad mainstream is willing to help our institutions stand up to these attacks, even if taking a side invites controversy.”
Annette Maxberry-Carrara, founder of Austin-based Liberal Ladies Who Lunch, is standing up against such attacks by coordinating an event called “Access Denied: Sex Strike” at the end of April. Maxberry-Carrara told MintPress in March that “this is not just about contraception or abortion, it is about women’s health care.”
Interestingly enough, policies concerning birth control are not a top election issue for most U.S. voters, yet women’s reproductive rights remain a hot topic for candidates seeking the GOP nomination. Slander ads regarding pro-choice policies continue to hit the airwaves including a recent ad by GOP candidate Rick Santorum claiming that former Governor Mitt Romney supported a government policy for $50 abortions.
GOP candidate, Rick Santorum, condemned the Wisconsin Planned Parenthood bombing while affirming his opposition to the group’s activities at the same time. Santorum said in a statement on Monday that “While we can and should work to defund Planned Parenthood and push back against government mandates that force Americans and religious institutions to violate their faith, violence against our fellow citizens has no place in a freedom-loving America.”
Michelle Goldberg, senior writer for the Daily Beast and author of The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, believes that although you cannot blame an attack like that in Wisconsin on any particular politician, the rhetoric used by right-wing politicians to spread slanders and lies about Planned Parenthood could have an effect on such attacks.
Goldberg said, “If they [women’s health clinics] are as depraved and violent as Republican politicians say they are, then it seems hard to argue that somebody out there shouldn’t go and attack one of them.”
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