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Politicians put pregnancy centers in danger

It’s time to stop the violence and intimidation

Massachusetts Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey speaks to reporters in Boston on Oct. 12. Associated Press/Photo by Steven Senne

Politicians put pregnancy centers in danger
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Americans are accustomed to U.S. senators plying their political trade. Grandstanding in public hearings, standing with arms extended before news cameras, and engaging in over-the-top rhetoric is just what politicians have always done. But even senators have a duty to all of their constituents—not just those with whom they agree.

Reactions to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization have ranged from simple disagreement over the water cooler to violence at the end of a crowbar. Americans understand disagreement. We founded this nation upon the notion that we might disagree with one another and yet call each other neighbor and fellow citizen. But simple disagreement has turned to violence and political targeting.

In recent months, life-affirming reproductive health facilities—sometimes called “pregnancy resource centers” or “crisis pregnancy centers”—have seen their facilities defaced with spray painted messages like, “if abortion is not safe, you aren’t safe.” Vandals have thrown bricks through windows. Others have tossed red paint on walls and around statues of the Virgin Mary to mimic blood, sending a not-so-subtle message of what further bloody violence might follow. Yet others have faced fire-bombings.

These are criminal acts. The First Amendment refuses sanction to such acts of violence. As Justice William O. Douglas once wrote, “Certainly violence has no sanctuary in the First Amendment, and the use of weapons, gunpowder, and gasoline may not constitutionally masquerade under the guise of ‘advocacy.’”

Yet, progressive politicians have fomented this violence. Massachusetts Attorney General (now Governor-elect) Maura Healey placed a “consumer advisory” on life-affirming reproductive health facilities out of simple disagreement over their operations—such as providing free consultations to post-abortive women, handing out free diapers and baby formula to new mothers, and giving away handmade baby blankets and knit caps for their infants.

Attorney General Healey has made public no legitimate complaints solicited by this consumer advisory, but following the issuance of her advisory, multiple pro-life reproductive health facilities have been violently vandalized. She has prosecuted none of the criminals. She has not denounced their actions of criminal violence. She has issued no “consumer advisory” against “Jane’s Revenge,” the organization claiming credit for the vandalism.

Not to be out done, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., joined in the targeting of life-affirming reproductive health facilities. On the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, Sen. Warren announced her “anger” towards what she called “crisis pregnancy centers” in June. One report later quoted her accusing pro-life reproductive health facilities of “torturing” pregnant women while calling upon the federal government to “shut them down all around the country.”

Senators have no power to use their office to target private, religious organizations in order to score political points with their far-left base.

In September, she and a gaggle of far-left senators—including Sens. Mazie Hirono and Bernard Sanders—sent a letter to Heartbeat International demanding answers to politically charged questions. Heartbeat International is the nation’s largest network of life-affirming reproductive health facilities with over 3,000 affiliated pregnancy help organization locations serving women in need.

Warren’s letter cloaks itself in the magisterial trappings of the U.S. Senate, but has the feel of an inquisition. The Senators demand answers from a private, religious organization yet invoke no authority for their questions. That may be because they lack any such mandate. Senators have no power to use their office to target private, religious organizations in order to score political points with their far-left base.

Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States repudiated such punitive inquiries in Watkins v. United States: “Investigations conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to ‘punish’ those investigated are indefensible.”

In a response to Sen. Warren’s letter on behalf of Heartbeat International, attorneys for the life-affirming group said, unless and until the senators present a lawful subpoena, no American is compelled to answer the politically motivated questions of government officials we employ.

Americans ought to be asking their elected employees a few questions: What are you doing to protect life-affirming reproductive health facilities from vandalism? Have you condemned the violence? What resources do the FBI need to identify the criminals responsible for the violence?

Sen. Warren has refused to answer. Instead, she continues to demand answers of Heartbeat International, treating them as criminals rather than the victims they are. Attorneys for Heartbeat have asked Sen. Warren to turn her attention to asking questions of Attorney General Merrick Garland or FBI Director Christopher Wray—neither of whom has secured a conviction or even identified a vandal for prosecution.

Disagree with Dobbs all you like. Bang a literal drum and march through the street. Work for 50 years like pro-life groups did to overturn Roe v. Wade if you’re that committed to overturning Dobbs. But stop the violence and political intimidation.

Jeremy Dys

Jeremy Dys is senior counsel to First Liberty Institute, a nationwide religious liberty legal organization dedicated to defending religious freedom for all Americans.


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