Hageman Says Feds Turn ‘Blind Eye’ To Violence Against Pro-Life Groups

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman says the federal government is hypocritical in protecting people who are victims of hate crimes, turning a “blind eye” when pro-life groups are attacked.

Leo Wolfson

May 18, 20236 min read

An angry and agitated abortion rights protester.
An angry and agitated abortion rights protester. (Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyoming, believes the federal government shows preferential treatment to protecting abortion clinics from attacks over pro-life pregnancy centers that experience similar violence.

“When it comes to pro-life health care facilities, the Department of (In)justice turns a blind eye to violence,” she said in a Wednesday social media post.

The comment came in response to testimony offered Tuesday before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government of which Hageman is a member. The testimony asserts that the Department of Justice has ignored claims of violence against pro-life groups since the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last year.

The subcommittee focused on instances where pro-life activists have been targeted and the implications of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. 

The act says it “prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services.” It has typically been used to prosecute attacks against abortion clinics, but its language also protects pro-life organizations.

In 2022, the DOJ charged 26 pro-life people with FACE violations.

‘A Blind Eye’

Hageman believes the federal government has turned “a blind eye” to violence committed against pro-life groups.

 Although she said the DOJ has padded its stats in recent years with claims of domestic extremism proliferating in the country, Hageman said the attacks against pregnancy centers actually constitute domestic terrorism. 

“That exemplifies exactly why the FACE Act is important,” said Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for the First Liberty Institute. “When we have a situation where speech reaches a tipping point into violence, that’s where we find ourselves at with these situations, where we characterize speech as violence instead of violence as violence.”

The Numbers

Dys, who represents various pro-life organizations, said only four people have been indicted for their violence against pro-life facilities. Conversely, he said, there have been “100-plus attacks in the past year” against these organizations.

In the last year, the House Judiciary Committee reported at least 87 attacks against pregnancy resource centers and 152 attacks on Catholic churches based on two reports from CatholicVote, a pro-life organization.

Many of these buildings were vandalized with threats such as, “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you.”

“It’s certainly disconcerting,” Dys said of the disparity in charges.

The militant abortion rights group Jane’s Revenge has taken responsibility for many of these acts.

“We are versatile, we are mercurial, and we answer to no one but ourselves,” the group said in a 2022 statement. “We promised to take increasingly drastic measures against oppressive infrastructures. Rest assured that we will, and those measures may not come in the form of something so easily cleaned up as fire and graffiti.”

The FBI has investigated these attacks but has not designated Jane’s Revenge as a terrorist group. 

According to a February Rolling Stone Magazine story, the FBI was investigating 10 instances of arson and vandalism at anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and offered a $25,000 reward for more information about these incidents. 

In questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers the Justice Department has carried out more FACE Act prosecutions of pro-life activists than pro-abortion activists because the crimes and times of day they happen are often different. He said pro-life activists are usually taking their actions during the day, while pro-choice activists are committing acts during the night when they are harder to catch.

Task Force

The Department of Justice has identified some pro-life groups as “domestic violence extremists.” It also established a Reproductive Rights Task Force last year aimed at identifying ways to protect reproductive rights in the wake of the Supreme Court overturn.

“So not only is the DOJ infringing on protected rights connected to peaceful actions, it is not enforcing the law when violations are targeted at the same political groups that the DOJ itself has been targeting,” Hageman said. “It is instead prioritizing the protection of law under its preferred political narrative, which in this case is the pro-abortion movement.”

Dys said there is no comparable governmental task force for pro-life interests. 

Both Sides

The new Republican majority in the U.S. House has staked a claim as being staunchly pro-life.

In one of its first official acts, the House GOP passed a resolution condemning “the recent attacks on pro-life facilities, groups and churches,” but also refused to allow a vote on a separate measure offered by Democrats that would have condemned violence against both crisis pregnancy centers and facilities that provide abortion.

 The ranking member of the subcommittee, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pennsylvania, argued that Republicans have downplayed violence directed against abortion providers.

“The overwhelming majority of such violence, threats and intimidation has been and continues to be directed against abortion providers and patients [by] anti-abortion extremists,” she said.

Scanlon also pointed out that the DOJ has launched a separate program meant to prosecute crimes against churches and other houses of worship through its domestic terrorism task force and said that political violence is not acceptable under any scenario.

Talcott Camp, a pro-choice witness brought by the Democrats, mentioned an arson committed last summer on a Casper abortion clinic as an example of violence being committed against pro-choice providers. She also said there has been an increase in death threats and threats of harm, stalking, and burglaries on abortion providers in the last year.

The subcommittee also heard testimony from pro-life activist Mark Houck, who received FACE charges after he pushed an abortion clinic volunteer in 2021 who Houck said was repeatedly harassing his son. Houck had his home raided and was put under arrest in front of his seven children in relation to these charges.

Hageman grilled Camp about whether she knew of an instance where a pro-choice activist had been treated in this same manner. Camp said she did not.

Contact Leo Wolfson at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter