A top Republican is calling on FBI Director Christopher Wray to take the “threat of pro-abortion violent extremism” seriously when investigating the targeting of anti-abortion groups and to brief the Senate on the bureau’s efforts “to combat this wave of abortion-related violence.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, raised the topic with Wray in a letter this week following the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and returning the regulation of abortion laws to the states on Friday.
Since the May 2 leak of a draft of the Supreme Court’s opinion, there have been heightened threats against Supreme Court Justices and anti-abortion advocates, including a rash of attacks and vandalism targeting anti-abortion activist groups, pregnancy centers, and churches across the country. The GOP senator told Wray: “I want to ensure that these violent attacks are recognized by the FBI and are being properly investigated for what they are — cases of abortion-related violent extremism.”
“Current threats from abortion extremists are impending, serious, and dangerous,” Grassley told Wray. “The FBI was not prepared for the torrent of leftwing violence that was unleashed the summer before last. Responding to the current threat of pro-abortion violent extremism will require the FBI to continue its efforts to identify and investigate cases of abortion-related violence across our country at a high rate. I request a briefing from the FBI on your preparedness to counter another potential summer of riots and your efforts thus far to combat this wave of abortion-related violence.”
The FBI told the Washington Examiner earlier this month that it did not have a comment on any specific groups carrying out the violence but acknowledged an inquiry is underway.
“The FBI is investigating a series of attacks and threats targeting pregnancy resource centers and faith-based organizations across the country,” a spokesperson for the FBI’s national press office said. “The FBI takes all threats seriously, and we continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners and will remain vigilant to protect our communities.”
The Supreme Court’s Friday ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned 1973’s Roe and 1992’s Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which had declared a right to abortion and severely limited the ability of states to outlaw the practice.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the Supreme Court declared on Friday, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining only in the ruling but not in the majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito. “Like the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe was also egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that the Justice Department “strongly disagrees” with the Supreme Court overturning Roe, vowing that “the Justice Department will use every tool at our disposal to protect reproductive freedom.”
Grassley wrote to Wray: “I understand that the FBI specifically tracks a form of extremism known as pro-abortion violent extremism. I understand from a recent FBI bulletin shared with my office that the FBI is investigating many of the instances I have described above as instances of domestic violent extremism. As such, you are evaluating numerous available federal charges, including hate crimes against religious pro-life institutions.”
The GOP senator continued: “There have been at least 40 violent attacks on crisis pregnancy centers, religious institutions, and other pro-life entities since the Dobbs leak and before the Court even issued its final opinion.
“Perhaps most concerning are organized violent groups like Jane’s Revenge and Ruth Sent Us. Jane’s Revenge has distribut
ed flyers around the Washington, D.C. area calling for riots after the Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The flyers explicitly call for a ‘night of rage’ and encourage supporters of Jane’s Revenge to ‘hit the streets’ and ‘riot.’ It also makes threats to ‘oppressors’ — stating that ‘if abortions aren’t safe, you’re not either.’ Their words have matched their actions. They’ve taken credit for fire bombings of crisis pregnancy centers in Madison, WI; Amherst, NY; Buffalo, NY; and Gresham, OR.”
More than 100 House Republicans sent a letter to Garland this month that called on the Department of Justice to investigate the incidents as acts of domestic terrorism.
“We write to express serious concerns over recent attacks targeting religious organizations and crisis pregnancy centers and request the Department of Justice respond with how its National Security Division plans to investigate these acts of domestic terrorism,” the House Republicans wrote.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also pressed Garland on the domestic terrorism classification in June.
Earlier in June, 16 Republican senators, along with a number of national anti-abortion groups, sent a letter to Garland telling him that “the criminal acts perpetrated against those who oppose legalized abortion are a clear effort to intimidate or coerce individuals who hold pro-life values.”
The gun-toting suspect who traveled from California to Maryland this month in an alleged plot to kill Brett Kavanaugh in his home over anger that he might help overturn Roe has been indicted by a federal grand jury for an “attempt to assassinate” the Supreme Court justice. Nicholas Roske showed up at Kavanaugh’s house after midnight with burglary tools, a knife, a gun, and a pair of special boots with outer soles allowing stealth movement inside a house, though he walked away when he spotted a pair of deputy U.S. marshals outside Kavanaugh’s home, according to court records.
“This kind of behavior is, obviously, it’s behavior — we will not tolerate it,” Garland said earlier this month. “Threats of violence and actual violence against the justices, of course, strike at the heart of our democracy, and we will do everything we can to prevent them and to hold people that do them accountable.”
The White House condemned a Molotov cocktail attack on a Wisconsin anti-abortion office in May, saying President Joe Biden “strongly condemns this attack and political violence of any stripe.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was pressed on the uptick in arson targeting anti-abortion groups this month.
“Well, that’s something, clearly, the DOJ is looking into,” she said. “And they’ve taken that very seriously. We have seen an uptick of that type of arson and bombing and — or attempt to bomb, as we saw just recently over the weekend.”
The U.S. attorney and the FBI’s assistant director in charge for the nation’s capital said in a joint statement in June that “we will not tolerate violence, destruction, interference with government functions, or trespassing on government property,” including at the Supreme Court. It did not mention the justice’s homes.