In the past 10 years, the religious attack on abortion has significantly ramped up, culminating in some of the most grotesque displays of anti-democratic, anti-woman actions. Jan. 6 is one of those days that will be remembered for such terrifying occurrences. And its lingering impact is just as frightening.
It has been over one year since the deadly insurrection in which a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. Wielding flags and signs with phrases like “God Wins,” the domestic terrorist attack was a chilling day in U.S. history — and one with a strong Christian nationalism component, as unearthed in a just-released FFRF report (crafted in conjunction with the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty).
Therefore, it should be no surprise that many of the Jan. 6 rioters and insurrectionists are prominent figures in the anti-abortion movement. Then-President Trump’s incendiary anti-abortion rhetoric and actions no doubt emboldened his crowd of supporters to action. After all, Trump had been deemed one of the most “pro-life” presidents in history by the anti-abortion movement. The Family Research Council, a fundamentalist lobbying organization, praised Trump for the myriad measures that he took to deny abortion rights to women across the globe. This included reinstating the Mexico City Policy, commonly known as the Global Gag Rule, which prevents organizations around the world from receiving aid if they so much as mention the word “abortion.” His administration also implemented a domestic gag rule, bolstered religiously rooted Crisis Pregnancy Centers and appointed anti-abortion judges to all levels of courts.
The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her rushed replacement with conservative Amy Coney Barrett underscored the impact of Trump’s reign on reproductive restrictions.
The fact that these anti-abortion measures could be tamed or completely dissolved by President Biden infuriated the anti-abortion movement to action on Jan. 6. For example, Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, recorded videos in which he decried the election results and regurgitated lies about fraud. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee turned anti-abortion activist, had called Trump one of “the most pro-life president of our country.” On Jan. 6, she encouraged people to come to the “#wildprotest,” stood on the Capitol steps, and took selfies with rioters. Lesser known anti-abortion folks swarmed the Capitol, including John Brockhoeft, who firebombed abortion clinics in the 1980s, and Taylor Hansen, an anti-abortion activist who painted “Baby Lives Matter” murals in cities across the country.
Indeed, the insurrection of Jan. 6 was reflective of the domestic terror that abortion clinics, workers and patients have endured for decades. In 2018, the National Abortion Federation recorded a record high of 1,369 violent acts, including 15 instances of assault and battery, 13 burglaries, 14 counts of stalking, and over a thousand instances of illegal trespassing. Since 2021 was reported to be the most hostile year for reproductive rights, it wouldn’t be surprising if those 2018 numbers have been surpassed.
Those who participated in the insurrection in the name of “family values” do not recognize the very real burdens caused by their actions and ideologies. Indeed, we are at a point where the future of Roe v. Wade is on shaky ground and millions of women in Texas are without their right to an abortion. To those insurrectionists, this is undoubtedly a victory. But to those who value democracy, this is a travesty. If religion can be used as an excuse to deny safe reproductive health procedures, for what else can religion be weaponized? We will soon find out.
Photo via Shutterstock by AndriiKoval.