CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
One of Montana’s four abortion clinics has been forced to close indefinitely as its staff attempts to recover from a recent break-in. The reproductive health facility sustained significant damage, including broken furniture, equipment, and glass. RH Reality Check reports that that clinic staff believe the act of vandalism was part of a “coordinated effort” to intimidate the employees to stop providing abortion care.
The clinic has only occupied its current building in Kalispell, Montana for about a month. In addition to offering abortion care, it also provides a wide range of other family planning services. Now that it’s closed, this region of the state doesn’t have a single abortion provider.
“I’m in shock and I’m angry,” Susan Cahill, the physician assistant who runs the clinic, told local press. “People are trying to stop me from doing something that I believe is a human right and is legal.”
The ACLU of Montana has condemned the attack, pointing out that although the group supports peaceful protest, “violent attacks against reproductive health care providers are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.” Since abortion clinic harassment sometimes escalates to the level of domestic terrorism, Montana police notified the FBI.
Law enforcement officials already have a suspect in custody: 24-year-old Zachary Klundt, whose mother is a board member of a local right-wing “crisis pregnancy center.” Although those groups typically pose as health facilities, they don’t actually provide the full range of reproductive care, and they often use scare tactics to dissuade women from getting an abortion. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks this particular organization because it has been linked to white supremacist figures, who say it helps “save white babies.”
This isn’t the first time that Cahill has been subject to violence because of the work she does. In 1994, the clinic she operated at the time was firebombed, and she was forced to close it for five months. That crime was perpetrated by Richard T. Andrews, a radical anti-abortion activist who was convicted of setting fire to seven abortion clinics over the course of three years.
And Cahill certainly isn’t the only medical professional to experience this type of harassment and intimidation. According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), there have been 1,490 acts of abortion clinic vandalism since 1997. There have also been 42 incidences of arson during that time period. Although clinic violence peaked in the 1990s with several murders of abortion providers, this issue certainly hasn’t completely gone away in more recent years. A recent survey conducted by NAF, which is a professional association of abortion providers across the country, found that 90 percent of clinics are concerned about the safety of both patients and staff.