Operation Rescue, an extremist anti-abortion organization with a history of violence, launched a new website Tuesday which creates a repository for anti-choice activists to “document” — and then weaponize — purported medical emergencies at clinics.
The organization is actively telling its followers to go to abortion facilities to take photos, videos, or audio recordings of patients and add the data to the group’s existing database. Operation Rescue has been documenting “abortion abuses” for several years but now is recruiting outside help, asking activists to call or email a tip that will be added to Abortion911.com.
Operation Rescue will write a post about the tip and publish it on Abortion911.com, spreading misinformation about providers “harming” patients. Moreover, they’re aiming to post photos of vulnerable people in ambulances, invading these patients’ privacy and spinning it however they want.
Activists are already especially emboldened in the current conservative political climate. Indeed, trespassing charges at abortion clinics more than tripled, death threats or threats of harm nearly doubled, and obstruction incidents rose from 580 to more than 1,700 between 2016 and 2017 according to recent National Abortion Federation report. Operation Rescue’s new call to action will undoubtably exacerbate this scary reality for patients, providers, and staff.
“Help us prove that abortion is not safe. We know it kills babies and hurts women, but the public needs to see documented reports to overcome the propaganda of the left that says abortion is a ‘human right,’ instead of the human rights abuse that it really is,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement.
“This site could have a lasting impact on public opinion and legal cases regarding abortion,” added Newman.
While there’s overwhelming scientific research showing abortion is safe (abortion is routinely medically safer than wisdom tooth removal), it’s not hard to imagine conservative politicians citing Operation Rescue’s newest project. Congress launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood after the Center for Medical Progress (a group with ties to Operation Rescue) falsely claimed the reproductive rights group profited off the sale of fetal tissue.
Operation Rescue uses another website, AbortionDocs.org, to menace patients and providers. This site lists hundreds of doctors’ names, work locations, and phone numbers. The group disclaims that “[t]his site is meant for informational purposes to aid in the end of abortion through peaceful, legal means. It is in no way meant to encourage or incite violence of any kind against abortion clinics, abortionists, or their staff.”
They say they denounce violence, but Operation Rescue staff are associated with very violent acts. Cheryl Sullenger, senior vice president, was sentenced to three years in federal prison after conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic in 1988.
The aim of this organization is to shutter clinics and create an “abortion-free America.” While the first is certainly possible, the second goal is not: Even if elected officials who are intent on hobbling or outright overturning Roe v. Wade are successful, abortions will still be needed and performed, just illegally. That’s the case in countries where abortion is currently illegal. In Argentina, 500,000 abortions are performed each year, often without medical expertise or supervision because of the extreme legal restrictions on the procedure. Recently a 24-year-old mother of two died after attempting to induce a miscarriage just one week after the Argentine Senate rejected a measure to legalize the procedure up to 14 weeks.