When men attack women’s health clinics, the Department of Justice should call it domestic terrorism and treat it that way, a coalition of activists said Wednesday.
The group, led by NARAL Pro-Choice America, UltraViolet and Courage Campaign, and CREDO Action, is calling on the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate crimes like last Friday’s murderous rampage at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic as acts of domestic terrorism rather than ordinary violent crimes.
“Clearly these attacks [against Planned Parenthood] meet the definition of domestic terrorism. This is not a random shooting … and it must be called out as such,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, on a press teleconference on Wednesday.
The FBI defines “domestic terrorism” as “activities … [that] involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law … appear intended to (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population, (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”
And following 9/11, the USA Patriot Act redefined terrorism to include domestic crimes — giving investigators more latitude to pursue crimes the law called “terrorism” during their investigations.
Attacks on clinics that provide abortion services are politically motivated and intended to strike fear into the hearts of women across the country seeking care — not just at the particular clinic — the activists say.
So far, Attorney General Loretta Lynch hasn’t commented on the Colorado shooting, one way or the other. The activists are hoping that when she does, she won’t mince words.
But actually prosecuting an attack like that under terrorism statutes is a different story. As The Intercept reported in July, immediately after the indictment of a white 21-year-old who shot and killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina, there is no criminal charge of domestic terrorism on the books.
There is a section of U.S. criminal code that includes terrorism-related crimes, such as “using a weapon of mass destruction” — one of the counts Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged with.
But when the weapon of choice is a gun, rather than an explosive or weapon of mass destruction, there is no terrorism-related statute to employ when filing an indictment.
The DOJ ultimately charged Dylann Roof with murder, attempted murder, and use of a firearm, all in the commission of a hate crime, in the church shooting.
Hogue of NARAL acknowledged that “there are not statutory remedies available.” But, she said, “We’re asking that these crimes be investigated as domestic terrorism … because it’s a discussion we need to have … [to bring about] an understanding of this as a network of actors, an intentional campaign to scare people.”
“If that results in a statutory definition” of terrorism, Hogue said, “we wouldn’t oppose it. But the current ask is for the DOJ to call it what it is.”
Top photo: A person is transported in an ambulance outside the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic on November 27, 2015, where Robert Dear allegedly killed three and wounded nine.