A domestic terrorism briefing the FBI gave to law enforcement agencies in 2017 warned them about the threat of “pro-abortion extremists.” That would be fine, except—as the FBI’s own briefing materials subsequently admit—violent pro-abortion extremists barely exist, and in no universe do they constitute an organized domestic terror movement. The existence of this briefing was uncovered by Property of the People, a government transparency group that uses Freedom of Information Act requests to shed light on the workings of the government.
To make the extent of the non-problem clear: Only one person could be fairly described as a “pro-choice terrorist” (he indeed described himself that way), and that is Theodore Shulman, who went to prison in 2012 for harrassing and threatening to kill two leading figures in the anti-abortion movement. (Shulman served 41 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.) The only known death of an anti-abortion protester is Jim Pouillon, who was shot and killed in September 2009 while holding a gory sign and protesting outside a Michigan clinic. Harlan James Drake, who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder, was severely mentally ill, according to his lawyers. He also killed a gravel pit owner the same day, reportedly believing both men had wronged his mother. According to evidence presented at trial, Drake shot Pouillon not because he was a radical pro-choice activist, but because he was offended that Pouillon was holding a disturbing sign in view of school children.
Anti-abortion groups, meanwhile, have harassed doctors and clinics who provide abortions for decades, leading to arson, constant death threats, a wave of bombings throughout the 1990s, and the murders of some 12 people between 1993 and 2012, all either clinic staffers or physicians. The nature of these constant threats, combined with consistent state and federal-level legislative efforts to curtail abortion or ban it outright, has changed the nature of abortion access in America.
And yet the FBI’s briefing to law enforcement agencies appears to be based on the idea that there are threats, particularly dangerous lone wolf-type extremists, on both sides.
Gunita Singh, the staff attorney at Property of the People, told us, “It should strike any reasonable person as astounding, irrational, and even offensive to see the words ‘pro-choice extremist’ strung together. Yet, in this FBI document we see this configuration appear in an Abortion Extremism Reference Guide, juxtaposed alongside ‘pro-life extremists,’ as if they’re somehow two sides of the same coin.”
The FBI is still the misbegotten child of J. Edgar Hoover, and if you view them with anything other than suspicion, you are a fool.