The War on Women can be easy to conceptualize. The spectacle of men making decisions for women without their consent and input speaks for itself. The most telling distinctions, however, are often relegated to the shadows. Shame and fear have been used with equal measure against women seeking an abortion. Homegrown terrorists have sought to exploit these cultural fissures, all in a misguided belief that violence is a practical solution. Though we ought to monitor foreign terrorist networks and individuals that threaten our safety, the threat of internal attacks need not be neglected, either.
For years, I walked by the New Woman All Women abortion clinic on a daily basis. Adjacent to the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), it occupies a quiet, but intense corner of 10th Avenue South. Only a few paces across the street is Al’s Deli and Grill, the hangout of many an undergraduate. Busy chatting away, few students ever pause to peer for long at the tenant opposite the restaurant. Even fewer wish to speak at length about the services performed behind the blacked out windows.
New Woman All Women was bombed at 7:33 in the morning on January 29, 1998. Its perpetrator was far-right, homegrown terrorist Eric Rudolph. The blast killed Birmingham police officer and part-time clinic security guard Robert “Sandy” Sanderson, while critically injuring nurse Emily Lyons. Those who were living in nearby dorms or on their way to early class that morning remember the sound of the explosion and how it carried across several city blocks. Lyons, severely maimed by the attack, survived. She later became an outspoken abortion rights advocate.
Rudolph’s most ambitious project until then had been the audacious bombing of Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Security guard Richard Jewel was falsely accused of the crime, but later exonerated. Aware he was being pursued by law enforcement, Rudolph headed for the Appalachian region of Western North Carolina, where he lived in hiding for the next several years. While living the life of a survivalist in the mountainous regions of the state, the assailant was aided and abetted by sympathizers.
When eventually caught and brought to justice, in 2003, Eric Rudolph admitted planting explosive devices at two Atlanta-area abortion clinics and at a lesbian bar. The suspect was unrepentant to the very end, refusing to apologize for his crimes.
After Rudolph's arrest for the bombings, The Washington Post reported that the FBI considered Rudolph to have "had a long association with the radical Christian Identity movement, which asserts that Northern European whites are the direct descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, God's chosen people."
Christian Identity is a white nationalist sect that holds that those who are not white Christians will be condemned to Hell. In the same article, the Post reported that some FBI investigators believed Rudolph may have written letters that claimed responsibility for the nightclub and abortion clinic bombings on behalf of the Army of God, a group that sanctions the use of force to combat abortions and is associated with Christian Identity.
After the front façade was rebuild, the entrance of the clinic looked somewhat like a fortress. A prominent security camera was installed, a feature that may have saved a life and spared physical and psychological trauma had been in place at the time of the attack. For years, the front was a drab, sedate shade of grey, but has since been repainted a dark pink. The issue now, as it always has been, is not what one sees outside as it is what goes on inside.
Unfortunately, the clinic appears to be only a few days away from losing its license to perform abortions. New Woman All Women would need to shut its doors effective May 18, if it cannot regain its ability to perform procedures legally.
The clinic in March agreed to surrender its license and close after a state investigation found problems including two instances in which patients were given overdoses of a drug and had to be transported to a hospital by ambulance.
The consent decree under which the clinic's license was surrendered followed an investigation into instances in which two patients were given an overdose of the drug Vasopressin on Jan. 21.
Each patient should have been administered 0.2 cubic centimeters of the drug, which limits blood loss, but they instead each were given 2.0 cubic centimeters.
Both women were transported to an unidentified Birmingham hospital by ambulance after vomiting, though there was no indication their condition was life-threatening, a report said.
These reports only reinforce anti-choice rhetoric. Abortion foes have scrutinized this center in an effort to find any detail they can to discredit its existence. Should New Woman All Women be forced out of business, as seems likely, it would leave the Birmingham Metro area with only one remaining abortion provider. In a Metro area of 1.2 million people, the disruption of services would be felt acutely. Ironically enough, in another addition to a national issue already in hot debate, Planned Parenthood Southeast would be the one remaining option.
Abortion remains a highly combustible issue. As surely as terrorist plots against us are being planned across the world, domestic terrorism shares that very same threat level. Even the language of the abortion dialogue has taken on militaristic, dogmatic trappings. Those who support abortion decry anti-choice factions, implying that their opposition would restrict a woman’s basic freedom and liberties. Pro-life forces speak stridently about killing babies.
The latest debate over Planned Parenthood has only turned up the heat. Where is this argument headed, beyond the Supreme Court? If we expect further instances of violence, looking inside our own borders is essential. Who is the next Eric Rudolph or the next Timothy McVeigh? One hopes that our vigilance with disrupting Radical Islam carries over to other Americans with destructive intentions.