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Abortion Debates and Violent Acts of Extremists

Abortion rights are the subject of debate in many countries around the world and religion is often at the center of the debate on a women’s right to an abortion. Abortion has been legal in the United States since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v Wade. This ruling opened the door to safe abortions in the United States. However, debate on abortion continued and it eventually deteriorated into violent acts by extremists against abortion providers and those seeking an abortion. The rise of the political right in state legislatures across the country turned the debate on abortion into years of manipulative and obstructionist legislation passed by conservative white male legislators who believe they know what is best for women. Another argument is that white male-dominated legislatures prefer to deliberately thwart the economic and political independence of women as much as they possibly can and under any circumstance.

Some anti-abortion extremists believe that violence and bloodshed are justified in support of their views on abortion. These violent extremists have turned to murder, bombings, assault, vandalism, kidnapping, and arson. They have also made death threats, and sent hate mail and suspicious packages. Violent antiabortion extremists have targeted women’s reproductive clinics and the healthcare professionals and staff who work in these facilities, including doctors, nurses, receptionists, and even security guards. In a 2009 case, for example, a Kansas doctor who performed abortion services was shot and killed in his local church by an anti-abortion extremist. Those who use violence to defend abortion rights have murdered, threatened, and attacked those who oppose abortion [7].

From 2014 to 2015 the debate on abortion intensified as anti-abortionists released some extremely edited videos that they claimed proved Planned Parenthood was selling aborted baby parts. That sparked congressional hearings as well as state-level investigations by a variety of agencies into the practices of Planned Parenthood clinics. Although no credible evidence was found of any wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, conservative white male-dominated state legislatures passed a plethora of bills to block Planned Parenthood from receiving public funding for abortion.

Conservatives used a variety of social media warfare tactics ranging from self-validation and relationship building to fostering confusion by releasing unsubstantiated assertions and conclusions about abortion. In this battle, liberal or abortion rights advocates outgunned the conservatives in social media many times over. In fact, a ground swell of support arose for Planned Parenthood and women started opening up about their experiences with abortion and sharing stories about those experiences on social media. Tens of thousands of social media posts were made in support of Planned Parenthood and in support of abortion rights. Conservatives tried to troll the posts but were greatly outnumbered and often chased out of chats and post threads. Anti-abortion groups used several of the following social media warfare tactics:

  • ? Self-validation to support the validity and legitimacy of the anti-abortion group’s position.
  • ? Influencing like-minded anti-abortion groups to adopt a position and use the same or similar rhetoric and justifications to oppose abortion rights.
  • ? Reinforcing anti-abortion group partners’ position on the issues.
  • ? Recruitment and indoctrination of new members to an anti-abortion mentality or group.
  • ? Relationship building with other anti-abortion groups.
  • ? Deception of the facts about abortion or why the group opposes abortion rights.
  • ? Divisiveness to instigate hatred toward abortion rights advocates.
  • ? Trolling social media posts and debating the viewpoint of the poster.

The abortion debate is alive and well in social media posts. Sometimes nonsensical, sometimes inciting violence, these types of posts can be found in many places on the Internet. The following represents the essence of social media posts found in an informal survey conducted on September 2, 2016:

  • ? 20% of women’s health clinics in the United States have experienced severe anti-abortion violence.
  • ? Anti-abortion and anti-PP, and cutting domestic violence funding?
  • ? Anti-abortion and homophobic violence often justified by Christian beliefs.
  • ? Anti-abortion groups have become cults!
  • ? Anti-abortion people at school trying to teach people, please make them leave.
  • ? Anti-abortion terrorists have a violent ideology, not a mental illness.
  • ? Anti-abortion violence in this country adds up to 11 murders and 26 attempted murders.
  • ? Inflammatory anti-abortion speech goes hand-in-hand with clinic violence.
  • ? Republicans seek plan to fight Zika and push their anti-abortion agenda at the same time.
  • ? Repubs put anti abortion and confederate flag bullshit in Zika bill.
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