Jun 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Catholic and anti-abortion groups raise alarm about violence

Illustration of two tears of paper with fingers pointing in opposite directions and a woman holding her hands in the middle

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than two dozen Catholic organizations, anti-abortion centers and other conservative groups in a new letter are demanding the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute attacks on churches, pregnancy resource centers and Supreme Court justices.

Why it matters: Abortion-related violence historically has been driven by anti-abortion extremists, but the leaked Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v. Wade has spurred a wave of attacks from abortion-rights proponents.

Driving the news: There have been 24 attacks on pregnancy centers and anti-abortion groups since the leaked opinion, and 140 attacks on Catholic Churches since 2020, according to trackers created by the conservative advocacy group CatholicVote.

  • "We call on you to publicly condemn these unlawful attacks; to commit to vigorous efforts to prevent them, and to investigate and prosecute them; and to proactively engage with the affected faith communities to ensure their concerns and security needs are being met, " the groups wrote in a letter sent Wednesday and reviewed by Axios.
  • CatholicVote, SBA Pro-Life America, The Heritage Foundation, and Students for Life Action are among the groups signing the letter.

Senior national security officials in the Biden administration have been concerned about the prospects of additional attacks on anti-abortion institutions following the Supreme Court's anticipated announcement.

  • They have had several internal planning session and are studying multiple streams of intelligence from across the country related to the issue. This has also been a focus inside the Department of Homeland Security.

The big picture: The U.S. government has been bracing for a surge in political violence once the Supreme Court hands down the ruling that's expected to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by Axios.

What they're saying: "We've been urging the Department of Justice to act for months and regrettably the situation has grown worse," CatholicVote President Brian Burch told Axios.

  • "The Attorney General should be apolitical when it comes to political violence. There is no excuse for what appears to be calculated inaction."

The other side: The Justice Department responded to a similar December 2021 letter from CatholicVote, promising a “15-day review to ensure that all appropriate resources are being deployed to protect houses of worship."

  • In the response, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta noted that the DOJ has "successfully pursued and prosecuted a number of religiously motivated hate crimes in recent years."
  • The Justice Department mailed a replica of that response to CatholicVote on May 4, two days after Politico published the draft opinion.
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