FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that the bureau has opened a number of investigations into abortion-related crime.
In his testimony, Mr Wray relayed that there has been a significant surge in criminal activity both from opponents and supporters of abortion rights since a draft of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade and ending the national right to abortion care was leaked to Politico in May.
Violence and intimidation have long been a part of the anti-abortion movement, which has threatened abortion providers and patients through the years and frequently targeted abortion and other reproductive healthcare clinics and offices.
Those kinds of threats have not stopped in the last several months. The abortion rights movement has also seen an uptick in its use of violence, which has been particularly targeted against crisis pregnancy centers — centers that critics say present themselves as neutral providers of care but in reality exist to pressure people into particular ideological, anti-abortion measures.
The group Jane’s Revenge has attacked several crisis pregnancy centers in midwestern towns like Madison and Des Moines, drawing headlines, while Utah Sen. Mike Lee said that 82 churches and centers have been physically targeted by activists.
“I understand that passions run high, especially on an issue like abortion, but there’s just way too many people that seem to think that that justifies engaging in violence and destruction of property and threats of violence,” Mr Wray told Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, as quoted by Politico. “I feel like everyday I’m getting briefed on someone throwing a molotov cocktail at someone over some issue. It’s crazy.”
Mr Wray, a Donald Trump appointee retained by President Joe Biden at the start of his administration, did not specify how many investigations into abortion-related activity the FBI is currently engaged in or whether the open investigations are predominately looking at pro or anti-abortion activity.
He did say that FBI joint terrorism task forces are specifically focused on attacks against churches and other pro-life organisations. Some voices in the pro-abortion rights movement have noted that targeted violence against property may be an effective strategy given how their opponents on the issue used it in the campaign against Roe v Wade.
For Mr Wray, a Republican and Federalist Society member, that kind of thinking is troubling.
“From our perspective, I don’t care what side of the issue you’re on, I don’t care who you’re upset with or what you’re upset about,” Mr Wray said. “On abortion or anything else, you don’t get to use violence or threats of violence to act on it, and we’re going to go after that conduct aggressively. I feel very strongly about that and I’ve communicated that very strongly to all of our field offices and our workforce.”