The leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion nullifying the constitutional right to abortion has sparked a wave of threats against officials and others and has increased the likelihood of extremist violence, according to an internal government report.
The violence could come from either side of the abortion issue or from other types of extremists seeking to exploit tensions, according to a memo to local government agencies from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
It adds to what is already a volatile environment in the US, where authorities have repeatedly warned over the past two years that the threat posed by domestic extremists, like the gunman who carried out the racist attack over the weekend weekend in Buffalo, has overcome the danger of the outside.
The memo, dated May 13 and obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, seeks to differentiate between illegal activity and the intense but legal outpouring of protests that are all but guaranteed when the Supreme Court rules at the end of its term this summer. regardless of the result
“DHS is committed to protecting Americans’ free speech and other civil rights and liberties, including the right to peacefully protest,” the agency said in a written response to questions about the memo.
Those protests could turn violent. The memo warns that people “from a wide range of diverse … ideologies are attempting to justify and inspire attacks on abortion-related targets and ideological opponents in legal protests.”
The violence associated with the abortion debate would be unprecedented and would not necessarily be confined to one side or the other, the memo says.
Opponents of abortion have carried out at least 10 murders as well as dozens of arsons and bombings of medical facilities in their long campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade.
DHS said there is also potential for violence from the other side, citing recent damage to buildings used by abortion opponents in Wisconsin and Oregon.
“Historically, violent acts related to this issue were committed primarily by abortion-related violent extremists who opposed abortion rights,” he said. “In the future, complaints related to restricted access to abortion could fuel violence by pro-choice abortion-related violent extremists and others” (domestic violent extremists).
In the Wisconsin incident, he noted, the building was set on fire and the perpetrators left graffiti reading “If abortions aren’t safe (then) neither are you.”
The leak of the opinion this month led to a “significant increase” in threats via social media from Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and other public officials, as well as clergy and health care providers, according to the memorandum
At least 25 of those threats were forwarded to law enforcement for further investigation.