On May 2, 2022, Politico leaked a draft majority opinion from the Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The leaked draft largely matched the final ruling which was issued on June 24. With it the Trump packed arch conservative judges overturned Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey.
On the morning of May 8th, 2022 a person or persons calling themselves Jane’s Revenge set fire to the headquarters of an anti-abortion group in Madison, WI. Alongside the direct action they posted their first communique. I’m quoting it in full below:
This is not a declaration of war. War has been upon us for decades. A war which we did not want, and did not provoke. Too long have we been attacked for asking for basic medical care. Too long have we been shot, bombed, and forced into childbirth without consent.
This was only a warning. We demand the disbanding of all anti-choice establishments, fake clinics, and violent anti-choice groups within the next thirty days. This is not a mere “difference of opinion” as some have framed it. We are literally fighting for our lives. We will not sit still while we are killed and forced into servitude. We have run thin on patience and mercy for those who seek to strip us of what little autonomy we have left. As you continue to bomb clinics and assassinate doctors with impunity, so too shall we adopt increasingly extreme tactics to maintain freedom over our own bodies.
We are forced to adopt the minimum military requirement for a political struggle. Again, this was only a warning. Next time the infrastructure of the enslavers will not survive. Medical imperialism will not face a passive enemy. Wisconsin is the first flashpoint, but we are all over the US, and we will issue no further warnings.
And we will not stop, we will not back down, nor will we hesitate to strike until the inalienable right to manage our own health is returned to us.
We are not one group, but many. We are in your city. We are in every city. Your repression only strengthens our accomplice-ship and resolve.
There have reportedly been other similar direct actions since against oppressive infrastructure in “Madison WI, Ft. Collins CO, Reisertown MA, Olympia WA, Des Moines IA, Lynwood WA, Washington DC, Ashville NC, Buffalo NY, Hollywood FL, Vancouver WA, Frederick MA, Denton TX, Gresham OR, Eugene OR, Portland OR, among others.” At the time of this writing, their most recent action was against a “fake pregnancy center” in Lynchburg, Virginia. Lynchburg is home to Jerry Falwell’s Christofascist Liberty University and the Wolves of Vinland, a Neo-Völkisch hate group.
You’d be forgiven if you’ve not heard of Jane’s Revenge before. Coverage of these actions are thin in the mainstream media barring The WSJ which called the group “shadowy” and likened them to the Jan 6 Insurrectionists. More leftist outlets like The Intercept have covered them cautiously while Robert Evans suggested support for their brand of “ethical terrorism” in a recent podcast. Libertarian press like Reason Magazine has opined that Jane’s Revenge could be a “false flag op.” The rightwing media ecosphere from Fox News to Breitbart to The National Review, however, has been having an absolute field day covering them.
Social media however was exceedingly quick to respond… by censoring the group, and any support of it entirely. On June 25, the very day after SCOTUS handed down the ruling, Facebook labeled the group a terrorist organization.
The brief internal bulletin from Meta Platforms Inc., which owns Instagram and Facebook, was titled “[EMERGENCY Micro Policy Update] [Terrorism] Jane’s Revenge” and filed to the company’s internal Dangerous Individuals and Organizations rulebook, meaning that the abortion rights group, which has so far committed only acts of vandalism, will be treated with the same speech restrictions against “praise, support, and representation” applied to the Islamic State and Hitler. The memo, circulated to Meta moderators on June 25, describes Jane’s Revenge as “a far-left extremist group that has claimed responsibility on its website for an attack against an anti-abortion group’s office in Madison, Wisconsin in May 2022. The group is responsible for multiple arson and vandalism attacks on pro-life institutions.” Terrorist groups receive Meta’s strictest “Tier 1” speech limits, treatment the company says is reserved for the world’s most dangerous and violent entities, along with hate groups, drug cartels, and mass murderers.
The last time Facebook’s “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” list was leaked far-right domestic terrorist groups like The Three Percenters and Oath Keepers were noticeably wrist-slapped with a much more minor Tier 3 designation. It can’t be stressed enough how rare and out of character this action is from the social media behemoth. The company typically hews toward US government designations. The Department of Justice and other Federal bodies have not declared Jane’s Revenge as a terrorist organization. To date their direct actions have had zero fatalities or even injuries and have only resulted in property damage.
That sort of restraint can’t be said for anti-abortion Christian terrorist organizations like The Army of God. Founded in 1982 the group’s first action was the kidnapping of Dr. Hector Zevallos and his wife, Rosalee Jean. Dr. George Tiller was the victim of an attempted murder in 1993. Tiller was later assassinated during a Sunday church service in 2009. Dr. John Britton and clinic escort James Barrett were murdered in 1994.
Perhaps the most infamous attacks by a member of The Army of God were a series of nail bombings across Atlanta and Birmingham between 1996 and 1998. Those attacks killed two people and injured over 100 others. Above and beyond abortion clinics other venues were targeted including a lesbian bar and the 1996 Summer Oympic Games.
Despite fading into media obscurity over the years, The Army of God is still active today.
Lopsided treatment of pro-abortion direct action isn’t the only way that Facebook is actively harming the cause of reproductive justice. The censorship goes well beyond militant organizations like Jane’s Revenge. The company has banned employees from “discussing abortion openly at work.” It’s also removing public posts by users on their various platforms that seek to raise awareness of mail-ordering abortion pills. This is the same company that had previously profited from anti-abortion propaganda ads claiming legal and safe abortion pills like mifepristone are reversible and dangerous.
Censorship and propaganda aren’t the only threats that privacy-invading, data-hungry big tech companies pose. Companies like Facebook, Google, and others have massive amounts of personal data that could be used in legal proceedings against abortion seekers. And it’s not a matter that they may surrender this type of data it’s that they already comply with law enforcement requests an overwhelming 85% of the time. What’s more—even before the disastrous Dobb’s decision was handed down—its already happened:
Abortion and civil rights advocates have warned that there are few federal regulations on what information is collected and retained by tech firms, making it easy for law enforcement officials to access incriminating data on location, internet searches and communication history.
Such data has already been used to prosecute people for miscarriages and pregnancy termination in states with strict abortion laws, including one case in which a woman’s online search for abortion pills was brought against her in court.
And it doesn’t just stop with tech giants. But smaller scale period tracker apps as well. Stardust, the #1 period tracker on the App Store will hand over. data without a warrant.
The situation wouldn’t be as dire if Democrats had a spine. Obama promised to enshrine Roe into law. He did not. Biden promised the same. And he did not.
Congressional Democrats have failed spectacularly as well. Senators Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp voted to confirm Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. In fact Democrats and Independents—including, even at times, progressive ones like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders—voted nearly 40% of the time in support of Trump judicial nominees to district and circuit courts.
Nancy Pelosi refused to put forward legislation in The House of Representatives that would have enabled Democrats to pack the court. It’s worth noting Pelosi immediately began fundraising for her next election campaign once the Dobbs decision was handed down.
Those failures do not undermine the importance in voting but they certainly make the ongoing emphasis on it all the more galling. Particularly when they’re from those who’ve failed us in the past. Like Obama who recently opined:
“Because in the end, if we want judges who will protect all, and not just some, of our rights, then we’ve got to elect officials committed to doing the same,” he added.
We thought we had been. Thanks, Obama. Thanks.
The Roe abolition makes the U.S. a global outlier. It joins only 10 other countries that have restricted abortion access over the last 30 years. Sadly America isn’t the only nation where a right to abortion isn’t codified into law. As such campaigners are already raising concerns once again in countries like the United Kingdom.
A common refrain from abortion supporters is “we won’t go back.” The facts of the matter are today is fundamentally much worse.
In the past there wasn’t a mass surveillance tech apparatus that could be used to criminalize abortion seekers. Today there is.
Back then groups like The Army of God would terrorize abortion providers by putting their names on faux wanted posters. Today real bounties exist to monetize hunting abortion seekers.
And things look to get worse. The National Right to Life Coalition is already proposing model legislation that would criminalize a variety of support methods:
The model legislation would seek to use Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations — or RICO — laws against anyone with any involvement in someone accessing an abortion. People could come under criminal suspicion for offering telehealth appointments; mailing or transporting abortion pills across state lines; potentially giving advice online about how to self-administer an abortion; or even “hosting or maintaining a website, or providing internet service, that encourages or facilitates efforts to obtain an illegal abortion.” All these activities would fall under “aiding and abetting.”
Politicians aren’t going to help us. Corporate America isn’t going to safeguard us.
Voting clearly isn’t enough. Donating to funds is good but we need to do more. Peaceful protest only gets us so far.
We need to take direct action.
We need groups like Jane’s Revenge.