Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas clutched his pearls on Friday as he viewed Americans so upset at the prospect of losing human rights in their country that some showed up at the homes of area justices in Washington to speak to people who have the power to change course.
Conservatives like Thomas, he said, have never subjected their political opponents to such tactics.
“We never did,” Thomas said, addressing a paneled room of conservatives assembled in Dallas.
“You would never visit the homes of Supreme Court justices when things were not going our way. We didn’t have any tantrums. It is our responsibility to always act appropriately and not give up tit for tat,” he said. The audience applauded.
The crowd was particularly receptive to the judge’s comments about liberals, as he placed himself squarely on the right-wing despite attempts by other judges to stress the importance of neutrality. Several people asked follow-up questions.
“We have to conduct ourselves better than themselves,” Thomas said.
Later, he added, “You also won’t see people going to other people’s houses, attacking them at dinner, in restaurants, throwing things at them.”
Abortion rights activists have been sounding the alarm since a Supreme Court draft opinion leaked earlier this month, revealing that the court was set to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade, likely setting abortion rights back half a century. Demonstrations have erupted in major US cities, outside the Supreme Court building in Washington and, yes, outside the homes of justices, prompting a chagrined response from some Democrats worried about the perception of civility even as the Suburban protests were peaceful.
Notably, civility is not a quality that people on the other side of the abortion debate are particularly known for. As abortion rights supporters have pointed out on social media this week, modern American history is replete with examples of brutal violence against doctors who perform abortions and against women – often those who are already mothers – wishing to terminate a pregnancy.
Dr. David Gunn became the first known abortion provider to be murdered in the United States when in 1993 he was shot dead outside his clinic in Pensacola, Florida by an anti-abortion protester. Around the same time, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology declared an “epidemic of anti-abortion violence” nationwide.
In 1994, the doctor who replaced Gunn, Dr. John Bayard Britton, was shot alongside a volunteer from the Pensacola Clinic. In 1998, an abortion opponent detonated a nail bomb outside a clinic in Alabama, killing a security guard and blinding a nurse.
Anti-abortion activists stalk, intimidate, threaten and abuse people who think abortion should be accessible – or anyone who even approaches an abortion clinic.
According to a friend of the court filing in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the case that could topple Roe — such incidents occur with appalling regularity.
“There have been thousands of violent incidents, including blockades, invasions, chemical attacks, arson, bombings, death threats, incidents of stalking, shootings, attacks by snipers and cold-blooded killings,” the brief said, accusing the government of ignoring the violence. in the name of prohibiting access to abortion.
Between 1977 and 2019, there have been at least 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 756 physical threats, 620 incidents of harassment, four kidnappings, 42 bombings, 189 arson attacks, 100 attempted bombings or arson and 662 bomb threats, according to the brief, citing data collected by the National Abortion Federation.
“The actual numbers are likely much higher,” the brief states.
One of the best-known cases in recent memory is that of Kansas physician Dr. George Tiller, a longtime reproductive rights advocate who was shot in the head while serving as an usher at his church in 2009. His killer knew that Tiller regularly wore a body armor to protect himself from assault.
In 2015, three people were shot dead outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado: a police officer, an Iraq War veteran and a woman accompanying her friend to the clinic. Nine other people were injured in the mass shooting, carried out by a man calling himself “a warrior for babies”.
Providers and activists said the violence was getting worse before the pandemic. In 2019, at least three young men in three different states were arrested for threatening or planning a mass shooting at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Supreme Court justices have also not been immune to right-wing violence, despite what Thomas may believe. Judge Harry Blackmun, who wrote the court’s majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, received death threats for this opinion. In 1985, someone shot a bullet in his apartment. FBI agents picked him up from a chair.