Once a safe haven for women going through the heartbreak of terminating their pregnancies, now there is nothing left but an empty lot.
Five months ago, staff at Planned Parenthood in Knoxville, Tennessee, waited to welcome patients to their newly renovated health center.
The £1.8million project included consultation services, procedures and modern recovery rooms that were set to help thousands of women.
However, on New Year’s Eve, an arson attack razed the building.
It had become the latest statistic in nearly 50 years of extreme violence in the United States by rabid, sometimes deadly, pro-life activists against abortion doctors.
It was not the first time the establishment – or its staff – had been targeted.
Last year, someone shot through the clinic’s entrance doors, leaving bullet holes in the reception area.
It happened on January 22, 2021, the 48th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the United States Supreme Court decision that protected the right to abortion in 1973.
But this week, a leaked draft ruling showed top US justices set to overturn the landmark verdict, sending panic across states.
Tennessee nurse practitioner Jennifer Wiley, who wanted to use her real name when discussing the attacks, said: “These fanatics won’t think of taking someone’s life when their movement is to protect the one who doesn’t. is not yet born.”
For 18 years, the mum-of-three worked at several women’s centers, providing a ‘safe, non-judgmental environment’ for women seeking abortions.
She said she had “lost count” of the number of women who nearly died after unlawful dismissal, including a 19-year-old who stuck a knife in herself.
Jennifer, 47, who quit nursing after her then 11-year-old son received a threat after his mother’s job was discovered by another parent at school, fears dangerous layoffs don’t come back.
If Roe v Wade is overturned, thousands of people would be deprived of their reproductive rights, including victims of rape and incest.
The potential verdict leaves staff, who face harassment, harassment and death threats, in fear that one of them could be killed.
Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the St Louis and Southwestern Missouri area, is under no illusions. Already seeing a rise in violence, she believes it coincides with new state laws restricting abortion and polarizing politics.
Doctors and nurses — many of whom live out of state, travel weekly for work, and change hotels most nights — often receive surveillance training to detect threats.
Melissa Fowler, campaign manager at the National Abortion Federation, said the organization keeps its members safe.
She said it “is likely to see an increase in harassment and violence by extremists” who are emboldened by the new legislation.
New figures from the NFA show that abortion providers reported an increase in death threats and threats of harm, from 92 in 2019 to 200 in 2020.
There was a 125% year-on-year increase in reports of assaults and assaults outside clinics, while internet harassment, hate mail and harassing phone calls increased. soared.
The pandemic has slightly reduced pickets outside the centers, but in the past there have been 41 bombings and 173 arson attacks.
A total of 11 people were murdered, with 17 attempted murders.
The first murder was that of gynecologist David Gunn, who was shot dead in March 1993 during a protest in Pensacola, Florida. Michael Griffin was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison
In November 2015, three people died and several were injured in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.
After a standoff, police SWAT teams launched armored vehicles into the lobby of the building.
Suspect Robert Lewis Dear Jr had previously acted against other clinics and called himself a ‘baby warrior’.
He was deemed unfit to stand trial and is now being held in a mental hospital indefinitely.
The shooting was close to home for Dr. Warren Hern, 83, who for 47 years has served Colorado women from his clinic in Boulder.
Before Roe v Wade he thought too many women were dying because of illegal dismissals which is why he started his practice.
Dr Hern said: “When I started out as the founding medical director of a non-profit clinic, I faced hostility even from many members of the medical community.
“My request for hospital privileges was met with fierce opposition until an obstetrician, who had seen too many women die from illegal abortion, backed me.
“I have the right to admit patients to the hospital if necessary.”
Dr. Hern talks about her life and how the anti-abortionists tried to take her.
In 1988, five shots were fired through his office windows, leading patients and staff now protected by bulletproof glass.
In 1991, activist Randall Terry rallied his supporters around Dr. Hern and prayed for his execution. The doctor’s family was often protected by armed police.
He says that if Roe v Wade is cancelled, thousands of women would face life-threatening situations.
Speaking about his practice and the threats to his life, Dr Hern said: “I was doing my part to make the Roe v Wade decision meaningful but, much more than that, I was saving women’s lives.
“We know we have done our part to make this historic decision for human freedom a reality for our patients and their families.
“The real meaning of ‘family values’ is the freedom to choose your own life and values with those you love.”