Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Spencer Rendahl: Terrorism

Just a few days after the fatal shootings at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, resulting in three deaths and nine injuries, a Planned Parenthood Clinic roughly a dozen miles from my home in nearby Claremont, New Hampshire, reopened. It had been closed for almost six weeks after a juvenile male armed with a hatchet allegedly broke in and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage. The suspect allegedly destroyed walls and equipment and defaced the inside of the building with spray paint.

The suspected Claremont vandal was caught because the police had increased patrols in response to an incident at the same clinic two weeks earlier. In the first incident, someone had spray-painted the word “murderer” on the front window of the center. So far, the police haven’t made an arrest in the first incident or determined if the two incidents are in fact, related.

Violence against family planning facilities like Planned Parenthood is nothing new. Between 1977 and 2014, there have reportedly been 6,948 acts of violence against clinics and providers. These include eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, and 182 arsons.

The Colorado shooting suspect reportedly had a history of both domestic violence and anti-abortion sentiment. He reportedly bragged about vandalizing a Planned Parenthood clinic in South Carolina by jamming the locks with glue. Once under arrest for the Colorado shooting, he told one officer “no more baby parts,” evidently alluding to inflammatory and now-discredited videos released by anti-abortion activists last summer.

In the first of the two Claremont vandalisms, the motive is clearly anti-abortion activism – or as some would have it – terrorism. My dictionary defines terrorism as “the use of violence and threats to intimidate and coerce, especially for political purposes.”

he day of the Colorado shooting, 30 people had signed up for appointments and many more were coming in for prescriptions and health screenings. When the Claremont clinic closed because of the vandalism, countless patients had to be turned away while repairs were made. And it remains to be seen how many will be brave enough to return to either facility.

Acts of violence against clinics are clearly intended to attack and intimidate women simply for seeking constitutionally protected family planning services - and the employees who provide them.

The response to the ISIS massacre in Paris and to the mass shooting in San Bernardino has been heightened concern and outrage, as it should be. Likewise, the violence we’ve seen directed against family planning facilities should also be of concern to us all, because this too, is a form of terrorism.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.
Latest Stories