Pregnancy Centers under Attack, Shore up Security While Continuing to Serve
On May 7, Randy Bollig arrived at Loreto House, where he is the director, only to find graffiti on the brick, sign, and front door. It cost the Denton, Texas, pro-life pregnancy center over $2,500 to clean up the mess. Security cameras showed the incident happened at about 3 a.m.
Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs opinion was leaked in May followed by the official opinion in June overturning Roe v. Wade, pro-life pregnancy centers have been victims of attacks.
While it’s hard to quantify the monetary costs to pregnancy centers, CareNet estimates that over $400,000 worth of damage has been done to the 18 centers in its network that have reported incidents.
At least one center in Colorado was firebombed and completely destroyed, CareNet president Roland Warren told MinistryWatch.
He is not aware of anyone being injured in these attacks.
Oregon and Washington have been the hot spots, Warren noted, but attacks have taken place all over the country.
In June, CompassCare near Buffalo, New York, was firebombed and vandalized. The damage included broken windows, a burned office, and spray painted messages on the property.
It will cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars and take several months to repair the building,” Jim Harden, the CEO of CompassCare, told the Catholic News Agency.
When Heartbeat International surveyed its network of pregnancy centers, the chance of an attack from June to July increased from 1 in 6 to 1 in 3.
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America has compiled a list of attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and places of worship since the Dobbs opinion was leaked in May.
Many of the attacks have been orchestrated by a group calling itself “Jane’s Revenge.” Bollig told MinistryWatch that Loreto House is on the target list because of the number of women the center serves—usually between 40 and 50 women per day.
The staff and volunteers are frightened because of attacks and calls for violence, Bollig said, who has even received some death threats.
Threats have slowed in recent weeks, but Bollig expects them to increase again after college students return to Denton at the end of August.
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Centers have also endured cyberattacks, according to Heartbeat International. An attack through Yelp led by “Gen-Z for Change” bombarded pregnancy centers with fake one-star reviews.
Another virtual attack strategy has been to flood pregnancy centers with fake appointment requests so real appointments are delayed or unavailable.
The personal cost to pregnancy center staff and volunteers is high. As the vitriol in the public square demonizing pregnancy centers has risen, so too have personal attacks by those close to pro-life staff and volunteers.
“For folks doing this work, attacks by those close to you are challenging. In a way it feels like a betrayal,” he added.
Increased Security Measures
Loreto House has increased security with equipment and training. However, Bollig and his staff remain undeterred in their mission to serve women in crisis pregnancies. The center plans to expand and build another, bigger facility in a nearby town.
CareNet has developed a five-point strategy for its network pregnancy centers to implement in response to attacks and threats of attack.
First, the “Watch and Pray” initiative is a biblical version of a neighborhood watch program based on the watchman found in Ezekiel 33. Centers can recruit volunteers willing to stay at the centers at night, keep the lights on, have cars in the parking lot, and pray not only for protection but for those who want to do evil, Warren explained.
Most attacks are at night because perpetrators don’t want to be seen, he said.
“We don’t encourage anyone to engage with those who seek to do harm,” he added. However, he believes “Watch and Pray” initiative will outlast the determination of those who are threatening attack.
Second, CareNet encourages pregnancy centers to partner with law enforcement and ask for increased patrols near the center.
Bollig said the Denton police claim to have a lead on a suspect, but hasn’t taken action so far. He hasn’t seen any action by the FBI, which he believes should be investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Third, CareNet suggests that centers host community involvement and awareness meetings to ask for assistance from churches and community groups.
Perhaps, a church security team could offer to conduct a security assessment for the center. Church members can be recruited for the “watch and pray” initiative, Warren added.
Fourth, CareNet recommends centers keep an activity log so they have an accurate record of when any incidents happen.
Finally, he encourages center staff, volunteers, and supporters to pray for the protection of the center and the patients they serve.
“We need prayers,” Bollig emphasized. “Also please write your legislators and Congressmen and ask when they are going to pass a law to increase the penalty for attacking a pregnancy center.”
Heartbeat International also recommends implementing a “Captcha” function for scheduling to make sure any appointment is scheduled by a real person and not a bot. Additionally, pregnancy centers can report fake reviews to try to get them removed.
While the total costs of these attacks are difficult to gather, the impact is both financial and missional.
“Every day that a pregnancy center is closed to repaint or install new windows is an opportunity lost to help a woman in need. Every call that is missed due to someone tying up the phone line as a form of protest keeps a woman from scheduling an ultrasound appointment she needs. Every false claim thrown into a fake review can keep a woman from finding the help she needs when she thinks she is pregnant,” Andrea Trudden, a spokesperson for Heartbeat International wrote.