A director of a crisis pregnancy center in California detailed for the Senate Judiciary Committee measures her clinic is taking amid recent leftist attacks on such facilities, including hiring 24-hour security.
"Pregnancy care centers from coast to coast are being targeted for violent assaults of vandalism, and hateful attacks online and in the media," Heidi Matzke, the director of the Alternatives Pregnancy Center in California, said Tuesday during the hearing. "Just last week… a man approached our care center with an armed machete."
Centers like Matzke's have seen an increase in attacks since Politico earlier this year published a draft Supreme Court opinion indicating that the court would overturn Roe v. Wade. The court made that decision official when it released the opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization last month.
"We have been forced to hire 24-hour on site security. We have had to reinforce doors and bullet-proof our walls," Matzke continued. "We've had to paint our building with anti-graffiti coating. We've added cameras, armed our staff with pepper spray and stopped running our mobile clinic because of threats of violence."
She added: "The amount of money that we've had to spend so we can protect ourselves just so we can offer free services to women is unbelievable."
Republicans are demanding that the Department of Justice work to prosecute groups, including one called Jane's Revenge, that are attacking pro-life centers.
"The lack of a response from both the Justice Department and the White House is extremely, extremely disappointing," Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said. "Along with the threats against the justices, threats against pro-life and crisis pregnancy centers have dramatically increased since the leak of the Dobbs decision by pro-abortion extremists."
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked all the witnesses in the hearing whether they condemn violence against pro-life pregnancy centers. Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said she does condemn violence, but added that people should "bring the same energy to attacks that are taking place against abortion providers and clinics."
Denise Harle, a senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, said she condemns violence, and said abortion is an act of violence. University of California Berkeley Law Professor Khiara Bridges said she condemns violence, but added that "forced birth" is violence. Dr. Colleen McNichols, who works for Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, said she wished there was similar outrage for abortion doctors who've been murdered in recent decades.
Democrats on the committee and their witnesses, meanwhile, said that in overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court is taking the United States backward on civil rights.
"This case represents the first time in America's history that the Supreme Court has revoked a constitutional protected right," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. "Since the Dobbs decision, at least 10 states have banned abortion. More are expected to join them. The bans we've seen include insufficient and confusing exceptions for the life of the mother. Many do not even provide exceptions for rape or incest. When they do, they're unwieldy and inadequate."
A woman in a video Durbin played said, "Women are going to die as a result of this."
Stratton said the fact that states may now ban abortion will even affect the states where abortion is still legal. That's because women are flooding states where abortion is legal – including her own Illinois – and overwhelming providers.
"The Supreme Court's decision does not, quote, ‘leave abortion up to the states,’ when every state will be impacted," she said. ""The weight of this ruling will surely be felt across state borders."
Bridges, meanwhile, criticized the Supreme Court for weighing historical laws in its decision.
"The painfully obvious point to make is that people with the capacity for pregnancy were not part of the body politic during the period of the nation's history that the majority believes is decisive of the constitutional inquiry," she said.
Tuesday's hearing is just one step in congressional Democrats' plan to address abortion rights in the wake of the Dobbs decision.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the House Oversight Committee will each hold hearings Wednesday. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is expected to move several pieces of legislation, including potential bills protecting women's data in health apps and their right to cross state lines to seek abortions.
In the Senate, it's not as clear what bills may make it to the floor or get votes. With the 60-vote filibuster threshold, Republicans will be able to block any legislation they don't like. President Biden is calling for a carve-out to the filibuster to protect abortion rights, but Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., both say they won't support such a move.
Nevertheless, a Senate Democratic aide said forcing a nuclear option vote on an abortion bill is one of many options on the table. Democrats forced such a vote previously on election legislation, which was another top tier issue for the party.