As a torched pregnancy center reopened near Buffalo, New York, on Aug. 1, leaders vowed to continue their work and criticized authorities for a slow-walking investigation and even appearing to condone the attack.
Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) told a crowd that she had introduced the Pregnancy Resource Center Defense Act to increase prison terms and fines for attacks on pro-life centers such as CompassCare Pregnancy Services.
The fire that damaged the center began at about 2:30 a.m. on June 7. Police haven’t yet announced arson as the cause or arrested anyone.
The center’s director, Rev. Jim Harden, said their security cameras captured video of multiple attackers with multiple incendiary devices, probably Molotov cocktails. Police confiscated the security camera footage, and the center can’t get access to it, he said.
The graffiti “Jane was here” was scrawled on the side of the building, and a pro-abortion group called Jane’s Revenge took credit for the firebombing afterward. It was one of numerous such attacks on such centers, which offer counseling, care, and support to pregnant women to persuade them to keep their babies.
Tenney, Harden, and New York state Sen. George Borrello, a Republican, expressed contempt for the state’s official response to the incident, which Harden said caused $250,000 in damage and another $150,000 in increased security costs.
Gov. Kathy Hochul responded to the incident by moving to investigate, not Jane’s Revenge, but the centers themselves they said. She termed pro-lifers “Neanderthals” less than two weeks after the attack. State Attorney General Letitia James demanded Google take the pregnancy centers off their maps, according to Harden.
60 Similar Incidents
Nearly 60 pro-life pregnancy centers and churches have been attacked nationally in the past few months, according to The Boston Globe, including attacks in Longmont, Colorado; Anchorage, Alaska; Portland, Oregon; and Madison, Wisconsin.
At the Longmont clinic, the perpetrators wrote “if abortions aren’t safe, neither are you” on the walls of the building that they set on fire. The violence began after the leak of the Supreme Court’s impending Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
The police department of the Town of Amherst, where the CompassCare Pregnancy Services center sits, declined to attend the reopening event and issued a brief statement saying they continue to investigate in conjunction with the FBI and other agencies. Efforts to reach the Town of Amherst Police Department and the FBI’s Buffalo field office for comment were unsuccessful.
The agencies have released virtually no information about their investigation, Harden said.
“We’re very frustrated with how long this is taking,” he said. “It’s Day 55. This is inexcusable.
“This is the pro-abortion Kristallnacht.”
Harden defended his bold comparison of this wave of violence to that unleashed against German Jews by the Nazis in November 1938. Common to both events was a lack of public outcry and a refusal by political leaders to criminalize it and go after the perpetrators, he said.
“They turned around and said you deserve this. … They sent a message that violence is okay if it supports their political agenda,” said Borrello, the only state legislator to attend the event today. “It’s worse than silence.
“Jane’s Revenge is emboldened by the inaction of our governor, our attorney general, and our majority Democrat Legislature.”
The state’s controversial Bail Reform Act means that the perpetrators, if caught, will probably be released without bail.
“Someone has to die before the progressives think it’s violence,” he said.
Mother or Baby
Tension over abortion started increasing in the state long before the recent Dobbs decision. Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through legislation in 2019 making abortion a fundamental human right, Harden said. That means, according to New York law, any medical practitioner who won’t refer a woman for an abortion violates the pregnant person’s civil rights.
CompassCare opened its Buffalo-area center in 2019. It saw about 1,100 patients last year and expects to see 1,600 this year. The attack didn’t stop their work. They saw patients right after the attack at their Rochester area clinic and quickly found an undisclosed location in the Buffalo area where they could resume seeing patients.
Upon visiting the center, a woman first gets several medical questions answered, according to Harden. She wants to confirm that she’s pregnant, find out how far along in pregnancy if so, and determine if she has a sexually transmitted disease that can complicate an abortion. They’re seen by paid nurses, who are overseen by volunteer doctors.
CompassCares also connects them with agencies willing to work with females during and after their pregnancies, with support, financial assistance, connection to adoption agencies, and other help.
A female who aborts because of all the pressure she feels—from family, a boyfriend, job, financial pressures, or abortion providers—is ultimately going through with an act out of coercion, Harden said.
“It all hits her like a wave. There’s a knee-jerk ‘I’ve got to get out from under this’ reaction,” he said. “She’s got to get to the point where she can take a breath and consider what she’s truly facing. We can help her overcome those obstacles.
“We believe everyone is made in the image of God and worthy of protection, both the mother and the child. If we really believe that, it takes a lot of work to support her. The church is willing to do the work, pay for it, walk with her, and become friends with her.”
This isn’t the first time an act of significant abortion-related violence has occurred in Amherst, an affluent suburb outside Buffalo. Dr. Barnett Slepian, one of three doctors who provided abortions in the area, was murdered by a sniper in 1998.
The killer, hiding in the woods behind Slepian’s Amherst home, shot him through the kitchen window one Friday evening after the doctor had returned from his synagogue. The shooter, James Kopp, was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, caught in France in 2001, and extradited. He’s now serving life in prison without parole for second-degree murder. The federal government waived the death penalty as an extradition condition.
Following the killing, anti-abortion violence receded and temperatures cooled as government and activists from both sides hammered out rules to allow clinics to function, medical professionals to go to work, and demonstrators to demonstrate.