Pro-life clinic in Hialeah vandalized, violence expected to increase after Roe v. Wade decision

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects reproductive and family advocacy health care facilities to be the primary target for criminal incidents after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Heartbeat of Miami, a pro-life clinic that provides counseling to expecting mothers and resources to support bringing babies to term, was struck by vandalism on July 3 in Hialeah.

The incident has garnered the attention of the FBI, Homeland Security and the Hialeah Police Department.

“I believe this falls in the realm of a hate crime,” Hialeah Mayor Steve Bovo told 7News Miami. “You’re taking your political anger and really focusing in on a group of people that I think are there to cause good.”

Clinic owner Martha Ávila said the organization received phone threats when the U.S. Supreme Court opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade first leaked.

“All those [threats] triggered a lot of pain because everything that you see here, all of our things, everything is donated. We only work through donations, everything is free to the women that we serve,” Ávila told 7News Miami. “I just want this to stop. I don’t want anyone hurt.”

The facility later installed surveillance cameras that captured footage of a couple walking behind the building before destroying the cameras with a laser.

The vandalism included graffiti saying, “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you,” among other references to Jane’s Revenge, a pro-abortion rights extremist organization.

The group has claimed responsibility for attacks in 11 states.

The DHS describes Jane’s Revenge as a “network of loosely affiliated suspected violent extremists which has been linked to arson attacks against the buildings of ideological opponents,” and warned of potential violence by the group.

Gabriella García, a communications student at FIU, volunteers weekly with another anti-abortion rights group, LoveLife.

“My friends and I go out to abortion clinics a few days a week to reach out to the men or women who are going in,” said García. “We offer them support, resources and share the hope of Jesus with them. We’ve had people steal and break signage, try to run us over with vehicles, shout vulgar things, and threaten us with all kinds of violence.”

Another instance of vandalism with the same phrase and Jane’s Revenge reference was committed last month against Respect Life Ministry, an anti-abortion clinic in South Florida.

Threats and actual violence affect both sides of the issue.

Planned Parenthood released a statement in June that says its locations face daily threats of violence, including arson and vandalism. They referenced their Knoxville, Tennessee, location which burned down less than six months ago.

“We reject the tactics and threats of groups that use destruction and violence as a means to an end. They do not speak for us, our supporters, our communities or our movement,” reads the Planned Parenthood statement. “We are committed to protecting and expanding access to abortion and reproductive freedoms through peaceful, non-violent organizing and activism.”

Melba Pearson-Mecham is an abortion rights advocate and criminal law attorney working as director of policy and programs and co-manager of prosecutorial performance at FIU. She said that while she understands the frustration, violence is not the solution for change.

“I do not agree with vandalism,” said Pearson-Mecham. “The way to get change is to support those who are impacted by these new laws by donating to abortion funds or offering other assistance, volunteering with organizations to educate people on why the ruling is so problematic and getting folks out to vote for pro-choice candidates this August and November.”

Violence from both sides of the issue, however, is not a new phenomena.

According to the Department of Justice, at least 10 people working in abortion clinics have been killed since 1993.  Additionally, the National Abortion Federation found that 200 death threats have been cited against abortion clinics from 2019 to 2020, with a 125 percent increase in reports of assault and battery outside clinics as compared to recent years.

The DHS cites that violence against “pregnancy resource centers,” could escalate and refers to at least 11 instances of vandalism that threaten violence against similar faith-based organizations.

“These incidents of vandalism against faith-based organizations could indicate future targets of domestic violent extremist attacks,” reads a statement by the DHS.

Maya Washburn is a Caplin News DC bureau summer correspondent studying digital journalism with a concentration in criminal justice at the FIU Honors College. Her primary focus is reporting on previously untold stories, with her writing often involving investigations, underrepresented issues, crime, mental health, education, politics and more.