THE FORGOTTEN TERRORISM: Garry Wills's fine recent New York Review of Booksarticle about the Bush administration's systematic evisceration of the separation of church and state recalls this important story:
After his nomination but before his confirmation, Ashcroft promised to put an end to the task force set up by Attorney General Janet Reno to deal with violence against abortion clinics -- evangelicals oppose the very idea of hate crimes. The outcry of liberals against Ashcroft's promise made him back off from it during his confirmation hearings. In 2001, there was a spike in violence against the clinics -- 790 incidents, as opposed to 209 the year before. That was because the anthrax alarms that year gave abortion opponents the idea of sending threatening powders to the clinics -- 554 packets were sent. Nonetheless, Ashcroft refused for a long time to send marshals to quell the epidemic.
And although this has also been largely forgotten, the fake anthrax attacks were mild compared to the terrorism used against abortion clinics prior to the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. (In 1991 alone, there there were were 2 cases of murder or attempted murder of abortion providers, 9 bombings/arsons (or attempted bombings/arsons), 83 cases of invasions, assault and battery, vandalism, death threats burglary or stalking, and 3,885 arrests at blockades.) The importance of federal enforcement in this area couldn't be clearer.