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Why the number of threats against abortion providers skyrocketed in 2015

planned parenthood, pro choice, pro life Oliver Dempsey/Getty News Images

After an anti-abortion group released doctored videos attacking Planned Parenthood last summer, the FBI noticed a significant uptick in violence and threats against abortion providers — including a deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

And now, startling new data from the National Abortion Federation (NAF) shows just how massive that uptick was.

1 death threat in 2014, 94 death threats in 2015 (National Abortion Federation)

NAF, the professional association of abortion providers in America, collects data from its members on violent incidents and threats. Of course, the Colorado shooting caused a spike in the number of murders and attempted murders at abortion clinics in 2015.

But the increase of death threats and online hate speech against abortion providers from 2014 to 2015 was simply staggering, and suggests the Colorado Springs shooting didn't happen in a vacuum.

91 online hate speech incidents in 2014, 25,000 in 2015 (National Abortion Federation)

After the CEO of a tissue procurement organization was featured in one of the anti–Planned Parenthood videos, one person said online that the CEO "should be hung by the neck using piano wire and propped up on the lawn in front of the building," according to NAF's report. The person then identified where the CEO lived, and said he'd "pay ten grand" to whomever killed either the CEO or another doctor he named. The FBI investigated, and the person who made the threats is being prosecuted.

Clinic blockades also doubled from 2014 to 2015, and picketing outside abortion facilities quadrupled.

NAF notes that it hired an outside security firm to keep track of online threats because there were so many of them. That firm only started counting in mid-November, though, and the 25,000-plus incidents were recorded over just six weeks. NAF estimates that the number would be more like 100,000 if it had been counting since the videos came out in July.

"In my more than 20 years with NAF, I have not seen such an escalation of hate speech, threats, and calls to action against abortion providers," said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of NAF, in a statement. "It’s not surprising that when abortion providers are publicly branded as 'murderers' who must be stopped, that someone will take the law into their own hands and resort to violence."


Watch: The Planned Parenthood controversy, explained

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