Pride Month Begins, as Attacks on LGBTQ+ Rights and Women’s Rights Escalate

The anti-abortion playbook that uses violence and threats as a crucial tool has been co-opted by other movements—including anti-trans extremists.

People stop for a moment in silence and raise their arms at the 30th Annual New York City Dyke March on June 25, 2022. The march’s theme was Dykes for Trans Liberation. People also protested against the Supreme Court overturning the 50-year-old landmark Roe v. Wade decision ending federal abortion protection. (Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images)

Wednesday marked 14 years since Dr. George Tiller—one of only a handful of physicians in the U.S. who provided abortions later in pregnancy—was assassinated by an anti-abortion extremist. He was a staunch advocate for abortion rights, calling himself a “woman-educated physician,” and encouraging everyone to “trust women.”

His commitment to women’s health was unshakable in the face of anti-abortion violence and threats—his photo plastered on “WANTED” posters by anti-abortion extremists; his Wichita, Kan., clinic the site of repeated blockades and protests, vandalism and even a bombing. He was shot and wounded in both arms in a 1993 assassination attempt by an Operation Rescue and Army of God adherent.

I first met Dr. Tiller in the early 1990s, and followed his many battles against extremists’ threats over the years. Ms. has long covered the murderous history of the violent wing of the anti-abortion movement, and so when he was brutally killed, I was determined that Ms. investigate the network of extremists who were connected to his assassin. The result—an award-winning investigative article by reporter Amanda Robb, whose own uncle, an abortion provider in Buffalo, N.Y., had been assassinated a few years earlier by an anti-abortion zealot. As our investigation found, there are no “lone wolves,” despite such persistent characterization of anti-abortion violence by both law enforcement and the so-called mainstream press.

Michael Bray, “chaplain” of the violence-promoting Army of God. (Jenny Warburg)

The anti-abortion playbook that uses violence and threats as a crucial tool has been co-opted by other movements—including anti-trans extremists, who as Jude Doyle reported for Ms. last year, are employing many of the same tactics as anti-abortion extremists. From targeting specific doctors, to bombarding clinics with phone calls and protests, these groups incite violence against clinicians who are providing care that is widely regarded as best practice by all major medical associations.

And Doyle pointed out, both movements rely heavily on rhetoric of doctors “harming children”: “Brandishing someone’s name and face in front of an enraged public and accusing them of ‘harming’ children is a reliable way to incite violence—which may be why the vast majority of doctors I reached out to for this piece did not return comment.”

The overlap between these movements doesn’t end here—when it comes to both anti-trans legislation (which is at an all-time high, with hundreds of state-level bills being introduced each year) and anti-abortion legislation, far-right groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Alliance Defending Freedom are behind both.

As Pride month begins this week, we’re intimately aware that we’re in the midst of an unprecedented backlash against both LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights—and that these backlashes are deeply interconnected. But advocates are fighting back—whether in the streets or the courthouse or statehouses or through the power of investigative journalism, we don’t give up.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Katherine Spillar is the executive director of Feminist Majority Foundation and executive editor of Ms., where she oversees editorial content and the Ms. in the Classroom program.