Suspect Arrested for Setting Fire to Wyoming's Last Abortion Clinic Is 22-Year-Old Woman

suspect arrested for setting fire to wyoming's last abortion clinic is 22-year-old woman

Photo: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, AP

A suspect was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly burning down what would have been Wyoming’s only full-service abortion clinic last May, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. The suspect is a 22-year-old woman named Lorna Roxanne Green—demographically a bit of a deviation from those who usually commit crimes against abortion providers and services.

In a statement this week, Wyoming U.S. Attorney Nicholas Vassallo confirmed that Green had been detained by local police as well as agents from the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Security footage shared by police appears to show Green in a hoodie and mask carrying a can of fuel into the building, called Wellspring Health Access, shortly before the fire. A witness also described seeing Green fleeing the scene. No one was on the premises when Green allegedly started the fire and there were no deaths or injuries. The clinic was under construction and hadn’t yet opened at the time.

The anti-abortion activists behind alleged arsons, assaults, and other violent incidents at abortion clinics tend to be older men. A New York man faced jail time in September for blocking a clinic; a Pennsylvania man assaulted a clinic volunteer that same month; a trio of Mississippi men broke into an abortion clinic in 2021; a self-proclaimed “warrior for the babies” shot and killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado in 2015. Men are also simply more likely to commit violent crimes. It is, then, a little unusual that the Wyoming clinic arson suspect is a 22-year-old woman.

Last summer, when law enforcement first shared photos and videos of the then-unidentified suspect, Wellspring Health Access founder Julie Burkhart expressed that she was “slightly surprised” the suspect didn’t appear to be a man.

But women are also prominent leaders in the anti-abortion movement, all the more so, today, as their gender gives them more cover for their blatantly anti-women politics. Mississippi’s woman attorney general was a key architect in the case that led to the fall of Roe v. Wade. Extremists, too, aren’t always cis men: Lauren Handy was arrested last spring for stealing and storing five aborted fetuses in their home last year, and has an extensive record of clinic trespassing.

Green’s arrest comes at a fraught time for abortion access in Wyoming. Last year, the clinic was “scheduled to open last summer as the only facility of its kind in the state,” as it would offer “women’s health care, family planning and gender-affirming health care in addition to abortion services.” (One other clinic in the state provides medication abortion services.) The fire delayed this. Then, Wellspring was set to open in April—until, this week, a near-total abortion ban took effect in the state. On Wednesday, a district court judge blocked the ban from taking effect for two weeks, but its future—and Wellspring’s—ultimately remains uncertain.

The attack on the Wyoming clinic is part of the mounting violence targeting abortion clinics and providers. Burkhart, Wellspring’s founder, formerly worked for Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was assassinated by an anti-abortion activist in 2009. In the last 50 years, clinics have reported at least 11 murders and 26 attempted murders of abortion providers; 42 bombings of clinics and abortion providers’ homes; and, especially relevant to Wellspring, nearly 200 incidents of arson. Between 2019 and 2020 alone, reported incidents of physical violence targeting abortion providers rose by 125%. All of this violence is compounded by the fall of Roe, the shuttering of clinics (which makes remaining ones more vulnerable to becoming the focus of anti-abortion harassment), and perennial legal uncertainty surrounding reproductive health clinics in states like Wyoming.

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