Tigger warning: Article mentions rape, violence and abortion
Rodney Allen has been arrested and charged with calling in a bomb threat to a Jacksonville, Florida, health clinic in order to prevent his ex-girlfriend, whom he had raped, from getting an abortion.
According to a sworn affidavit submitted in federal court last month by FBI Special Agent Robert W. Blythe, the South Carolina man had been physically abusive towards his ex, identified in the affidavit as A.S., and had also threatened to kill members of her family.
A.S. had tried nearly a dozen times to schedule an appointment to end the pregnancy in North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, but Allen had repeatedly called to cancel. Blythe was told by clinic staff that they believed Allen had access to A.S.’s phone calls and text messages as well as her patient code, which enabled him to cancel her appointments without her consent as an “authorized party.”
On August 29, A.S. finally managed to schedule an appointment for an abortion at a clinic in Jacksonville. That same day, Allen allegedly called the clinic nine times as well as the health center’s owner on her cell phone. He also placed seven calls to other Jacksonville abortion clinics. During one call, he told a staff member that A.S. had entered the clinic with a weapon.
An hour later, he called again to say that someone was “coming to the clinic to blow it up.” He also allegedly canceled a hotel reservation A.S. had made. Clinic staff filled out internal forms that detailed the threats, temporarily suspended appointments and contacted the police, who searched the property. The following day, the FBI also swept the premises. After several weeks of investigation, Allen was arrested on September 25.
He faces a criminal charge for making a threat by phone, and another for “interference with access to reproductive health care services.” The latter is a federal crime under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and a form of abuse known as reproductive coercion, which includes scrutinizing a partner’s menstrual cycle, destroying or tampering with birth control or pressuring a partner into getting pregnant. It is estimated that one in four women ages 18 to 45 experience reproductive coercion.
“Sexual coercion is a type of reproductive coercion,” said Jamila Perritt, the vice chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and an OB/GYN in Washington D.C. “These are behaviors to maintain power and control.”
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study has found that approximately 2.9 million American women experience a rape-related pregnancy in their lifetime. “Our findings suggest that intimate partner reproductive coercion may be the reason why some of the women who are raped by an intimate partner become pregnant,” Kathleen Basile, a senior scientist at the CDC’s division of violence prevention, and a lead author of the study, told VICE.
Katharine Ragsdale, the interim president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), a group that issues an annual report on clinic harassment, said that reproductive coercion often translates into clinic harassment. “We’ve seen instances of people calling a clinic multiple times to cancel their partners’ appointments,” Ragsdale said. If a person wants to stop another from getting an abortion, she continued, “they might do that by locking her up, or threatening her. But if they’re unable to control them, they might try to shut down their access to the clinic: bombing it, setting fire to it.”