Authorities said Friday they are investigating the suspected arson of a Oregon pregnancy center in what appears to be yet another attack on a pro-life organization ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court's highly anticipated abortion decision.
The Seattle Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Friday it was assisting police in Gresham, Ore., investigate a fire at the Gresham Pregnancy Resource Center. ATF said the fire was "suspicious in nature."
According to First Image, the Christian pro-life organization that owns the pregnancy center, the building was set ablaze at about 3 a.m. on Friday. Police and fire authorities said it appeared that an "incendiary device" was thrown through a window, First Image said in a post on its website.
The pregnancy center's alarm system alerted authorities, and firemen were able to extinguish the fire. The damage was mostly contained to one room, but it was extensive and there is additional water and smoke damage in other parts of the building, the group said.
Nobody was hurt.
“We don’t know who’s involved in this. But there’s enough to tell us that it is suspicious in nature,” Gresham fire chief Jason McGowan told KOIN-TV on Friday. “And that’s why we need to have multiple agencies looking into it and seeing what exactly happened this morning.”
"The kind of outrage that’s being directed at us is based on a complete misunderstanding and misrepresentation of who we are and how we have served the hundreds of thousands of people that have come to us over the decades," First Image CEO Luke Cirillo said. "This moment in our culture is volatile, and the spillover into violence is deeply destructive to the fabric of our communities. We reject and refuse to have any part in the culture of hate. Jesus has modeled a different way. It’s the way of love. That narrow way includes, as a challenge to us all, the love of those who hate us."
The U.S. government has been preparing for a potential surge in political violence once the Supreme Court releases its decision in a high-profile abortion case concerning Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban. A leaked draft opinion for the case indicated the court has voted to uphold the abortion ban and overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade opinion, which would end constitutional protections for abortion.
A terrorism advisory bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security issued last week said "several high-profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets."
"Given a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court case about abortion rights, individuals who advocate both for and against abortion have, on public forums, encouraged violence, including against government, religious, and reproductive healthcare personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies," the DHS said.
An internal memo circulated by the department last month said that law enforcement agencies have monitored threats on social media to burn down or storm the Supreme Court building and murder justices, as well as attack houses of worship or abortion clinics.
A man was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at his Maryland home last week. He had brought a firearm to Kavanaugh's residence and confessed to police that he's been having suicidal thoughts and traveled from California to Maryland to kill Kavanaugh.
As the attacks on pro-life groups and the attempted murder of a Supreme Court justice demonstrate, the violence is no longer hypothetical and is escalating.