A Virginia teenage pro-life advocate was punched in the face and knocked to the ground Saturday morning outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Roanoke.
The attack is the latest indication of growing hostility toward pro-life advocates across the country.
The victim of the violent attack was Purity Thomas, a 15-year-old student leader of Students for Life of America. SFLA President Kristan Hawkins said police are investigating.
“This act of violence against a group of peaceful pro-life students who were outside a Planned Parenthood facility offering love and support to pregnant women serves as a sad reflection on the state of debate today,” Hawkins said. “It’s horrific that a minor expressing love for pregnant women was targeted for violence. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident.”
Thomas and several other students from Liberty University were doing sidewalk counseling outside the abortion facility on Saturday when the attack occurred, TownHall reports. The students said they were peacefully reaching out to women and praying in a grassy public area near the abortion facility.
Witnesses said a woman confronted the students and began threatening to beat them up and “f— them up.” The group accused the unnamed woman of stealing one of the pro-life advocate’s signs and later punching Thomas, knocking her to the ground.
Someone also took a video of the attack.
Thomas was taken to the hospital. She later told CBN News that a doctor said she sustained a minor concussion from the assault.
The students also called the police, who interviewed the woman who allegedly punched Thomas. It is not clear who the woman was.
“Across the country we are witnessing a rise in the number of incidents of vandalism and violence against peaceful pro-life speech,” Hawkins said in a statement. “We pray that the assailant from today’s attack is brought to justice swiftly. But we also pray for the protection of those who volunteer their time to speak for the innocent, preborn infants and their mothers.”
Pro-life advocates increasingly have become victims of threats, vandalism and other harassment.
Students for Life documented at least 40 incidents of vandalism alone in the past five years against its pro-life students groups. A new interactive map displays the places where its clubs have been victims of vandalism.
This fall, vandals destroyed pro-life student displays at both Northern Kentucky University and St. Louis University. Campus Reform reported two other instances of vandalism just this week: one at the University of Florida and another at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.
A few weeks ago, a professor at San Jose University also allegedly threatened to “ beat the s— out of” pro-life students who were protesting on campus. A university spokeswoman said they are investigating.
“Other incidences of violence against our group include: Administrators destroying chalkings at Kutztown University, vandals throwing paint on a display at Portland State University, and a display of graduation cords (to highlight ‘missing students’ who were killed by abortion) at University of Miami,” according to Students for Life.
LifeNews also has reported numerous cases of hostility against pro-lifers.
South Carolina Citizens for Life had its sign vandalized earlier this fall. Someone spray painted over the sign and wrote profanities on it, group leader Holly Gatling told LifeNews.
And in late October, pro-life advocates in Dallas, Texas called a bomb squad after they found a suspicious package near their 40 Days for Life site. WFAA News 8 reports the Dallas Police Department later determined that the suspicious package was a hoax, quite possibly meant to scare pro-life advocates who peacefully pray outside a nearby abortion clinic.
Pro-lifers also have become targets of threats and harassment.
In two separate incidents this year, men allegedly threatened to kill pro-life advocates outside abortion facilities in California and Florida. And in early February, violent threats against a California pro-life leader prompted him to cancel a pro-life rally, LifeNews reported.
In March, a pro-life student display at the University of Colorado at Boulder was vandalized, and another one was vandalized in April at Texas State University. Yet another was vandalized at Fresno State University in California in May, allegedly by a professor.
In June, someone stole a pro-life trailer from Arkansas Right to Life that displayed how many unborn babies die in abortions each year.