The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) and five of its member organizations announce the filing of a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court of Massachusetts in response to the illegal cyberattack launched against it in 2016 during its annual Bowl-A-Thon fundraiser. NNAF is suing the defendants under both the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (the “CFAA” – 18 U.S.C. § 1030) and the Freedom of Access to Clinical Entrances ACT (the “FACE Act” – 18 U.S.C. § 248). NNAF is joined by Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund (EMAF), Gateway Women’s Access Fund (GWAF), Kentucky Health Justice Network (KHJN), Northwest Abortion Access Fund (NWAAF) and Preterm Access Fund (Preterm) as co-plaintiffs.
NNAF is a network of local organizations that are funding abortion and building power to fight for cultural and political change. NNAF provides technical support and infrastructure for our member funds on the ground, and runs its own abortion fund, the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund. Their goal is to make sure all of our reproductive decisions, including abortion, take place in thriving communities that are safe, peaceful, and affordable, and the National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon helps abortion funds raise their budgets to do this crucial work. Bowl-A-Thon is a grassroots-driven annual fundraising campaign, in which participants from all over the country raise money for local abortion access funds by soliciting donors to sponsor their participation in the event. The funds raised during the annual event are a crucial resource for local abortion access funds, in many cases constituting their largest annual income stream.
NNAF and its member funds have long been targets of criticism and attacks by anti-abortion extremists. In line with these attacks, in April 2016 an individual or group of individuals deliberately and maliciously launched an elaborate campaign to disrupt Bowl-A-Thon and to undermine the efforts of NNAF and its affiliated funds. NNAF’s fundraising website was targeted with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, impersonating communications, and horribly disturbing and racist messages sent out to various stakeholders from a dummy NNAF email address. Website users were redirected to a fraudulent donations page where the offender stole personally identifying information and financial information. NNAF and its member funds spent significant resources and time to address this serious attack, and failed to meet a number of fundraising goals as a result.
The plaintiffs bring this suit because they were targeted by a sophisticated anonymous criminal wanting to sabotage access to the legal right to an abortion. In their tone and messages, these attacks targeted marginalized groups, with specific reference to African-Americans and Jews. NNAF and its member funds will not allow these malicious attacks to succeed in preventing individuals who cannot afford, or are otherwise unfairly burdened in their efforts to access the reproductive services that they are all rightfully entitled to. The plaintiffs seek to de-anonymize these white supremacist, anti-abortion offender(s). And they seek justice.
NNAF and co-plaintiffs will continue to fight for abortion access by declaring zero tolerance for anti-abortion extremists’ acts of violence, hate, and racial targeting, whether online or offline. For too long, people who are actively working to make abortion access possible have been subject to harassment and violence. NNAF is especially concerned with defending the reproductive rights and safety of people of color and people with lower incomes who already face significant barriers to accessing reproductive services.
Sadly, we live during a time when we cannot expect our law enforcers to care about federal crimes against abortion providers. But that does not mean they have no recourse. Civil court is another avenue for justice. Abortion providers and their supporters CAN fight back. This lawsuit is an example of just that.
NNAF and its member funds will not be silenced or stalled by opponents of the legal right to access abortion. By filing this lawsuit now, while the 2018 Bowl-a-Thon fundraising campaign is underway (bowlathon.nnaf.org), NNAF and its member funds are keeping their promise to provide access to abortions and reproductive services to all, without delay, interruption, or targeting of people who want or need abortion care based on their race, age, gender, economic status, or zip code.