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U. Maryland removes ‘terrorist’ label from pro-life group after media attention, legal demand

ANALYSIS: Public attention leads to a pro-life group being removed, some pro-abortion groups added

A University of Maryland center removed a pro-life group from its terrorism database – and made other changes – after two College Fix reports about the research.

The Big Ten university’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START, had recorded two members of Students for Life of America in its ongoing study of “radicalization,” The Fix previously reported.

This put SFLA among white supremacists, Islamic terrorist groups, and other threats based on an incident in which students were arrested at a peaceful protest.

The pro-life group’s legal team sent a cease-and-desist letter to the terrorism consortium over its inclusion in the online database after The Fix reached out for comment. The letter cited College Fix reporting about the project.

SFLA was removed “only after our attorneys engaged,” the group said in a statement posted Sunday.

The center stated in a letter “that the change was part of a regularly scheduled maintenance of the website” which involves checking for updates to court cases, according to the pro-life group.

Students for Life called this “convenient timing.”

University of Maryland has not responded to several inquiries since The Fix began investigating the study, which is titled, “Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States.”

PIRUS records people charged with “ideologically motivated” crimes or who are otherwise “extremists.” It lists the demographics of each “offender,” any affiliated groups or movements, and whether the incident was violent or non-violent. The terrorism database says it is “comprehensive, with the exception of the Capitol breach defendants” from 2019 onward.

The online PIRUS database no longer displays a list of specific movements and organizations under ideologies such as “Islamist” or “anti-government.” A user must now download the raw dataset to view them.

That dataset previously listed each organization, including SFLA, under a “Terrorist_Group” label.

The label was changed to “group” in an effort “to be more inclusive,” according to an updated codebook published on April 8.

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The database also has a new “pro-choice” category with 11 individuals, some of whom are allegedly associated with the movements Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights and Vets Rise 4 Roe.

Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights did not respond to two inquiries sent in the past several weeks, and Vets Rise 4 Roe could not be reached on social media.

While removing SFLA and Pro-Life Action League, the center added dozens of “anti-abortion” cases, bringing the number from 151 to 181. Two violent and non-violent incidents from 2022 are attributed to the group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising.

“PAAU is unequivocally against violence,” a spokesperson told The Fix in an email. “Historically[,] anyone involved in a successful nonviolent struggle is initially classified as terrorists.”

“We won’t sway in our commitment to nonviolence and our commitment to radically loving preborn people,” PAAU stated.

The Fix also emailed Project Veritas, a right-leaning media outlet now shown among PIRUS’s “anti-abortion” subjects. The organization did not respond to a request for comment on being included over an alleged violent incident in 2021.

Previously, The Fix asked START why it did not associate any violent incidents in 2020 with Black Lives Matter. Its new dataset labels 132 cases as driven by the “death of George Floyd and racial justice protests.” It is one of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Centers of Excellence,” created in 2005 in response to 9/11. It is frequently cited as an authority on extremism and security threats.

The Fix published a story on April 1 with quotes from former federal officials who said SFLA should never have been included in the database. The group cited that story in its cease-and-desist letter, which was addressed to START, the university, Homeland Security, and the National Institute of Justice, which funds the PIRUS program.

SFLA said it is still “considering all legal options” in its Sunday statement.

“The Pro-Life Generation is looking for assurances that this ideological attack on peaceful pro-life Americans will not continue and will not be repeated,” President Kristan Hawkins stated.

“This was a thought police kind of smear. And without better assurances, we don’t know if they will do it again.”

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IMAGES: University of Maryland; College Fix edits

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Hudson Crozier is a student at the University of North Texas studying journalism and political science. He is senior contributor for Upward News and has also written for The Federalist, Red Liberty Media, and others.