In the aftermath of yet another horrific act of gun violence, this time at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Thanksgiving weekend in Colorado Springs, we were saddened to see a familiar media refrain. What caused this individual to act out? Was the mental health system to blame, or the lack of effective gun controls? Who radicalized him? Only a few outlets were placing the event in context and calling it terrorism, which they certainly would have done if the perpetrator was not white.
We reached out to our friends at Ultraviolet, who already had a petition to the Department of Justice calling for a full domestic terrorism investigation. We thought that a good data visualization could illustrate the spread of violence against womens health clinics across the country over the last two decades, and make a compelling and shareable visual. They agreed, and we got to work on a rapid process with a goal of launching the site in under a week.
Without an official data source, we compiled reports from the National Abortion Federation, social media posts by @ClinicEscort, and summaries by explainer journalists. We used a google spreadsheet to collaboratively compile and de-duplicate incidents, fact-checking each entry against contemporary accounts. We set a high bar for inclusion and accuracy, and chose not to include dozens of incidents that were hard to verify, but believably true. The real cost of anti-women rhetoric and violence is undoubtedly much higher.
On the advice of our graphic designer we set a somber color palette, and used angular shapes and bold fonts to add urgency. An animated map shows attacks in every year from 1995 to 2015, covering the US with teal circles that show the number of casualties, and listing locations in columns to let the reader scroll back through time. The site is also mobile-friendly, for the 20% (or more) of internet users that primarily use smaller screens.
StopClinicTerror.org got a good response from users, with over 5,000 hits in one week, 1,200 Facebook interactions and 30% of viewers signing the petition. It also got a hundreds of shares on Twitter, and Ultraviolet posted a .gif of the animation to play right in the timeline, which was reusable for the upcoming Presidential Debates.