Anti-Abortion Campaigns and Rhetoric Boosted by Known Russian Disinformation Operations, Documentation Shows

Photo by Buse Doga Ay on Unsplash

Special Thanks to DefendingDemocracyTogether.Org for maintaining RussiaTweets.com

“And on the pedestal, these words appear”

- Percy Bysshe Shelley

With the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe V. Wade with the sorrowful Dobbs decision, people in the United States and around the world find themselves horrified by a renewed threat of American authoritarianism and puzzled as to how we arrived at such barbarism in the 21st century. While time will tell how Americans react and cope with the horrors unleashed by the court, some puzzle pieces are already available to the public in plain view.

For years the public has been warned about active foreign interference in American political and social life. Government, media, and academic professionals have uncovered evidence that Russian state actors have leveraged various tactics to engage Americans both online and off over the long term.

In 2008, Russian operators directly engaged at least one US Presidential campaign, and one of Senator John McCain’s own political advisor’s accounts suggests they may have had an opportunity to influence internal campaign discussions of who to choose as the GOP’s Vice Presidential Nominee. In 2013, Kremlin allies launched the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a troll farm organized to amplify division, confusion, and conflict to destabilize communities. In June 2014, the IRA organized a “scouting” trip to the United States. IRA scouts explored the United States from New York to California, with many stops in between. During this trip, they made notes and took photos. They delivered an intelligence report on their findings upon their return to Russia. In November 2014, they sent another scout on a follow-up mission to assess elements in Atlanta, Georgia.

By mid-2015, major media outlets like the New York Times and NPR disclosed news of the IRA to the public and discussed how they leverage disinformation to manipulate political landscapes in the US and worldwide.

The IRA and other Russian operators illegally engaged civilian populations on numerous political and social issues. Based on available documentation, it is understood that in many cases, IRA teams would identify and observe their targets online for years before making their first engagement and eventually guiding individuals down their crafted narrative pathways. The techniques employed by operators influenced US persons’ behaviors through social media and developed their target’s usefulness to the Russian state within their respective communities. In one case, IRA operators began directly engaging a US Person no later than January 2017, and by August 2020, they were developed into a paid asset writing on the subject of online attacks. This asset’s mindset and behavior were so in-sync with the Russian state’s objectives that the writer noted, “they did not change a single word” of his article before posting it to their dummy site.

Among the many issues the IRA chose to support within the US was the weakening of US citizens’ right to bodily autonomy through the support of anti-abortion campaigns and rhetoric.

According to Russiatweets.com, publicly known examples of where the IRA engaged US persons on anti-abortion rhetoric via Twitter include but are not limited to:

Jamie Jefferies is an Arizonan woman who uses the Twitter handle @prolife_wife and has set herself up as the leader of organizations such as Abortion Trials which describes its mission as “to educate and raise awareness about current abortion legalities and ongoing malpractice cases relating to abortion providers.” She is also the leader of Let Life Live, a registered nonprofit with the mission “to bring awareness and education to the public about abortion, while offering support to those caught in the dilemma of choosing between life and death.” Since being initially engaged by Russian operations, her public profile has been leveraged to promote Arizona GOP candidates for Federal Office.

December 17th, 2016

MT @prolife_wife: There is NEVER a good enough reason to dismember a baby. #Prolife https://t.co/fW7g3hT6eo #UnbornLivesMatter #PJNET

- @rh0lbr00khttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2270190

January 7th, 2017

MT @prolife_wife: What kind of man supports a woman’s right to KILL HIS CHILD? https://t.co/dQzBSFmUBc #UnbornLivesMatter #PJNET

- @jeffreykahunashttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1416335

According to her own website, Esmeralda Kiczek is a “social media expert and blogger” based in New Jersey. Mrs. Kiczek has self-published a book on “spiritual adoption” and is the founder of an anti-abortion movement she and her husband named “The End of Abortion Movement: The Rosary is the Key.” Since being engaged by Russian operations, her Twitter account of @EsmeraldaKiczek has ballooned to over 211k followers.

November 2nd, 2016

MT @EsmeraldaKiczek: Greatest destroyer of love is abortion. St. Mother Teresa #Prolife https://t.co/PYmUMoYtyT #UnbornLivesMatter #PJNET

- @carriethornthonhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/495968

March 8th, 2017

MT @EsmeraldaKiczek: Praise Jesus! Pres Trump signs EO to defund International PP #Prolife https://t.co/ncOrSROjE6 #UnbornLivesMatter #PJNET

- @lazykstaffordhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/876932

March 9th, 2017

MT @EsmeraldaKiczek: Praise Jesus! Pres Trump signs EO to defund International PP #Prolife https://t.co/jGnB7Lj19M #UnbornLivesMatter #PJNET

- @devinedevinbrhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1610004

April 30th, 2017

MT @EsmeraldaKiczek: Lord, transform culture of death into one of life. #PraytoEndAbortion https://t.co/eTGyFpwMkT #UnbornLivesMatter #PJNET

- @prettylaraplacehttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2222016

Tamara Davis of Tennessee’s Twitter account of @warriors_mom was directly engaged by Internet Research Agency operations no less than 200 times, according to Russiatweets.com. Ms. Davis is a noted Cyber Security Expert and CEO of Recon Secure Computing, whose expert advice has been quoted in publications such as Computer Weekly.

The first known Russian engagement of @warriors_mom was on February 4th, 2016.

February 4th, 2016

Catholic Bishops of Ghana: Ex-Gitmo Prisoners Are ‘Time-Bombs’–’Send These Men Back’ https://t.co/QcdnxL7YvE .@warriors_mom @realityinACTION

- @carriethornthonhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/496985 -

The IRA actively engaged her on anti-abortion rhetoric.

January 28th, 2017

Abortion is NOT healthcare. #MarchForLife #ProLife .@AlvedaCKing @warriors_mom https://t.co/8jkWLtJPh4

- @interfischerhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1319450

March 21st, 2017

Her Health, Her Lifetime, Our World ❤ Center for Strategic and International Studies. #ProLife @warriors_mom https://t.co/5BnqNAaevd

- @evagreen69http://russiatweets.com/tweet/998288

March 29th, 2017

????? #DefundPP #ProLife @AlvedaCKing @warriors_mom https://t.co/RXwpJwvu50

- @interfischerhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1320833

Russian operators also engaged her with content from state aligned misinformation outlets such as Zerohedge and Wiki Leaks,

January 1st, 2017

5 Blood-Boiling Cases Of Government Overreach \| Zero Hedge #Regulations .@JohnStossel .@Varneyco @warriors_mom https://t.co/ngg0uKKQrn

- @evagreen69http://russiatweets.com/tweet/996762

March 23rd, 2017

Wikileaks Releases “NightSkies 1.2”: Proof CIA Bugs “Factory Fresh” iPhones � Zero Hedge #Surveillance @warriors_mom https://t.co/ydgp4NsBoG

- @devinedevinbrhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/876764

on the topic of Russian meddling in US politics itself,

January 14th, 2017

The arrests of the Russian scapegoats have already begun � #BlameTheRussians @warriors_mom https://t.co/ipMI8yXTGg

- @ryanmaxwell_1http://russiatweets.com/tweet/2373374

April 4th, 2017

Agree or Disagree? “It’s the Democrats who Collude with the Russians” #ObamaGate #EmailGate @warriors_mom https://t.co/O6ZkvGv0Vp

- @priceforpiercehttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2226323

April 29th, 2017

‘@warriors_mom @TuckerCarlson @realDonaldTrump @POTUS @VP @DeptOfEducation CA:Bill to teach kids about Russian election meddling advances. ?????’

- @michellearryhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1767984

and on non-political relationship-building content like crafts and cookie recipes.

January 18th, 2017

What a great idea! #Crafts @warriors_mom https://t.co/LAoOGgwPuG

- @hollydler -http://russiatweets.com/tweet/1230716

April 5th, 2017

Oooh chocolate chip cookies ? ❤️ #Recipes @warriors_mom https://t.co/3iaC5c4fOu

- @jeannemccarthy0http://russiatweets.com/tweet/1406360

But the IRA did not limit their engagement to boosting fringe voices. They also helped boost Twitter accounts with established anti-abortion agendas and followings like presidential campaign staffer Jason Miller and future pardonee Dinesh D. Souza.

October 20th, 2016

@PJStrikeForce @JasonMillerinDC She’s a big denier, but it is tearing a viable baby into pieces. #ProLife #debatenight’

- @donnabriverahttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/897914

October 21st, 2016

The tragedy of #abortion isn’t that a woman kills a child. It’s that she kills her own child. — @DineshDSouza #prolife https://t.co/46LFjZstdj

- @hyddroxhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1253822

Russian Operators also helped directly boost political campaigns tied to anti-abortion stances like Georgia’s Karen Handel,

April 19th, 2017

.@karenhandel is a #ProLife champion who will protect the defenseless and stand up to the abortion lobby. @HandelTeam #GA6 #gotv

- @prettylaraplacehttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2221734

Arizona’s Kelli Ward,

December 2nd, 2017

10 Big reasons why Arizona wants Dr.@kelliwardaz in the Senate. #MAGA?? #AmericaFirst?? #PROTRUMPMVMT?? #BuildTheWall?? #NoSanctuaryCities?? #DrainTheSwamp?? #ProGrowth?? #ProLife?? #RepealObamacare?? #SupportOurTroops?? Go Kelli !

- @covfefenationushttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/677294

and Texas’s Ted Cruz.

February 4th, 2016

What Our Silence Says #PraytoEndAbortion #Stand4Life #prolife #ccot #Christian #Jesus #God #FoxNews #AP #TedCruz #CruzCrew #BarackObama

- @jamie_mccarthy_http://russiatweets.com/tweet/1366978

February 18th, 2016

.@tedcruz has ALWAYS been 100% #PROLIFE, NEVER #ProChoice & NEVER for #PartialBirthAbortion. #TrusTED #CruzCrew https://t.co/o1Y0T6Dyhq

- @cookncookshttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/653292

In addition to grassroots activists and federal politicians, they also engaged anti-abortion campaigns such as the March for Life,

January 22nd, 2016

We are the pro-life generation #MarchForLife https://t.co/gXjY3lobmU

- @pigeontodayhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2162958

January 19th, 2018

Abortion doesn’t make you unpregnant. It makes you the parent of a dead child. #MarchForLife

- @amconvoicehttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/94866

January 19th, 2018

Kellyanne Conway: “Donald Trump is the most pro-life president in our nation’s history.” #MarchforLife https://t.co/NVeDMuzeAx

- @johncopper16http://russiatweets.com/tweet/1468730

And DefundPP, which stands for Defund Planned Parenthood. Aggressive defunding campaigns are a far-right tactic to sabotage sentiment against otherwise effective public services.

July 21st, 2015

Yes, #PPSellsBabyParts. But ONLY to the highest bidder. #WakeUpAmerica #DefundPP #Gatter #Nucatola #Mengele #Gosnell http://t.co/IifrcE8CIU

@arm_2_alanhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/222645

December 21st, 2015

#Women #GOP #War #DefundPP #Justice4All https://t.co/GdsFmeo5ng

- @blackeyebloghttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/350887

February 6th, 2016

Nothing in MY Constitution says FED GOVT can fund infant killing! #DefundPP #PJNET #TCOT #CCOT #WakeUpAmerica https://t.co/VBN28XdF2N

- @albertmorenmorehttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/52161

February 7th, 2016

Liberal hypocrisy #WakeUpAmerica #DefundPP #BanIslam #NoSyrianRefugees #TCOT https://t.co/F1XeuULiVN

- @ten_gophttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2602992

February 6th, 2016

It’s not CLUMPS of TISSUE that move and smile and react! #DefundPP #PPSellsBabyParts #TCOT #CCOT #PJNET https://t.co/bNTi0mHTqv

- @donnabriverahttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/899802

February 13th, 2016

Nothing in MY Constitution says FED GOVT can fund infant killing! #DefundPP #PJNET #TCOT #CCOT #WakeUpAmerica https://t.co/z1VhUb4k0C

- @israel_willshttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1330494

February 18th, 2016

If #BlackLivesMatter lives matter why are we paying to slaughter millions of them #DefundPP I don’t hear any groups saying enough already

- @johnnymarch_http://russiatweets.com/tweet/1472461

February 18th, 2016

Nothing in MY Constitution says FED GOVT can fund infant killing! #DefundPP #PJNET #TCOT #CCOT #WakeUpAmerica https://t.co/nmaV3W0Xyj

- @jacquelinisbesthttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1353260

February 20th, 2016

THIS birth control is FREE and READILY AVAILABLE! #DefundPP #WakeUpAmerica #PJNET #TCOT #CCOT https://t.co/ktkd4PGNCN

- @jeannemccarthy0http://russiatweets.com/tweet/1405536

February 11th, 2017

Planned Parenthood is modern day genocide. #StandWithPP #DefundPP #MoralMarch

- @southlonestarhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2506954

February 11th, 2017

“I have noticed everyone who is for abortion has been born.” — Ronald Reagan #DefundPP #StandWithPP #MoralMarch https://t.co/qLEuGikIFg

- @ten_gophttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2602295

April 28th, 2017

PP selling baby parts is as bad as NAZIS using murdered Jew brains for research! #DefundPP #ProLife #PJNET https://t.co/FW92RswC4w

- @prettylaraplacehttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2221932

August 10th, 2017

Trump, Pence Say #UnbornLivesMatter American Thinker https://t.co/AtysdKMbHb #abortion #PJNET 999 #MAGA #DefundPP https://t.co/pifylTpxQZ

- @artemssfehttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/228709

As always expected with the IRA, plenty of anti-Hillary Clinton content is also mixed into the campaigns. The following examples show how the IRA uses repetition over time to boost the distribution and saturation of a disinformation narrative.

December 22nd, 2015

Defund Hillary’s Planned Parenthood Baby Body Chop Shop: https://t.co/11ra2FcYD6 — https://t.co/e9D4TB4pLS — #DefundPP 90

- @portmelahttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/2216645

January 6th, 2016

Defund Hillary’s Planned Parenthood Baby Body Chop Shop: https://t.co/11ra2FcYD6 — https://t.co/e9D4TB4pLS — #DefundPP 289 #PJNET

- @mrjacksjacksonhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1822184

February 26th, 2016

Defund Hillary’s Planned Parenthood Baby Body Chop Shop: https://t.co/3KvZJO4xRD — https://t.co/n9L7yz21Gv — #DefundPP 289 #PJNET

- @marissaimstronghttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/1699249

March 17th, 2016

RT @gerfingerpoken: Defund Hillary’s Planned Parenthood Baby Body Chop Shop: https://t.co/uVuGKG3aAH — https://t.co/lshrfTPPQD — #DefundPP …

- @edwardbrobertshttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/925705

July 7th, 2016

Defund Hillary’s Planned Parenthood Baby Body Chop Shop: https://t.co/11ra2FcYD6 — https://t.co/e9D4TB4pLS — #DefundPP 289 #PJNET

- @dorothiebellhttp://russiatweets.com/tweet/907005

The examples provided are just the tip of the iceberg concerning how Russia’s Internet Research Agency boosted anti-abortion campaigns and rhetoric in the United States. A deeper and more thorough analysis is still required to fully understand the scope of Russia’s campaigns to bolster the anti-abortion movement in the US.

If you would like to learn more about malign influence campaigns, Russian influence operations, disinformation, and corruption activities, check out the following referenced and recommended readings:

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