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The FBI Atlanta field office is offering a $10,000 reward for information regarding a vandalism incident that took place at Georgia’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church Heritage Sanctuary this summer, the agency confirmed Thursday.
Ebenezer Baptist Church served as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home church from 1960 until his death in 1968. Today, Democratic US Senator Raphael Warnock serves as its senior pastor.
On July 3, 2022, one group allegedly circled around Ebenezer Baptist Church Heritage Sanctuary, a legendary congregation that has been a spiritual home for Dr. King, Jr., Congressman John Lewis, and Sen. Raphael Warnock. The church was the site of Lewis and King’s funerals.
The FBI states the church’s sanctuary was vandalized in the late hours of July 3, when a group spray painted on the side of the church: “if abortions arent safe neither are you.”
The vandalism came just days after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a half-century precedent which had guaranteed the federal, constitutional right to an abortion.
Surveillance video appears to show a group of 10 individuals dressed in all black walking away from the church.
The group walked to a concealed area, then re-emerged in surveillance footage without the black clothing, the FBI said.
“The group then split up, and four of the individuals went in one direction and six of the individuals went in another direction,” the FBI said on a reward poster for the incident.
WANTED: Do you recognize these people? The FBI says they vandalized Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Officials are offering a $10,000 reward for their arrest. https://t.co/oHo0Q4j4wO
— FOX 5 Atlanta (@FOX5Atlanta) December 30, 2022
The FBI may catch the culprits, but the larger issue is Black maternal health
Though access to safe medical procedures differs state to state, Black women across the US have routinely experienced harsher realities when seeking and carrying out an abortion.
Kaiser Health News reports the result for those who can’t afford to travel may be more self-induced abortions or risky births. Black women are three times as likely as White women to die from complications related to pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and their rates of maternal mortality are even higher across much of the South.
Georgia is home to more than 2.5 million women of childbearing age, a significant portion of whom (879,200) are Black women. Outside of pregnancy-related causes like hemorrhage or infection, homicide is the 3rd leading cause of pregnancy-associated death among women during and after pregnancy in Georgia. Georgia’s ban will likely lead to more violence and death.
“Either the means of getting an abortion is not going to be safe, so you put your life at risk, or you carry the baby to term,” said Dr. Digna Forbes, interim dean for the school of medicine at Meharry Medical College, a historically Black institution in Nashville. “Now you have the economic burden of raising a child that you cannot afford.”
Expanding Medicaid would provide access to health insurance for an estimated 490,000 Georgians, 36% of whom are Black. While access to health coverage is not a substitute for abortion care and will not address the lack of abortion access in the state, it can help to ensure that people have access to medical care, contraception, and prenatal and postpartum care. Georgia lawmakers can also reform TANF and explore alternatives such as guaranteed income to ensure families can meet their needs.
“FBI Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department ask anyone who recognizes any of these 10 individuals to call 1-800-CALL-FBI or send tips to Tips.FBI.gov.”
The church – separate from the sanctuary – was founded in 1886 and is a “spiritual home” to the state of Georgia, according to the National Park Service.