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1996 Clinic Violence Survey Report


Almost one third of clinics (27.6%) reported one or more severe types of violence, including death threats, stalking, bomb threats, bombings, blockades, chemical attacks, invasions, arson, and arson threats, during the first seven months of 1996. When gunfire, home picketing, and vandalism are combined with the other violence variables, the number of clinics and offices experiencing some form of violence, harassment or intimidation rises to 44.9%.

For the second consecutive year, the level of violence at the nation's abortion clinics declined, but the actual rate of decline has slowed.

Death threats (7.1%) and stalking (7.4%) continued a decline begun in 1995. But, for the first time since 1994, several types of violence targeted at clinic facilities appear to have increased. Bombings were up from .3% in 1995 to 1.0% in 1996. Chemical attacks increased from 1% in 1995 to 1.6% in 1996. For the first year, the percentage of clinics reporting blockades did not experience a significant decrease, reaching a plateau at 6.4%.

The survey revealed especially severe violence in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The percentage of clinics who lost staff as a result of anti-abortion violence declined substantially. Only 3.8% of clinics reported staff resignations related to anti-abortion violence. This percentage is far lower than the 9% level reported in 1995. Clinics who were pleased with law enforcement response to clinic violence were less likely to lose staff members.

Enforcement of the Federal law enforcement officials the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) improved in 1996. Federal officials were far more likely to act upon clinic reports of FACE violations than they were in 1995. Improvements in FACE enforcement were accompanied by a decrease in clinic reports of FACE violations.

Clinics were less satisfied, however, with local, state, and federal law enforcement response to violence in 1996 than in 1995. In 1996, law enforcement response was ranked as "excellent" at the local level by 34.6% of clinics, at the state level by 13.5%, and at the federal level by 16.7%.

Levels of clinic violence correlate with local, state, and federal law enforcement response. Clinics which reported "excellent" law enforcement response experienced lower levels of violence than those which characterized law enforcement response as "poor."

Clinics with buffer zones reported far larger decreases in every type of violence than clinics without buffer zones. Approximately one third of clinics (31.7%) are protected by clinic buffer zones.

One in ten clinics (10.9%) during the first seven months of 1996 turned to the courts for relief from clinic violence. Of these 34 clinics, 13 sought restraining orders, 3 temporary injunctions, and 5 permanent injunctions. In 1995, 15.2% of clinics had sought legal remedies. Less than half (41.2%) of the clinics which sought legal remedies actually won protections.

Clinics expressed strong interest in making medical abortion available to their patients. Over two-thirds (69.9%) of clinics were interested in providing mifepristone at their facilities.