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1999 NATIONAL CLINIC VIOLENCE SURVEY REPORT

Conducted by the Feminist Majority Foundation

Prepared by:
Tracy Sefl, PhDc
Amy Hennessy, BA
Elizabeth Gavrilles, MFA
Jennifer Jackman, Phd

Released January 19, 1100

KEY FINDINGS

One in five clinics experienced severe anti-abortion violence in 1999.  The percentage of clinics reporting one or more types of severe anti-abortion violence (including death threats, stalking, bombings, arsons, blockades, invasions, chemical attacks, bomb threats, and arson threats) declined slightly from 22% in 1998 to 20% in 1999.[1] [2]

Fewer clinics were free from violence in 1999, reversing a trend from previous years.  Anti-abortion violence and harassment appears more widely distributed, as the percentage of clinics reporting no violence, vandalism, or harassment has declined from 64% in 1998 to 54% in 1999.  For the first time, the gap between the percentage of clinics experiencing no violence and those facing moderate violence has narrowed.  Moreover, the percentage of clinics experiencing high levels of concentrated anti-abortion violence is relatively unchanged at 5% in 1999 compared with 4% in 1998. 

Vandalism at clinics has more than doubled; bomb threats are slightly up.  A major increase in vandalism is detected.  Over one-third of clinics (34%) reported one or more forms of vandalism, a figure more than doubled from 16% in 1998.  In 1999, 13% of clinics were the target of bomb threats, which is a small increase from 11% in 1998.

Measured in this survey for the first time, 18% of clinics report harassment via the Internet or Web.  Abortion clinic providers are open targets in cyberspace.  With ever-increasing access to computer technology, clinic staff, providers, and patients have become vulnerable to this form of harassment, which may include divulging personal information such as home address and phone numbers, or advocating the targeting of specific abortion providers.

Anthrax threat attacks were prevalent in 1999, with 11% of clinics affected.   Clinics in every region of the country have been subjected to these disruptive threats (newly measured in the 1999 National Clinic Violence Survey), all of which have thus far proved to be hoaxes.  Additionally, in early January 1100 alone, over thirty clinics in twenty-two states have also received anthrax threats.

All levels of law enforcement received higher “excellent” ratings in 1999, with local law enforcement yielding the largest net increase.  This year, 52% of clinics rated local law enforcement as excellent, up 15% from 1998.  Federal law enforcement excellent ratings increased from 21% to 35%, a 14% increase.  Excellent ratings for state law enforcement also went up, rising 8% in 1999 to 20%.  In addition, clinics reported much stronger enforcement of buffer zones and injunctions.  The percentage of clinics that identified “strong” enforcement of their buffer zones nearly tripled from 14% to 39% in 1999.

Lower levels of violence are again associated with higher law enforcement response ratings.  For example, of those clinics that rated local law enforcement response as “excellent,” only 16% experienced high violence.  Conversely, one-third of clinics rating local law enforcement poorly were subjected to high levels of anti-abortion violence.      

METHODOLOGY

The seventh annual National Clinic Violence Survey measured anti-abortion violence and harassment over the past twelve months.  This survey is one of the most comprehensive studies of anti-abortion violence and harassment directed at clinics, patients, health care workers and volunteers in the United States and includes abortion providers of various organizational affiliations as well as independent clinics. In September 1999, surveys were mailed to 839 clinics in the United States.  The universe of clinics was compiled by the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project.  Follow-up telephone and fax contacts were made from mid-October to December.  Three hundred and sixty abortion providers responded, yielding a response rate of 43%.[3]   Participants in this survey were assured that their individual responses would remain confidential.

PROFILE OF RESPONDENTS

This sample of 360 clinics includes clinics and private doctors’ offices in 47 states and the District of Columbia.  (See Appendix A for a list of respondents by state.)  Types of facilities in this sample included non-profit (41%), for-profit (36%) and doctor’s offices (23%).

While 62% of the clinics were affiliated with Planned Parenthood and/or the National Abortion Federation, the remaining 38% were unaffiliated with either organization.  The majority of facilities are free-standing (64%) and have uncovered parking lots (84%).  On-site, volunteer clinic escorts assist patients at 29% of all reporting facilities. 

The percentage of clinics’ practices devoted to abortion services ranges from 10% or less (23% of all clinics) to over 76% (45% of all clinics).   Virtually all facilities (99%) offer a variety of other women’s reproductive health care services.  These include birth control services (96%), pregnancy counseling (90%), emergency contraception (84%), adoption counseling and referral (67%), cancer screening (67%), and HIV/AIDS testing (60%).

Methotrexate, a method of early medical abortion, is administered at 27% of

responding clinics.  Also, clinics’ interest in offering mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486) once it becomes available in the United States continues to grow (up 3% to 65% in 1999).  Consistent with previous reports, non-profit clinics are most enthusiastic about offering mifepristone (75%).

RESULTS

ONE IN FIVE CLINICS EXPERIENCE SEVERE ANTI-ABORTION VIOLENCE

Compared to 1998, which began with a fatal bombing at an abortion clinic and ended with the murder of a doctor who performed abortions, 1999 seemed like a relatively quiet year at our nation’s women’s health clinics.  Yet, even with the combined and ongoing efforts of the pro-choice community and local, state, and federal law enforcement, the overall level of violence directed at abortion clinics remained essentially the same as in 1998.  In 1999, as shown in Chart 1 below, one in five clinics suffered severe anti-abortion violence

The percentage of clinics reporting one or more types of severe violence (which includes bombings, arsons, blockades, invasions, chemical attacks, death threats, stalking, bomb threats, and arson threats) dropped slightly from 22% in 1998 to 20% in 1999.[4]  While anti-abortion violence plagued clinics across the United States, ten states bore the brunt of the severe violence: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia (Appendix B). 

This decline is part of a trend over the past five years.  In 1994, with anti-abortion extremists emboldened by the January 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bray, et al. v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, et al.,[5] severe clinic violence reached an all-time high of 52%.  However, the sustained efforts of pro-choice mobilization combined with the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Madsen v. Women’s Health Center[6] and NOW, et al. v. Scheidler, et al.[7] sent a strong deterrent message to anti-abortion extremists in 1994.  Overall levels of severe violence dropped significantly to 39% in 1995.  Since 1996, when severe violence was reported at 28%, there continues to be a small and slow decline in severe violence. 

Yet 20% of clinics still suffering from anti-abortion violence indicates an enduring problem at our nation’s women’s health clinics.

HIGH VIOLENCE STILL CONCENTRATED; FEWER CLINICS FREE FROM VIOLENCE

The 1999 National Clinic Violence Survey data reflect the greater dispersion of harassment, intimidation and violence throughout the overall clinic population, with more clinics affected by at least one or two types of violence (Chart 2).  As well, high levels of violence remain concentrated on a small percentage of clinics (5%) in 1999, akin to 4% in 1998.              

And for the first time since 1995 in the National Clinic Violence Survey, the gap between those clinics experiencing no violence and those experiencing moderate and high violence has narrowed.   This gap is revealed in the analysis of indexed variables measuring the total number of violent and harassing tactics all clinics experienced.  This indexed measure combines tactics of violence, intimidation and harassment.  This measure was then divided into three levels: clinics experiencing no violence (zero types), moderate violence (1-2 types) and high violence (3 or more types).[8] 

Reversing a trend from previous years, this year’s findings reveal that the gap between clinics facing moderate violence and no violence has diminished (Chart 2).  In every survey prior to 1999, more and more clinics were reporting no violence, peaking with 64% of clinics free from violence in 1998.  In 1999, however, that trend noticeably reversed as the percentage of clinics free from violence declined to 54%.  In 1998, 64% of clinics reported no violence, harassment, or intimidation and 32% experienced moderate levels – for a gap of 32%.  The gap this year between clinics facing moderate and no violence narrowed considerably to 13%, as 54% of clinics reported no violence and 41% reported moderate levels of violence.  This redistribution is illustrated in comparing the “no” and “moderate” violence trend lines in Chart 2. 

BOMB, DEATH, AND ARSON THREATS CONTINUE TO PLAGUE CLINICS

As severe violence continues its slight but steady decline, the frequency of severe threats remains near-constant overall.  As in 1998, this year slightly less than one in five clinics (18%) received bomb, arson, or death threats.  More bomb threats were reported than in 1998, rising slightly from 11% to 13% in the current reporting period (Chart 3).  Death and arson threats remained stable between 1998 and 1999, at 6% and 1% respectively.

  

Clinics where abortion constitutes more than three-fourths of all services (45% of all clinics), however, receive the bulk of these threats.  Notably during this reporting period, clinics whose primary service is abortion received 61% of bomb threats and just over half of all death threats (52%).

Chart 4 provides a longitudinal view of changes in frequency of types of violence from 1997 to 1999.  In addition to the increases in vandalism, bomb, death, and arson threats noted above, other interesting findings are illustrated.  Chemical attacks and gunfire have both declined from 1998, whereas stalking, break-ins, blockades and invasions are slightly higher.  From 1998 to 1999, chemical attacks and gunfire both declined from approximately 1% to less than 1%.  There were small increases in reports of stalking, break-ins and invasions.  Stalking and break-ins both increased from 5% in 1998 to 6% in 1999; facility invasions went up from 2% to 3%.  Reports of blockades, while small in total number, more than doubled from 2% to 5%. 

Chart Note: In 1999, arsons and bombings measures included attempted events as well as actual events. 

Finally, because the 1999 National Clinic Violence Survey collapsed attempted bombings and arsons into the bomb and arson variables (to represent the severity and potential fatalities present even in attempts), slight increases are noted here as well.  In 1999, 1% of clinics reported bombings and 2% reported arsons, compared to 1998 where less than 1% of clinics reported either.

MAJOR INCREASE IN CLINIC VANDALISM

Over one-third of all clinics (34%) were subjected to one or more forms of vandalism, making vandalism the most frequently reported type of anti-abortion harassment or intimidation.  This finding has more than doubled since 1998, when only 16% of all clinics experienced one or more forms of vandalism.  Anti-abortion extremists continue to barrage clinics with an increasingly widespread vandalism campaign.  Their methods are diverse, attacking building structures, adjacent property, and even staff members’ personal property.   

The increase in clinic vandalism is also reflected in another manner: the previously reported finding that fewer clinics are free from violence (see Chart 1).  Anti-abortion extremists have broadened their campaign against clinics and more clinics were vulnerable to vandalism in 1999 compared to 1998.

When examining the multiple forms of vandalism directed at clinics, graffiti remains the most commonly reported tactic (31%), though this is a decline from 38% of vandalized clinics in 1998.  Despite that decline, graffiti is the most widely reported form of structural vandalism, as reports of broken windows and paint splattering have declined from 1998.     

New in this year’s questionnaire, clinics were asked to report any garbage dumpster tampering at their facility.  Seventeen percent (17%) of vandalized clinics reported this form of vandalism.  Phone call and line tampering has increased, occurring at one-fourth (25%) of vandalized clinics, compared to 18% of vandalized clinics in 1998.    

Notably, 27% of vandalized clinics provided open-ended responses as to additional forms of vandalism directed at their clinics.  These supplemental tactics included tampering with septic tanks and building ornaments, broken glass strewn in clinic driveways, malicious corruption of outdoor power sources, torn siding, slashed tires on staff members’ cars, and the smearing of human excrement on exterior walls.

Anti-abortion vandalism is affecting a larger proportion of clinics, which in large part explains the narrowing gap between clinics experiencing no violence and those experiencing one or two types of violence.

ABORTION PROVIDERS FACE INTERNET HARASSMENT

The seventh annual National Clinic Violence Survey measured Internet and Web-based harassment for the first time.  Data suggest that abortion providers are open targets in cyberspace, with 18% of clinics reporting this form of harassment.  Such harassment may include divulging personal “profiles” including home addresses and telephone numbers; death threats; or even advocating murder of specific abortion providers.  This harassment occurs in various electronic forms: on Web sites, in Internet chat rooms, and through email.  Recourse for such forms of harassment is complicated by the often-veiled identities of persons posting such information. 

The most infamous example of this tactic was anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley’s “Nuremberg Files” Web site[9], where, amidst graphics of dripping blood, hundreds of abortion providers and abortion rights advocates’ names were listed.  Many of those persons’ names were hyper-linked to personal information profiles including home addresses and type of car driven.  This form of harassment has been found to constitute “true threats,” and in Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists, a jury ordered several anti-abortion extremists to pay $107.5 million in damages to abortion providers who had been targeted and threatened by the defendants. 

Unlike bold and prominent “WANTED” posters distributed in communities with abortion providers’ names, photos, and addresses (posters which 6% of clinics report appearing in their communities in 1999), the evolving nature of cyberspace may leave clinic staff and abortion providers unaware that cyber-threats are even being circulated.

ANTHRAX ATTACKS THREATENED AT 11% OF CLINICS

Thirty-nine clinics nationwide (11%) received threatened anthrax attacks in this year’s reporting period.  Anthrax, an infectious and potentially fatal bacterial disease, has no indication of exposure: there is no cloud, color, smell, taste, or effective treatment for unvaccinated victims.[10]  Clinics in the Midwest and Northeast received the bulk of the threats, measured for the first time in the 1999 National Clinic Violence Survey.  When asked to compare the frequency of anti-abortion violent tactics from 1999 to 1998, clinics report that the frequency of threatened anthrax attacks increased 13%, much more than all other tactics. 

Clinics who receive threatened anthrax attacks are subjected to extensive evacuation, testing, and safety procedures.  Such attacks are also disruptive to the larger community, evidenced in a recent anthrax threat at a Toledo OH abortion clinic where law enforcement officials closed a ten-block area.  Although the FBI reports that a spate of letters received in 1999 contained only a sticky substance or dark powder, clinic staff and abortion providers are nonetheless disrupted by the necessary evacuation, decontamination, and testing procedures. 

In the first two weeks of January 1100, over thirty clinics in twenty-two states have also received anthrax threats.[11]  Investigations are ongoing.   

FOLLOWING A VIOLENT 1998, MORE STAFF RESIGNATIONS REPORTED

Overall, Clinic Staff and Administrators Prove Resilient to Campaign of Violence

The percentage of clinics reporting staff resignations as a result of anti-abortion violence increased.  Following a violent 1998, with a fatal clinic bombing in Birmingham AL and the murder of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian in his Amherst NY home, 10% of clinics reported staff resignations due to anti-abortion violence, an increase from 5% of clinics in 1998.  Of those few clinics reporting violence-related resignations, 32% lost a physician, 29% lost a receptionist, 26% lost a lab technician, 23% lost a counselor, and 20% lost a nurse.  Clinic administrators proved most resilient, with only 6% resigning.

These resignations can be understood in the broad context of severe clinic violence and persistent harassment.  Indeed, the longitudinal trend displayed below (Chart 5) reflects increases in staff resignations that correspond with horrific acts of violence like the murders of doctors, clinic staff, and volunteers in 1993 and 1994. 

         

Within this overall picture, as well, is a strong relationship between violence-related staff resignations and the level of violence at a given clinic.  In 1999, 22% of clinics experiencing high violence lost staff members; in fact, twice as many clinics experiencing high violence lost staff compared with clinics not subjected to high violence.  In the wake of a year that saw a fatal clinic bombing and a physician murdered in his own home, staff vulnerability at “high violence” clinics, while intuitive, is disturbing.

REMEDIES TO VIOLENCE: BUFFER ZONES AND OTHER LEGAL PROTECTIONS

More clinics were protected by buffer zones in this year’s reporting period, nearly one-third (114 clinics, 32%) compared with 27% of clinics in 1998.  Buffer zones are areas determined by courts, legislatures, or municipal officials in which distance is specified between demonstrators and their intended targets.  Buffer zones may apply to clinic facilities as well as staff members’ homes.  This year, ten clinics reported home buffer zones for staff members or physicians, compared with 1998, when only five clinics reported such protections. 

More clinics conferred positive law enforcement ratings for their buffer zones and injunctions in 1999 than in 1998.  A significant portion of clinics (35%) reported that their buffer zones and injunctions were strongly enforced.   This finding is dramatically higher than 1998, when buffer zones were strongly enforced at only 14% of clinics and injunctions strongly enforced at 11% of clinics. 

Clinics’ perceptions of stronger buffer zone and injunction enforcement are also reflected in lowered “poor” ratings.  Fewer clinics in this reporting period reported weak or no enforcement of buffer zones and injunctions compared to 1998.  In 1999, 23% of clinics rated their legal protections as weakly or not enforced.  In 1998, buffer zones were weakly or not enforced at 28% of clinics, and injunctions weakly or not enforced at 36% of clinics.

Nine percent (9%) of clinics turned to the legal system for legal remedies other than buffer zones, consistent with 10% of clinics seeking legal remedies in 1998.  Temporary restraining orders and permanent injunctions were the most frequently sought remedies, with eighteen (5%) and fourteen clinics (4%) seeking such measures respectively. 

Nearly half of those clinics with buffer zones or injunctions (46%) believe that these legal protections have prompted improved law enforcement responses to anti-abortion violence and harassment at their facilities.

In addition to legal remedies sought, legal victories in this reporting period were also analyzed.  Thirteen clinics won temporary restraining orders (4%), five won preliminary injunctions (1%), and nine won permanent injunctions (3%).  Twenty-nine clinics (8%) were awarded money damages as a result of anti-abortion activities, though less than one in five of those clinics (17%) have yet to collect monies owed to them.[12] 

Even though, for the most part, clinics have not been able to collect judgments, they have not given up and are still pursuing anti-abortion extremists.  At the end of

1999, four of the twelve anti-abortion defendants in the high-profile Planned Parenthood v. ACLA filed for bankruptcy just prior to their federal court-ordered depositions in an effort to avoid disclosing financial information in the post-judgment phase of the lower court proceeding.  Increasingly, anti-abortion extremists are using bankruptcy filings in an effort to avoid paying damage awards. 

MORE CLINICS REPORT POTENTIAL FACE VIOLATIONS; LAW ENFORCEMENT FOLLOW-UP DECLINES

Thirty-nine clinics (11%) contacted law enforcement officials to report potential violations of FACE.  These numbers have essentially doubled from the 20 clinics contacting law enforcement regarding potential FACE violations in 1998 (Chart 6).  Although the number of clinics making FACE-related law enforcement contacts has increased, clinics report that the handling of such contacts by law enforcement officials has declined.

Several indices of authorities’ responses to FACE complaints suggest that more aggressive investigations and prosecutions are necessary.  Of those clinics initiating contact with officials, the majority (66%) did not receive clear direction for pursuing their complaints.  This is an increase from 1998, when 55% of clinics did not receive clear directions from officials.  Fifteen percent (15%) of clinics were advised that authorities would not prosecute their cases, a slight increase from 11% in 1998.  A greater percentage of clinics were advised to refer complaints to local law enforcement this year (45%) compared with 30% in 1998.  Moreover, in relatively few cases (23%) did federal officials even conduct official interviews with involved parties.             

           

The percentage of clinics with FACE violations that reported federal officials had initiated criminal FACE actions was cut in half from 10% in 1998 to 5% in 1999.  A slight decrease – from 10% to 8% - occurred in the proportion of clinics reporting that civil FACE actions had been initiated.  These 1999 reports reverse a trend between 1997 and 1998, where more civil and criminal FACE actions were initiated.

“EXCELLENT” RATINGS RISE FOR ALL LEVELS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

The role of law enforcement is an important variable both in the continued, although slight, decline of severe violence and the improved ratings of legal protections like buffer zones and injunctions.  The combined efforts of pro-choice advocacy on behalf of clinics, along with increased judicial and legislative penalties against anti-abortion extremists are contributing to law enforcement’s increasingly high-quality responses to clinics’ needs. 

Clinics were asked to rate their overall experience with the law enforcement response to clinic violence and harassment in the reporting period.  All levels of law enforcement received more “excellent” ratings in 1999 than in 1998 (Chart 7), with local law enforcement yielding the largest net increase.  In 1999, 52% of clinics rated local law enforcement as excellent, up 15% from 1998.  Federal law enforcement excellent ratings increased from 21% to 35%, a 14% increase.  Excellent ratings for state law enforcement went up 8% in 1999 to 20%. 

An additional measure of law enforcement response examines a comparison of this reporting period to 1998.  Most clinics report that local, state, and federal law enforcement response has remained the same.  Yet notably, several clinics said that local and federal law enforcement improved this year, 14% and 15% respectively.  Both of these ratings reflect increases from 1998, up 1% for local and 7% for federal law enforcement.  Nine percent of clinics (9%) said state law enforcement had improved, up from 6% in 1998.     

This study also examines the type of interactions that clinics have with law enforcement officials.  As local law enforcement officials provide the first response to the majority of anti-abortion incidents, clinics necessarily report the most contact with this level of law enforcement (80%).  Just over half of all clinics (53%) contacted federal law enforcement officials and 32% contacted state officials.  The majority of clinics have designated contact persons or liaisons with local (65%) and federal (60%) law enforcement officials.   

Seventy-four percent of clinics (74%) report that law enforcement officials had visited their facilities for a variety of reasons, including responding to anthrax threats or complaints, or in the course of an investigation.  Overall, clinics most frequently report that local law enforcement has visited their clinic to discuss security issues (51%).         

Nine percent (9%) of clinics reported arrests on-site, with misdemeanors being the most frequently reported type of arrest (82%).  This is consistent with arrest rates in 1998 (9%).  Eleven clinics also noted that anti-abortion arrests occurred off-premises (i.e., at a staff member’s home or neighborhood).  These off-premises arrests were also largely misdemeanor arrests (64%).  Only 3% of these arrests, both on- and off- premises, resulted in criminal prosecution.  This figure is slightly lower than both 1997 and 1998, where 4% of all arrests resulted in criminal prosecutions.         

LOWER LEVELS OF VIOLENCE AGAIN ASSOCIATED WITH BETTER LAW ENFORCEMENT RESPONSE

As reported in 1998, the quality of local and federal law enforcement is associated with the level of violence at clinics nationwide.  In 1999, 185 clinics rated their local law enforcement as excellent.  Of these clinics, 39% were free from violence and only 16% reported high violence.  Few clinics rated their local law enforcement as poor.  Nonetheless, of those 19 clinics, 32% experienced high violence compared with 21% who were free from violence. 

Federal law enforcement was rated as excellent by 111 clinics.  Of those clinics, 29% were free from violence, compared to 17% who faced high violence.  Similar to local law enforcement ratings, very few clinics rated federal law enforcement as poor.  Of those 11 clinics, the majority (45%) faced high anti-abortion violence compared to 27% who faced none. 

These findings indicate that excellent law enforcement response was more likely to be associated with no or low violence.  Poor law enforcement ratings appeared to be related to higher levels of violence. 

These relationships largely mirror the law enforcement/violence relationship in the 1998 findings.  In 1998, of clinics reporting “excellent” federal law enforcement response, only 6% experienced high violence.  Of clinics describing poor federal law enforcement response, 20% had high levels of violence.    

CONCLUSIONS

Despite the fact that there were no anti-abortion fatalities in 1999, one in five clinics remains plagued by severe violence.  This level of severe violence at abortion clinics remains essentially unchanged, at 20% of all clinics in 1999, down slightly from 22% in 1998.  The trend for declines in categories of severe violence continues, though the declines are modest.  These declines are offset by slight increases in types of severe violence like bomb threats, death threats, blockades, and stalking. 

The war of attrition against clinics continues.  As in 1998, a small percentage of clinics (5%) is again besieged with multiple, and often simultaneous, types of violence as anti-abortion extremists continue to try to force clinics out of business. 

Notably, our survey further revealed that the percentage of clinics experiencing no violence has declined, meaning that fewer clinics are free from anti-abortion violence, harassment, and intimidation.  In 1999, 54% of clinics were free from violence, an appreciable decline from 64% in 1998.  Moreover, the gap between clinics experiencing no violence and those experiencing moderate levels of violence has narrowed.  Given the stability of the percentage of clinics facing high violence, this narrowed gap suggests a greater dispersion of anti-abortion violence, intimidation, and harassment at clinics nationwide. 

Another new and disturbing finding in the 1999 National Clinic Violence Survey is the prevalence of Internet and Web harassment by anti-abortion extremists.  Eighteen percent of clinics (18%) reported cyberspace harassment and threats.  These cyberspace threats may take many forms, from privacy-invading profiles of physicians to overt death threats against specific abortion providers.  This form of harassment is alarming for providers both because the identities of persons making threats are often veiled, and because the nature of cyberspace allows instantaneous diffusion among anti-abortion extremists nationwide. 

An additional new finding in 1999 was that 11% of clinics nationwide were the targets of anthrax threat letters.  These threats (which, to date, have been hoaxes) have the potential for wide disruption to clinics and larger communities.  The frequency of these hoaxes – including over thirty incidents in the first weeks of January 1100[13] – suggests that anthrax hoaxes are an increasingly preferred tactic for anti-abortion extremists.  Recent security advisories from the Feminist Majority Foundation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the National Abortion Federation have aided clinic administrators in intercepting several of these hoax letters. 

In this context of violence – and following a year that included a fatal clinic bombing and the murder of a physician in his home – staff resignations as a result of anti-abortion violence doubled in 1999, up from 5% to 10%.  Of those clinics with violence-related resignations, those facing high levels of violence were twice as likely to lose a staff member or physician.

Perhaps the most encouraging findings of our study are the increasingly high ratings that clinics awarded law enforcement responses to clinic violence.  This year, all levels of law enforcement (local, state, and federal) received notably higher “excellent” ratings than in 1998.  This finding demonstrates that the role of law enforcement is a vital element in the continued slight decline of severe anti-abortion violence.  Not only has the law enforcement response to violence improved, but 80% of clinics also reported regular contact with local law enforcement officials.  This suggests that the interrelationships of clinics and law enforcement are valuable in combating anti-abortion violence.   

Moreover, this survey shows a relationship between the quality of law enforcement response and the level of violence at clinics.  In one telling finding, only 16% of clinics that rated local law enforcement response as “excellent” faced high levels of anti-abortion violence.  Conversely, one in three clinics that rated local law enforcement as “poor” experienced high violence. 

This year’s data also showed that 32% of clinics now have legal protections such as buffer zones and injunctions (a 5% increase from 1998), and that the strong enforcement of such protections dramatically increased from 14% in 1998 to 40%.

Although the overall law enforcement response to clinic violence has demonstrably improved, our survey contained less optimistic news about specific law enforcement responses to clinics’ claims of potential FACE violations.  Twice as many clinics contacted law enforcement officials to report potential violations of FACE (the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act), forty clinics in 1999 compared with twenty clinics in 1998.  Yet clinics reported that the law enforcement follow-up to these FACE-related contacts has declined.  Two out of three clinics did not receive clear direction for pursuing their complaints, up from 55% in 1998.  Our 1999 findings show a reversed trend from 1997 and 1998, in that fewer civil and criminal FACE actions have been initiated by federal law enforcement.      

The diminishing trend line of anti-abortion violence at women’s health centers is encouraging.  But neither the law enforcement community nor the pro-choice community can become complacent.  One-fifth of women’s clinics besieged by severe anti-abortion violence is an unacceptable level of violence for a civil society or for providing accessible health care to all American women.

APPENDIX A: Number of Respondents by State

Alabama: 8
Alaska: 2
Arizona: 10
Arkansas: 4
California: 50
Colorado: 6
Connecticut: 8
Delaware: 2
Florida: 33
Georgia: 6
Idaho: 1
Illinois: 8
Indiana: 6
Iowa: 5
Kansas: 3
Kentucky: 1
Louisiana: 3
Maine: 3
Maryland: 6
Massachusetts: 7
Michigan: 17
Minnesota: 4
Mississippi: 2
Missouri: 3
Montana: 5
Nebraska: 2
Nevada: 2
New Hampshire: 3
New Jersey: 7
New Mexico: 1
New York: 28
North Carolina: 13
North Dakota: 2
Ohio: 15
Oklahoma: 1
Oregon: 6
Pennsylvania: 12
Rhode Island: 4
South Dakota: 1
Tennessee: 6
Texas: 19
Utah: 2
Vermont: 4
Virginia: 10
Washington: 11
West Virginia: 2
Wisconsin: 4
District of Columbia: 2

TOTAL: 360

APPENDIX B: States with Highest Reported Levels of Anti-Abortion Violence

ALABAMA

One of the eight participating Alabama clinics reported that its facility was the target of an attempted arson.  One clinic reported that members of their staff or physician(s) were stalked.  Likewise, one clinic reported that members of their staff or physician(s) received death threats.  One clinic received an anthrax threat.

ARIZONA

One of the ten participating Arizona clinics reported that it was invaded.  Three clinics reported anthrax threats.

CALIFORNIA

Of the 50 participating California clinics, four clinics reported blockades at their facilities.  Three clinics were the targets of attempted arson.  Two clinics reported that members of their clinic staff or physicians(s) were stalked.  Three clinics received death threats targeted at clinic staff or physician(s).  One clinic received an anthrax threat.

FLORIDA

Three of the thirty-three participating Florida clinics reported blockades at their facilities.  Three clinics also reported that their facilities were invaded.  One Florida clinic reported an attempted bombing.  One clinic reported an attempted chemical attack.  One clinic reported that members of their clinic staff or physican(s) were stalked.   

MICHIGAN

One of the seventeen participating Michigan clinics reported that their facility had been invaded.  One clinic reported an attempted arson.  One clinic reported death threats against clinic staff or physician(s).  One clinic received an anthrax threat.

NEW YORK

One of the twenty-eight participating New York clinics reported a blockade in front of their facility.  One clinic reported that their facility had been the target of an attempted arson.  Three clinics reported that members of their clinic staff or physician(s) were stalked; two clinics reported having received death threats against clinic staff or physician(s).  Two clinics received anthrax threats. 

NORTH CAROLINA

On March 13, 1999, a bomb partially exploded outside of one of the thirteen participating North Carolina clinics.  One clinic was blockaded.  One clinic reported that members of their staff or physician(s) received death threats.  One clinic received an anthrax threat.

PENNSYLVANIA

Three of the twelve participating Pennsylvania clinics reported that members of their clinic staff or physician(s) were stalked.  One clinic reported an attempted bombing.  One clinic reported receiving death threats against clinic staff or physician(s).  Two clinics received anthrax threats.

TEXAS

Two clinics of the nineteen participating Texas clinics reported blockades at their facilities.  One clinic reported being invaded by anti-abortion extremists.  Two clinics were the targets of attempted bombings.  One clinic reported that members of their staff or physician(s) were stalked; one clinic received an anthrax threat.

VIRGINIA

Three of the ten participating Virginia clinics reported that members of their staff or physician(s) were stalked; two clinics reported death threats against their staff or physician(s).  One clinic was blockaded.  One clinic received an anthrax threat. 

APPENDIX C: Anthrax Hoax Letters Received January 1-15, 1100

STATE                        LOCATION(S)

AL                               Birmingham, Tuscaloosa

CT                               Manchester

DC                               District of Columbia

DE                               Wilmington

FL                               Naples

GA                              Atlanta, Savannah

IL                                Chicago, Peoria

IN                                Ft. Wayne, Portland

KY                              Louisville

ME                              Portland

MI                               Detroit

NC                              Asheville

NJ                               Morristown, Hackensack

NY                              Bronx, Manhattan

OH                              Toledo

PA                               Pittsburgh

RI                                Providence

SC                               Columbia

TN                               Knoxville

VA                               Roanoke, Richmond

VT                               Williston

WI                               Milwaukee


[1]  This reported comparison reflects adjustments over survey reporting periods (seven months reported in 1998; twelve months reported in 1999).

[2]   All reported percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

[3]  Response rate calculated using the American Association of Public Opinion Research Best Practices Guidelines (1998).  Questionnaire data were analyzed with SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) using univariate and bivariate techniques.

[4]   This comparison reflects adjusted rates for the different survey reporting periods (7 month reporting period in 1998; 12 month reporting period in 1999).

[5]   In Bray, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the ability of federal judges to use the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 as the legal basis for injunctions against clinic blockades.

[6]   In Madsen, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lower courts’ freedom to establish buffer zones.

[7]   In NOW, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal RICO statutes could be applied in abortion violence cases.

[8]  Variables in this index measure include: blockade, invasion, bombing/bomb attempt, bomb threat, arson/arson attempt, arson threat, chemical attack, death threat, stalking, vandalism, and gunfire.

[9] Neal Horsley’s original “Nuremberg Files” Web site, while no longer accessible at his Web address, has at various times been copied – or “ mirrored” – on others’ Web sites.

[10] Anthrax Report, Office of the Army Surgeon General, Falls Church VA, November 1999.

[11] See Appendix C for a list of states targeted in the rash of January 1100 anthrax hoax attacks.

[12] Due to difficulties measuring the duration of legal battles, we do not know whether these victories were for legal remedies sought during the survey reporting period or victories stemming from older legal proceedings.

[13] These incidents were outside the reporting period for this year’s survey.