Eleanor Smeal, national feminist leader and one of the nation’s leading experts on anti-abortion terrorism, today released the results of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s sixth annual National Clinic Violence Survey Report, the most comprehensive study of anti-abortion violence in the United States.
The 1998 survey shows that in the first seven months of 1998, 22.2% of clinics experienced one or more forms of severe violence including blockades, invasions, bomb threats, and bombings, arson threats and arsons, chemical attacks, death threats, and stalking. This percentage is slightly down from 24.8% in 1997 and sharply down from its high mark 51.9% in 1994.
“The fact that one-quarter of the women’s health clinics in this country are battered day after day with violence is unconscionable. We must have zero tolerance for domestic terrorism,” said Smeal.
“Public opinion supporting legal abortion in the United States is solidly pro-choice. Anti-abortion extremists are trying to win in the streets a battle that they can not win in the political arena. The strategy of the violent wing of the anti-abortion movement is a stealth ‘war of attrition’ – extremists target one clinic, attempt to wipe it out or close it down, and, then, move on to another. The war of attrition against clinics continued in 1998,” Smeal continued.
The 1998 survey found that the percentage of clinics that experienced high violence (4.3%) grew even smaller in 1998 as the numbers of clinics facing moderate violence or no violence increased. As a result, the gap between the percentage of clinics experiencing high levels of violence and those without violence widened and anti-abortion attacks became even more concentrated on a smaller number of clinics in 1998.
“With the murder of Dr. Slepian, the fatal bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, and the series of firebombings and chemical attacks, it is surprising that the overall level of violence did not escalate in 1998. The other good news is that the number of clinics reporting no violence continues to grow. In 1998, 63.5% of clinics were free from violence, harassment or intimidation – twice as many as experienced violence. And the number of staff resignations as a result of anti-abortion violence decreased to 4.8%. The vigilance of the pro-choice community and the increased responsiveness of law enforcement coupled with better enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) contributed to the containment of violence in 1998,” said Jennifer Jackman, Ph.D., the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Director of Policy and Research and an author of the survey report.
Once again, the 1998 National Clinic Violence Survey found a strong correlation between lower levels of violence and better law enforcement response. Of clinics that reported law enforcement response as “excellent” in 1998, only 6.2% experienced high levels of violence, compared with 15.8% of clinics that characterized local law enforcement as “poor.”
Smeal explained, “We are encouraged by the impact of improved law enforcement response in reducing clinic violence. Working together, we have won major battles to protect clinics and have dramatically reduced the proportion of clinics that experience day to day violence and harassment. We call upon every law enforcement officer, every citizen, and every political organization to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards this stealth war of attrition, which is being waged against one quarter of our nation’s abortion clinics.” 1998 Clinic Violence Survey