METHODOLOGY & RESULTS
The Feminist Majority conducted a nationwide survey of anti-abortion violence that occurred during the first seven months of 1993. In August of 1993, surveys were mailed to 966 clinics in the United States. Follow-up calls were made to these clinics, and, in some cases, survey responses were obtained by phone. Surveys were completed by 281 clinics, producing a response rate of 29.1%. This survey represents one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted of anti-abortion violence directed at clinics, patients, and health care workers.
The sample of 281 clinics includes facilities in 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. (See Appendix for list of number of clinics per state.) The percentage of clinic practice devoted to abortion in these clinics ranges from under 5% to over 75%. Many of these clinics provide a wide range of gynecological and other health care services in addition to abortion.
Clinics responding to the survey were assured that their individual responses would remain confidential. Clinics are identified by name or state only if the incidents and consequences of the violence are a matter of public record or if the Feminist Majority was given permission to include the details of the incident in this report.
Of the clinics participating in the survey, 50.2% experienced severe anti-abortion violence in the first seven months of 1993. These violent acts included death threats, stamng, chemical attacks, arson, bomb threats, invasions, and blockades.
The violence has been extremely detrimental to the lives of health care workers and to the provision of health care services. Death threats and stawng have caused health care workers and patients to fear for their safety and their lives on a daily basis. The work of many clinics – which often includes low-cost prenatal care, birth control, infertility, and adoption as well as abortion services – has been disrupted regularly by blockades, chemical attacks and invasions. In some cases, anti-abortion violence has damaged clinic facilities or driven away clinic staff, forcing clinics to reduce their patient load and the wide range of services they provide. Other clinics have had to cease operation altogether after their facilities were destroyed by fire or bombings, leaving thousands of women without adequate health care services.
Anti-abortion violence has created a health care crisis that demands immediate federal intervention.
ANTI-ABORTION VIOLENCE IS PERVASIVE
Clinics and clinic personnel during the first seven months of 1993 have experienced some of the most severe forms of anti-abortion violence and intimidation. One provider in her survey stated, “Not a minute goes by that we are not vigilant and concerned about dangerous threats.”
Death threats were the most frequently reported form of anti-abortion violence. Of the clinics responding to the survey, 21% received death threats to clinic staff during the first seven months of 1993. 18.1% percent of clinics reported bomb threats. Blockades have been set up at 16% of clinics. Clinic personnel have been stalked at 14.9% of clinics. Invasions have occurred at 14.6% of the clinics. 10.3% of clinics experienced chemical attacks. Arson was reported at 1.8% of clinics.
Many clinics experienced an increase in anti-abortion violence after the murder of Dr. David Gunn. On the day Gunn was slain, one Florida clinic was called with the message: “One down – how many more?” That same day another clinic received three gun shots through its front panels.
Anti-abortion violence has threatened the lives and well-being of clinic personnel. One physician has received five different death threats in person or through the mail. Another clinic reported that three rounds of gunfire were shot through the front window of the home of a physician and his family while they were at home. Clinic staff and their families and friends have been stalked as they travel to their work, homes, churches, malls, and grocery stores. In at least two facilities, staff have suffered long-term disability due to respiratory problems from the caustic butyric acid used.
Tactics of intimidation and violence are directed not only at abortion providers and women seeking abortions, but also at the children of clinic staff, volunteer escorts, vendors, landlords, and fellow tenants where clinics are located. One clinic reported that an anti-abortion extremist said someone should kill the clinic director’s daughter so “she can see how it feels.” In Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, a landlord broke a lease with The Women’s Clinic after he and his family received threats from anti-abortion extremists. In court, the landlord’s wife testified to receiving threatening calls: “[The callers said] ‘You’re killing our children. [So] we’re going after your children.’ They threatened our life and the life of my children … It was just very frightening.” Another clinic reported that a locksmith received death threats and threats to destroy his business after he repaired locks into which glue had been poured by anti-abortion extremists.
Security costs for clinics are escalating. Clinics are spending thousands of dollars annually for guards, electronic security systems, private investigators, razor wire on rooftops, alarms, bullet proof jackets, and other security devices. Some clinics have been forced to search all patients’ belongings as they enter the clinics because anti-abortion extremists carrying weapons have masqueraded as patients. Hours before she shot Dr. George Tiller, Shelley Shannon entered the Women’s Health Care Services clinic in Wichita, Kansas. With a handgun concealed in her purse, Shannon spoke with clinic staff, made an appointment to have an abortion, and walked around the facility.
HOW CLINICS ARE AFFECTED
Clinics and Health Care Workers Face Multiple Incidents of Violence
Many clinics and clinic staff who responded to the survey experienced multiple forms of violence. One in four clinics (26.7%) faced two or more types of violence. Of the clinics responding to the survey, 13.2% experienced two types of violence. 8.9% of clinics contended with three types of violence. 4.6% of clinics have confronted four or more types of violence.
Violent activities directed at clinics and health care workers often occurred in combination. The use of multiple strategies of violence and intimidation by anti-abortion extremsts made threats on the lives of clinic personnel appear even more viable. Of the clinics that reported death threats, 37.3% received bomb threats, 32.2% also experienced stalking, 33.9% faced blockades, 27.1% experienced invasions, and 25.4% had chemical attacks.
Clinics Lose Staff in Climate of Fear
This ongoing violence and harassment have taken their toll on both clinic staff and clinic patients. Clinics have lost employees as a result of this violence. At 64 clinics — almost one- fourth of the clinics in the survey — a staff member had quit as a result of anti-abortion incidents. In one-third (34.4%) of these clinics, the staff member who resigned was a physician.
One-half (50%) of the clinics from which a staff member quit reported having difficulties in locating a replacement. Those clinics experiencing multiple types of violence had the greatest difficulty in finding replacements for staff members who quit.
93.6% of Clinics Provide Other Health Services That Also Are Threatened
Anti-abortion violence not only has curbed access to abortion, but also has prevented patients, particularly low-income women and their families, from receiving a wide range of health care services.
Of the clinics surveyed, 93.6% offered other services in addition to abortion. These services included birth control (91.8%), menopausal treatment (40.2%), PMS treatment (38.1%), tubal legations (33.1%), prenatal care (24.6%), infertility (24.2%), adoption (23.5%), and vasectomies (16.4%). Most clinics also provide cancer screening.
Poor women who depend on these clinics for their health care needs have been the primary casualties of anti-abortion violence. The Blue Mountain Clinic in Montana, which was destroyed by arson in March, provided prenatal care and delivery, childhood immunizations, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and contraceptive services. Medicaid recipients comprised 70% of participants in the clinic’s prenatal program.
In August, The Women’s Clinic in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida lost its lease after 10 years at the same location as a result of continued anti-abortion demonstrations, vandalism and extreme harassment. The Women’s Clinic provides a wide range of low-cost health care services to a patient load that is approximately 40% poor minority women, 25% of whom are Haitians. It is the only facility that will accept patients who have tested HIV positive. In court, an official from Florida’s Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services testified that The Women’s Clinic was the only facility to which the Department could refer patients for low cost bilateral tubal legations and vasectomies.
The Women’s Clinic located new space, but on the day it was to move in, the new landlord refused to allow the clinic to take occupancy, citing death threats by anti-abortion extremists against his family. Attorneys worked to secure a temporary restraining order to compel specific performance on the lease agreement, but the judge denied the emergency motion and the clinic is now awaiting a trial date in court. With Emergency Clinic Survival Assistance from the Feminist Majority, The Women’s Clinic has been able to find other temporary space and is again providing health care services to the women of Ft. Lauderdale.
ANTI-ABORTION VIOLENCE IS NATIONWIDE
The survey found that anti-abortion violence is prevalent throughout the country. Clinics and health care workers in California, Texas, Michigan, Florida, Montana, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois were among those that faced the most acute violence. Anti-abortion violence has been especially devastating in small states and in rural states, where there are limited abortion facilities and women have to travel long distances to obtain abortion services. The following are state profiles of anti-abortion violence as reported in this .urvey during the first seven months of 1993:
In California, five of the thirty-four clinics in the survey reported death threats to staff during the first seven months of 1993. Five clinics had experienced the stalking of health care workers. Five clinics had faced chemical attacks. Four clinics had been disrupted by blockades and three by invasions. Four clinics had experienced bomb threats.
Four of the twenty-one Texas clinics had staff members who had been threatened with death. In two clinics, staff were stalked. Seven clinics were threatened with bombings. Six clinics were blockaded. Four clinics were invaded. Three clinics had chemical attacks. One clinic in Corpus Christi was burned to the ground.
In Michigan, four of the thirteen clinics reported death threats. Five clinics were invaded. Four clinics faced chemical attacks. Clinic staff were stalked at three clinics. A blockade was held at one clinic. One clinic was the victim of attempted arson. Three clinics received bomb threats.
Of the thirteen clinics in Florida, four have staff who received death threats and five have staff who have been stalked. Three clinics experienced bomb threats, while two clinics had invasions and two clinics were the victims of chemical attacks. One clinic was blockaded. One clinic, not able to respond to the survey, was totally destroyed by arson. Dr. David Gunn was murdered at a Pensacola clinic in March. The doctor who owned the clinic and served as Gunn’s replacement after the murder was himself murdered in August in Alabama.
Four of the twenty-two clinics located in New York received bomb threats during the first seven months of 1992. Clinic staff at one clinic received a death threat, and staff at another clinic were stalked. One clinic was blockaded. One clinic experienced arson.
Four clinics from Montana participated in the survey. Of these clinics, two had staff who received death threats and two had staff who were stalked. One clinic was blockaded. One clinic received a bomb threat and one was burned down by arsonists.
Of the six clinics that responded to the survey in Massachusetts, three received bomb threats and one clinic received a death threat. One clinic was blockaded. One clinic was invaded. There was an arson attempt at one clinic.
Ten clinics in Illinois completed the survey. Of these clinics, three experienced blockades and four experienced invasions. Three clinics had chemical attacks. One clinic received a bomb threat. Staff at one clinic received a death threat. One clinic had personnel who were stalked.
LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT INADEQUATE: FEDERAL REMEDIES NECESSARY
Since response from local law enforcement officials has been inadequate in many communities and even hostile in some, over one-third (35.9%) of clinics have been forced to ask the courts to intercede to protect patients, clinics, and health care workers. 20.3% of the clinics sought restraining orders. 14.9% of the clinics in the survey tried to obtain temporary injunctions, while 23.1% sought permanent injunctions against anti-abortion violence.
In some cases, however, these remedies were not granted. Of the 101 clinics seeking legal remedies, 23.8% did not succeed in obtaining the protection sought. Of the 57 clinics seeking restraining orders, 36.8% did not win those orders. 19% of the 42 clinics that sought temporary injunctions did not obtain those injunctions. Of the 65 clinics seeking permanent injunctions, 36.9% were not granted this legal remedy.
Even clinics that did obtain restraining orders or injunctions continued to be besieged with anti-abortion violence. Clinics frequently reported that local law enforcement is lax in enforcing hard-won injunctions. Often violations for participating in blockades and other severely disruptive activities have been treated as nothing more than mere traffic infractions. In many locales, law enforcement has been so inadequate that clinic personnel have not even reported death threats or vandalism. The clinic-by-clinic, jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction approach to curbing anti-abortion violence has been both costly and ineffective.
Moreover, anti-abortion violence is often beyond the reach of local enforcement. Anti-abortion extremists travel across state lines to attack clinics and clinic personnel. Many clinics located in remote areas such as North Dakota depend on physicians who travel great distances, crossing county and state lines. These physicians sometimes were stalked as they traveled from state to state. Local law enforcement officials have been powerless to contend with these violent acts outside of their jurisdictions.
Overwhelmed by the strain that anti-abortion violence has placed on local law enforcement, some city officials have called for help from the federal government. In testimony before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Falls Church (Virginia) City Manager David Lasso described the problems his community has faced since the Supreme Court’s Bray decision overturned a federal court injunction against Operation Rescue:
It was not until the federal district court in the Bray litigation issued an injunction against Operation Rescue that the blockades in Falls Church stopped. Federal intervention made all the difference in ending the massive blockades … But, as you know, the Supreme Court ruled in January that the federal law on which the injunction was mainly based is inapplicable to anti-abortion conduct. As a result of that decision, federal help is no longer available to stop this military-style assault. In Virginia, other than misdemeanor penalties, localities now have no effective means to prevent blockades that are planned out of Virginia and are beyond the reach of Virginia law. For that reason, it is urgent that new federal legislation be passed.
CONCLUSION: Abortion Denied Threatens Women’s Lives
By destroying clinics and impeding access to clinic facilities, these tactics of violence and intimidation threaten the lives of women seeking abortions. In Bakersfield, California, a clinic was totally destroyed by an early morning blaze on September 20. The Bakersfield clinic was the only facility that provided abortions in this poor Central California region north of Los Angeles. The county has the highest teenage pregnancy rate for 10-to-14-year-olds in California. One young woman, already raising a child, was asked by a Los Angeles Times reporter whether she would consider abortion even though no other clinic or doctor’s office in Bakersfield performed abortions. The woman responded: “Of course I will. If I can’t get one, I’ll try to do it myself.”
APPENDIX A: Clinics Responding to Survey State-By-State
New Hampshire: 2
New Jersey: 9
New Mexico: 5
New York: 20
North Carolina: 11
North Dakota: 1
Rhode Island: 3
South Carolina: 4
South Dakota: 1
Puerto Rico: 1