For the fourth consecutive year, the Feminist Majority Foundation conducted a nationwide survey of anti-abortion violence in the United States. The survey requested information from clinics on anti-abortion violence occurring in the first seven months of 1996. In September of 1996, surveys were mailed to 912 clinics in the United States. Follow-up phone calls were made to clinics in October and November. Surveys were completed by 312 clinics, producing a response rate of 34.2%. Data were analyzed using SPSS-X (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) uni-variate and bi-variate statistical techniques. This annual survey represents one of the most comprehensive quantitative studies of anti-abortion violence directed at clinics, patients, and health care workers.
The sample of 312 clinics includes facilities in 45 states and the District of Columbia. (See Appendix A for list of number of clinics per state participating in the survey.) Of the clinics responding to the survey, 28.8% were non-profit, 42% were for-profit and 27.6% were private doctors offices. Abortions comprised more than 50% of their practices for 66.1% of clinics, and more than 75% of practices for 54.2% of clinics. Clinics were members of the National Abortion Federation, National Coalition of Abortion Providers, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Family Planning Associates, and National Women’s Health Organization as well as 28.8% which were unaffiliated with any national organization.
Ninety-five percent of clinics provided other women’s health services in addition to abortion. These services included birth control (95.8%), emergency contraception/morning after pill (68.6%), cancer screening (63.5%), AIDS testing (54.5%), STD testing/treatment (77.9%), tubal sterilization (32.7%), vasectomies (16.7%), reproductive health counseling (82.1%), pregnancy counseling (87.5%), PMS treatment (51.6%), menopause treatment (57.1%), adoption/referrals (18.9%), infertility treatment (22.4%), donor insemination (8%), and prenatal services (24%). Other services offered by clinics included routine gynecological services, general surgery, social services for pregnant and parenting teens, community education, substance abuse counseling and free yearly mammograms.
Clinics were assured that their individual responses to the survey would remain confidential. Clinics are identified by name and state only if the incidents and consequences of the violence are a matter of public record or if the Feminist Majority Foundation received permission to include the details of the incident in this 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.
Severe Violence Still Plagues Almost One-Third of Clinics; Rate of Decline in Violence Slows
Two years after the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the creation of buffer zones around women’s health care clinics, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s 1996 National Clinic Survey found that almost one third of clinics (27.6%) reported one or more types of severe violence. This finding documents a decline in the level of clinic violence from 38.6% in 1995 to 27.6%.
The rate of decline in violence, however, has slowed. Between 1995 and 1996, the percentage of clinics reporting severe violence dropped by only 11.0 points, compared with a 13.3% drop in violence between 1994 and 1995. (See Chart 1.)
Chart 1. Clinics Experiencing One or More Types of Anti-Abortion Violence, 1993-1996
The types of severe violence measured by our survey included blockades, invasions, bomb threats and bombings, arson threats and arsons, chemical attacks, death threats, and stalking. These violence types are actionable under FACE prohibitions against violence, threats of violence, and obstruction directed against clinics and clinic personnel as well as a variety of local, state, and federal laws.
Of all clinics surveyed, 18.9% experienced one type of serious violence, 6.4% faced two types of violence, and 1.0% reported 3 types of violence. The 1996 results show a slight increase since 1995 in the percentage of clinics experiencing four or more types of violence: 1.3% of clinics reported four or more types of violence in 1996, compared with .9% in 1995. (See Chart 2.)
Clinics with free-standing facilities and for-profit clinics were over-represented in the sub-sample of 92 clinics experiencing severe violence. Of clinics experiencing severe violence, 65.1% were free-standing, compared with 56.4% of surveyed clinics overall which are free-standing facilities. More of the violence-afflicted clinics were for-profits than in the overall clinic survey sample. Of the group of clinics which reported at least one type of violence, 24.4% were non-profits, 52.3% were for-profits, and 22.1% are private doctors’ offices. Of all the clinics responding to the survey, 28.8% were non-profit, 42% were for-profit and 27.6% were private doctors’ offices. Clinics targeted for anti-abortion violence also tended to devote a larger percentage of their practice to abortion. Of the clinics which told us they were experiencing violence, 62.8% said abortions comprised more than 75% of their practice, compared with 54.2% in the overall clinic sample.
Violence against clinics was found nationwide. The twelve states in which the survey revealed especially severe violence were Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. (See Appendix B for State-By-State Analysis for Clinics in the Twelve States Experiencing the Highest Level of Violence.)
For the third year, our survey measured additional forms of violence, harassment and intimidation occurring at clinics. When gunfire, home picketing, and vandalism are combined with the other violence variables, the percentage of clinics reporting harassment, intimidation or violence grows to 44.89%. These reports represent a decrease of 10 points from 55.8% in 1995 and of 21.8 points from 66.7 % in 1994. Of the clinics, 25.6% experienced one form of violence, harassment, or intimidation, 12.2% experienced two types, 4.2% three types, and 2.9% experienced four or more types.
Collapsing these twelve violence, harassment and intimidation variables into three levels of violence further reveals the decrease in violence in 1996. Whereas 22.2% of clinics in 1994 reported experiencing a high level of violence (3 or more types), this percentage decreased to 14.2% in 1995 and was almost cut in half again to 7.1% in 1996. A similar decrease occurred for clinics reporting moderate levels of violence (1 or 2 types). In 1994, 44.5% of clinics reported a moderate level of violence; the percentage decreased to 41.6% in 1995 and to 37.8% in 1996. More than half of respondents reported experiencing no violence in 1996 (55.1%) compared to 44.2% in 1995 and 33.3% in 1994.
Violence Directed at Clinic Facilities Increases At Same Time Death Threats, Stalking, and Home Picketing Decrease
Some of the most severe forms of anti-abortion violence such as death threats and stalking decreased during the first seven months of 1996, but these decreases were countered by surprising increases in the percentage of clinics reporting bombings, chemical attacks, and arson threats.
The survey revealed continued declines in death threats, bomb threats, stalking, home picketing, and vandalism. Death threats experienced the largest decline — from 17.1% in 1995 to 7.1% in 1996. Home picketing decreased from 20.3% in 1995 to 14.1% in 1996. Stalking went from 10.6% in 1995 to 7.4% in 1996. Bomb threats were down from 14.5% to 9.3%.
In addition, vandalism, which remained the most highly reported type of anti-abortion violence, decreased from 24.8% in 1995 to 21.8% in 1996. Acts of vandalism included glue in door locks (5.8%), nails in clinic driveways or parking lots (2.9%), paint on buildings (8%), broken windows (7.4%), graffiti (9%), and tampering with phone lines (6.1%). Other forms of vandalism experienced in the past year by responding clinics included scattered trash, destruction of property and landscaping, theft of security devices, and objects such as sand, rosaries, or dead animals discarded at clinic doors.
At the same time, 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. Arson threats rose very slightly from 1.6% to 1.9%. (See Chart 3.)
Chart 3. Violence By Type During the First Seven Months of 1996.
In addition, for the first year in the history of our annual survey, the percentage of clinics reporting blockades did not decrease significantly. The steady three-year decline in blockades essentially erached a plateau in 1996. In 1996, 6.7% of clinics reported blockades, compared with 6.5% in 1995. In 1995, blockades had dropped 5.6 points from 12.1% in 1994 and 9.5 points from 16% in 1993. Invasions declined from 5.8% in 1995 to 4.5% in 1996. Invasions occurred at 10.5% of clinics in 1994 and 14.6% of clinics in 1993.
The combination of the activities of abortion rights advocates, FACE, and buffer zones continued to keep the use of blockades and invasions at low levels. Several clinics commented directly on the value of FACE in combatting blockades, drawing a connection between the passage of the Act and a drop in the use of blockades by anti-abortion protesters. One clinic administrator said, “We continue to have protesters every weekend. However, since the passage of FACE they have not attempted any blockades.” Clinics also have pointed to support from abortion rights forces within their communities as an effective deterrent to harassment. Staff from another clinic wrote, “The terrific show of support from [our community] during the ACLA visit has humbled and frightened many protesters. We are fortunate.”
Chart 4 illustrates the patterns of decline in various types of anti-abortion violence over the past three years, based on our annual surveys.
In another measure of change in levels of anti-abortion violence, clinics were asked to compare the prevalence of each type of violence in 1996 with its occurrence at the clinic in 1995. For the second consecutive year, more clinics reported decreases than increases in every category of violence. Chart 5 shows increases and decreases by violence type in 1996, compared with 1995.
Clinics cited increases in vandalism (6.1%) and home picketing (4.8%) most frequently. The decreases most often cited were in bomb threats/bombings (16%), home picketing (15.4%), and blockades (15.4%). The smallest net decreases were in stalking and vandalism. The largest net decreases were in death threats, blockades, home picketing and bomb threats/bombings.
Clinic Staff Resignations Decline Substantially; Resignations Correlate with Law Enforcement Response
In the first seven months of 1996, far fewer clinic staff members quit as a result of anti-abortion violence than in 1995. Only 3.8% of clinics reported staff resignations related to anti-abortion violence and harassment. This finding identifies a major decline from 1994 and 1995 when approximately one in ten clinics experienced staff resignations as a result of anti-abortion violence and 1993 when one-fourth of clinics said they had lost staff members because of fear of violence.
Of the 13 clinics which incurred staff resignations as a result of anti-abortion violence, 3 lost physicians, 2 lost nurses, 3 lost administrators, 3 lost counselors, and 1 lost a lab technician.
Clinic staff resignations correlated with law enforcement response. Of clinics which reported a “poor” response from local law enforcement officials, 19% said they had lost a staff member. Only 6% of clinics which characterized local law enforcement response as “good” reported staff resignations related to violence; only 1.9% of clinics describing local law enforcement response as “excellent” lost staff.
This pattern also was evident for state and federal law enforcement response. Twenty percent of clinics reporting “poor” state law enforcement response lost staff, compared with 1.9% of clinics that termed state response as “good” and 2.4% that said state response was “excellent.” Staff members quit at 20% of clinics that experienced “poor” federal law enforcement response, while only 3.4% of clinics that said federal response was “good” and 1.9% that termed federal response “excellent” lost staff.
Reports of FACE Violations Decrease As FACE Enforcement Improves
The 1996 Clinic Survey found that a significant decrease in reported violations of Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) accompanied substantial improvements in enforcement of the law. The percentage of clinics reporting FACE violations to federal law enforcement officials declined from 20% in 1995 to 7.7% during the first seven months of 1996. Unlike the first year of FACE enforcement when clinics received little instruction and little follow-up from federal officials, clinic FACE violation reports in 1996 were treated seriously by federal officials.
The survey shows that in 1996 federal officials provided clearer information to clinics on how to initiate FACE claims than they did in 1995. Of the 24 clinics reporting FACE violations to federal law enforcement officials in 1996, 41.7% of clinics were provided with clear directions for initiating a FACE complaint. In 1995, only 16.1% of clinics said they were told how to initiate FACE complaints. (See Chart 6.)
Chart 6. Federal Law Enforcement Response to Clinic FACE Violation Reports, 1995-1996.
Federal officials also were more likely to act on FACE reports in 1996. Almost one third of clinics (29.2%) said federal officials had interviewed parties in response to the clinics’ reports of FACE violations; only 12.9% of clinics reporting FACE violations in 1995 said officials had taken this step. Twenty-five percent of the clinics said that investigations were opened in response to their FACE violation reports in 1996, compared with only 14.5% of clinics reporting FACE violations in 1995.
Yet, in both 1996 and 1995, the percentage of clinics whose FACE violation reports actually resulted in criminal FACE action was virtually the same: 8.3% in 1996 and 8.1% in 1995. In 1996, civil FACE actions were initiated for 12.5% of the clinics. In 1995, civil action was pursued for only 4.8% of clinics reporting FACE violations.
Only 8.3% of the 24 clinics were advised that federal authorities would not prosecute, while 19.4% of clinics reporting FACE violations in 1995 were given this response. Half of the clinics which reported FACE violations were referred to local authorities to handle the complaints under municipal or state law, which is down slightly from 1995 when 54.8% of clinics reporting FACE violations were told to seek assistance from local officials.
While federal authorities pursued clinic concerns with FACE violations far more vigorously in 1996 than in 1995, few clinics won the civil or criminal redress they sought against anti-abortion extremists. Six of the 312 clinics surveyed sought civil FACE remedies during the first seven months of 1996. Five of these clinics sought civil injunctions, and two sought civil damages. Three clinics won the civil injunctions they sought, but neither of the two clinics seeking civil damages won these awards. Eighteen clinics urged law enforcement officials to file criminal charges under FACE. Only two clinics reported that criminal charges had been filed. In both cases, the charges resulted in convictions.
Clinics stressed the importance of among local, state, and federal law enforcement officials and clinics about FACE. One clinic administrator, who stressed the need for meetings between clinics and all levels of law enforcement, said, “When FACE was passed, the Justice Department convened a reproductive rights task force in [our community], with 20 some law enforcement folks and the clinic heads. Local law enforcement were told they would operate under the direction of federal marshals if there was a problem at clinics this established the ‘chain of command’ and since that time the Marshals and the FBI have been very available to us.” Clinics in areas where law enforcement and clinics had not developed ongoing relationships were especially frustrated with law enforcement response to FACE violations.
Enacted in May of 1994, FACE makes anti-abortion violence a federal crime. The Act provides federal jurisdiction and enacts specific federal penalties, including felony offenses and civil fines, for those convicted of using force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction against patients, health care workers, and clinics.
Court after court has continued to uphold FACE, further emboldening enforcement efforts. In 1995 and 1996, FACE was upheld in three challenges at the federal appeals court level. In October of 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively upheld FACE again by refusing to hear or comment on a Wisconsin challenge to FACE that had been overturned in federal appeals court.
Local, State, and Federal Law Enforcement Response Diminished
Despite the increased responsiveness of federal officials to FACE violations, the 1996 Clinic Survey found clinics generally were less satisfied with local, state, and federal law enforcement response to clinic violence than they had been in 1995. Moreover, the data suggest that clinics may have had less interaction with all levels of law enforcement than they did in 1995.
Local law enforcement received the highest marks from clinics, but also experienced the largest decline of the three law enforcement levels in “excellent” ratings. Of the clinics in the survey, 34.6% reported “excellent” local law enforcement response to clinic violence, with 32.1% calling local law enforcement response “good,” and 6.5% reporting “poor” response. But clinics were less pleased with the response of local officials than in 1995. In 1995, 43.9% of clinics characterized local law enforcement response as “excellent,” 32.3% as “good,” and 8.7% as “poor.”
Clinic ratings of federal law enforcement response also showed a decline from 1995. In 1996, 16.7% of clinics reported federal law enforcement response had been “excellent,” with 18.9% describing federal response as “good” and 6.7% saying response was “poor.” Of the clinics surveyed in 1995, 20.3% reported “excellent” federal response, “31% “good,” and 12.9% “poor.”
State law enforcement officials continued to receive the lowest grades from clinics. State law enforcement response was described as “excellent” by only 13.5% of clinics, “good” by 17.0%, and “poor” by 4.8%. In 1995, 15.5% of clinics said state response was “excellent,” 24.5% “good,” and 8.1% “poor.”
The decline in clinic characterizations of local, state, and federal government as “excellent” in part can be attributed to decreased interaction with these officials. At each level of law enforcement, descriptions of law enforcement response as “poor” did not increase. Instead, the percentage of clinics who were unable to describe local, state, and federal response to violence rose, suggesting a lack of interaction with respective law enforcement officials. Of the clinics surveyed in 1996, 26.6% responded “don’t know” to questions about local law enforcement response; 64.7% of clinics were unsure about state law enforcement response, and 58.0% did not know about federal law enforcement response. The percentage of clinics indicating “don’t know” in 1995 was 15% for local law enforcement response, 51.9% for state law enforcement response, and 35.8% for federal law enforcement response.
To further gauge changes in law enforcement response over time, respondents also were asked to compare law enforcement response at their clinics in 1996 with 1995 response levels. Using this measurement, the majority of clinics felt that the response of law enforcement on all levels had remained the same. Of the clinics surveyed, 66% felt local law enforcement response had “remained the same” since 1995, with 55.8% saying federal law enforcement response had not changed and 56.1% reporting no change in state law enforcement response. Survey respondents reported that the most improvement in law enforcement response had occurred at the local level. Of the clinics, 11.9% said local law enforcement response had “improved,” compared with 8.7% of clinics which reported federal law enforcement had improved and 6.4% which credited state law enforcement with improved response.
In another important measure of law enforcement response, the clinic survey revealed a slight increase in arrests for anti-abortion violence. Of the clinics surveyed, 15.7% (49) reported arrests made as a result of violence committed at clinics. Of the 49 clinics, 39 clinics reported arrests for misdemeanor offenses, 4 for felony offenses, and 6 for both misdemeanors and felonies. This arrest rate represents a slight increase from 1995, when 13.8% of clinics reported arrests for violence at clinics.
Ten clinics reported arrests as a result of violent acts committed at locations away from clinic facilities. Misdemeanor arrests were reported by eight of these clinics, and combined misdemeanor and felony arrests by 2 clinics.
At the same time that arrests increased slightly, the percentage of clinics reporting that charges had been filed after the arrests decreased. Of the clinics reporting misdemeanor arrests for violence at clinics, 25.6% said charges were filed in all cases and another 5.1% in some, but not all cases. In 1995, 33.3% of clinics that reported misdemeanor arrests for violence at clinics said charges had been filed. Of those clinics reporting misdemeanor arrests for violence at other locations, 42.9% told us the arrests had resulted in charges in all cases and another 14.3% in some, but not all cases. Felony arrests for violence at clinic facilities resulted in charges being filed. Of the clinics which reported combined felony and misdemeanor arrests, 66.7% said charges had been filed for violence at clinics in all cases, with another 16.7% in some, but not all cases. The two clinics which reported arrests for combined misdemeanor and felony offenses for violence away from the clinics said charges had been filed in all cases.
Law Enforcement Response Related to Violence Levels
The 1996 Clinic Survey clearly shows that levels of violence correlated with law enforcement responsiveness. This relationship holds for all levels of law enforcement. Only 6.5% of clinics reporting “excellent” local law enforcement response experienced high levels of violence during the first seven months of 1996, compared with 38.1% of clinics which reported “poor” local law enforcement response. Of those clinics describing state law enforcement response as “poor,” 40% reported high levels of violence, while only 4.8% of clinics who said state response was “excellent” faced high levels of violence. Twenty-five percent of clinics which said federal law enforcement response was “poor” experienced high levels of violence; only 7.5% of clinics which characterized federal law enforcement response as “excellent” reported high violence levels.
Specific types of violence also correlated with local, state, and federal law enforcement response. Statistically significant relationships at the p<.05 level were found between federal law enforcement response and stalking, vandalism, arson and arson threats, and clinic invasions. Death threats, stalking, and home picketing had statistically significant relationships with state law enforcement response. Local law enforcement response correlated at significant levels with death threats, stalking, home picketing, and vandalism.
The qualitative responses to the survey flesh out the connection between local law enforcement and violence and harassment experienced by clinics. One respondent writes; “Operation Rescue did target our clinic in June 1996. We had the support of local law enforcement. No problems occurred besides the usual shouting and harassment and picketing.” Another clinic administrator wrote throughout the survey of the difficulties they have had in securing adequate law enforcement response to harassment and violence, explaining “Arrests on the local level are never made one protester is related to an officer on the force.”
Buffer Zones Reduce Clinic Violence
According to the 1996 Clinic Survey, approximately one-third (99) of all clinics were protected by buffer zones. In 1996, 17.9% (56) of clinics overall were protected by court-ordered buffer zones, while 17.6% (55) had buffer zone ordinances. Twelve clinics were protected by both judicial and municipal buffer zones.
Buffer zones have made a significant difference in the drive to end anti-abortion violence. Overall, clinics protected by buffer zones reported far larger decreases in every type of violence than clinics without buffer zones. Of the clinics with buffer zones, 23.2% said death threats had decreased at their clinics since 1995, compared with only 10.4% of clinics without buffer zones. Of clinics with buffer zones, 21.2% reported decreases in invasions, while only 6.1% of clinics without buffer zones reported invasions had decreased. Of clinics with buffer zones, 23.2% said blockades had decreased at their clinics since 1995, compared with only 15.4% of clinics without buffer zones.
The constitutionality of abortion clinic buffer zones, upheld in Madsen v. Women’s Choices in 1994, will be reconsidered again by the U.S. Supreme Court in Schenk v. Pro-choice Network. In October of 1996, the Supreme Court heard arguments in an anti-abortion challenge to a court-issued injunction creating a buffer zone 15 feet in front of abortion clinic entrances in Buffalo and Rochester.
Less Than Half of Clinics Won Legal Remedies Sought
During the first seven months of 1996, one in ten clinics (10.9%) 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 sought legal remedies.
Less than half (41.2%) of the clinics which sought legal remedies actually won protections. The percentage of clinics obtaining restraining orders continued to decline. Only 6 of the 13 clinics seeking restraining orders in 1996 won. In 1995, 46.2% of clinics won the restraining orders that they sought; 62.5% of clinics obtained desired restraining orders in 1994.
Only one of the three clinics seeking a temporary injunction in 1996 obtained it, which represents a lower rate of success than in 1994 and 1995. Of the five clinics who sought a permanent injunction in 1996, 60% (3) were successful. In 1995, 72.2% of clinics won the permanent injunctions for which they filed. Only 27.8% of clinics in 1994 won the permanent injunctions that they had requested.
Some clinics noted their disappointment in legal protections. A clinic administrator commented, “While visible anti activities have diminished, behind the scenes (covert) has continued. The lack of conviction for contempt of court has all but vacated the injunction.”
Clinics Enthusiastic About Medical Abortion; Mifepristone First Choice, Methotrexate Second Choice
Abortion rights advocates have long contended that by increasing the number of abortion providers and decentralizing the provision of abortion services the availability of medical abortion in the United States will diminish anti-abortion tactics of violence, intimidation, and harassment directed at clinics and clinic personnel. As mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486) moves closer and closer to U.S. introduction, clinics in the survey expressed strong interest in making the medical method of early abortion available to their patients. Over two-thirds (69.9%) of clinics said they were interested in providing mifepristone at their medical facility. Of the clinics in the survey, only 6.7% stated they were not interested in mifepristone; 23.7% did not know whether or not they would be interested in administering mifepristone.
Methotrexate is clearly the second choice for clinics as a method of medical abortion. Over half of clinics (54.2%) said they were interested in providing methotrexate. Almost all clinics (93.5%) interested in methotrexate also wanted to provide mifepristone; the remaining 6.5% of clinics were undecided about mifepristone. In contrast, only 72.8% of clinics interested in mifepristone also were interested in methotrexate.
Non-profit clinics were more interested in the provision of medical abortion than for-profit clinics or private doctors’ offices. Of the non-profit clinics, 84.4% were interested in administering mifepristone, compared with 62.6% of for-profit clinics and 66.3% of private doctors’ offices. Methotrexate was of interest to 78.9% of non-profit clinics, 39.7% of clinics and 53.5% of private doctors’ offices.
Almost one-third of abortion clinics remain under attack from anti-abortion extremists. Unacceptably high levels of violence continue at abortion clinics, putting clinic personnel, patients, abortion rights in peril. For the first time since 1994, reports of some types of violence directed at clinic facilities increased. Bombings and chemical attacks arson threats were up in 1996. Moreover, the rate of decline in overall levels of violence and in specific types of violence has slowed.
Pro-choice vigilance, increased security measures at clinics, and improvements in law enforcement, however, have reduced anti-abortion violence at women’s health clinics for the second consecutive year. Violence directed at clinic personnel such as death threats and stalking dropped significantly to far lower levels than in recent years. Fewer clinics reported that staff had resigned as a result of the violence. Clinics also are looking forward to being able to introduce new medical technologies to women which may diminish anti-abortion violence; over two-thirds of clinics are interested in providing mifepristone to their patients.
A major finding of our survey in 1996 as well as in 1995 is an empirically compelling correlation between law enforcement response and clinic violence: the better law enforcement response, the less violence. The survey also documents that buffer zones are a key strategy for reducing clinic violence. Clinics with buffer zones experienced far more dramatic declines in all types of violence compared with clinics that did not enjoy buffer zone protection.
Clinics in 1996 noted vast improvements in enforcement of the Freedom of Clinic Entrances Act. Clinic reports of FACE violations are now being treated more seriously. More clinics reported that investigations had been opened and parties interviewed as a result of complaints than in 1995. The deterrent effect of increased enforcement of FACE may in fact be the reason for the decline in clinic FACE violation reports in 1996.
However, despite enhanced FACE enforcement, much room for improvement remains at all levels of law enforcement. While few clinics reported a decline in law enforcement response, few noted improvements. In addition, clinics experienced difficulties securing legal remedies such as restraining orders and injunctions from the courts. More vigorous law enforcement activity at local, state, and federal levels is necessary in order to reduce the current intolerable level of violence that still plagues almost one-third of clinics.
New Hampshire: 3
New Jersey: 8
New Mexico: 3
New York: 24
North Carolina: 8
Rhode Island: 2
South Carolina: 1
West Virginia: 1
State-By-State Analysis For Twelve States With the Highest Levels of Anti-Abortion Violence During the First Seven Months of 1995
Eight of the ten participating clinics from Arizona experienced moderate to high levels of violence. One clinic was invaded. Two out of the ten clinics received bomb threats. One was the victim of a chemical attack. Six clinics were vandalized. Two clinics reported that staff had been picketed at home. Two clinics reported staff being stalked. Two clinics reported staff members receiving death threats. One clinic said that a staff member had quit after anti-abortion harassment. Two clinics reported FACE violations.
Of thirty-five responding clinics, fifteen reported moderate to high levels of violence. Five clinics experienced blockades. Three were invaded. Two clinics received bomb threats. One clinic suffered a chemical attack. Seven clinics were vandalized. Staff from one clinic reported being picketed at home. Three clinics reported that staff had been stalked. Four clinics reported staff members receiving death threats. Staff at two clinics quit because of harassment. Two clinics reported FACE violations.
Three of the six responding clinics in Colorado reported moderate to high levels of violence. Two clinics were blockaded. Two experienced vandalism. One clinic reported gunfire. Staff at one clinic quit as a result of anti-abortion harassment.
Six of the nine clinics in Illinois that participated in the survey reported moderate to high levels of violence in the first seven months of 1996. Two clinics were blockaded. Two clinics reported bomb threats. One clinic reported a threat of arson. Staff at two clinics experienced home picketing. Staff at two clinics also reported being stalked. One clinic reported staff receiving death threats. One clinic reported FACE violations.
Seven out of seventeen Michigan clinics in the survey experienced moderate to high levels of violence. Three clinics were invaded. One clinic received a bomb threat. Five clinics experienced vandalism. One clinic reported that staff had been picketed at home. One clinic reported that staff had been stalked. Staff at one clinic reported receiving death threats. One clinic in Michigan was the target of gunfire. Staff at one clinic quit because of anti-abortion harassment.
Four of the five responding clinics in Minnesota experienced moderate to high levels of violence in the first seven months of 1996. One clinic reported being bombed. One clinic reported being the victim of arson. Three clinics experienced vandalism. Staff at one clinic reported being stalked. One clinic reported being the target of gunfire. Staff at one clinic quit after anti-abortion harassment.
Survey data revealed that ten of twenty-four clinics in New York reported moderate to high levels of violence. Five clinics were blockaded. One clinic was invaded. One clinic found an incendiary device on the property, although it did not detonate. Two clinics were the victims of chemical attacks. Five clinics were vandalized. Staff at two clinics reported being picketed at home. One clinic received a bomb threat. A death threat was reported by one clinic. Staff at one clinic reported being stalked. One clinic reported FACE violations. One clinic reported a staff resignation as a result of clinic violence.
Eight of sixteen responding clinics experienced moderate to high levels of violence in the first seven months of 1996. One clinic was blockaded. One clinic was invaded. Three clinics reported receiving bomb threats. Four clinics experienced vandalism. Staff at five clinics were picketed at home. Staff at one clinic reported being stalked. One clinic had staff quit as a result of anti-abortion harassment.
Six of eight clinics in Oregon that participated in the survey reported moderate to high violence within the first seven months of 1996. One clinic was invaded One clinic received an arson threat. Two clinics experienced vandalism. Six clinics reported that staff had been picketed at home. Staff at two of the clinics were stalked. Two clinics reported that staff had received death threats. One clinic reported being the target of gunfire.
Five of the nine responding clinics from Pennsylvania experienced moderate to high violence. One clinic was blockaded. One clinic was invaded. Two clinics reported receiving bomb threats. Two clinics were vandalized. Two clinics reported that staff were picketed at home. Staff at one clinic received death threats. Staff at one clinic quit because of anti-abortion harassment. Two clinics in Pennsylvania reported FACE violations.
Seven of the sixteen clinics from Texas that responded experienced moderate to high violence. One clinic was invaded. Three clinics reported receiving bomb threats. Five clinics were vandalized. Staff at three clinics were picketed at home. Staff at two clinics were stalked. One clinic reported that staff quit as a result of anti-abortion harassment. One clinic reported FACE violations.
Four out of six participating clinics reported moderate to high violence during the first seven months of 1996. One clinic was invaded. Two clinics received bomb threats. One clinic reported being the victim of a chemical attack. Two clinics were vandalized. Three clinics reported that staff were picketed at home. Staff at one clinic received death threats.