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1997 Clinic Violence Survey Report

KEY FINDINGS

Severe violence still plagues about 25% of clinics -- only a slight drop from the level of violence in 1996. In the first seven months of 1997, 24.8% of clinics experienced one or more forms of severe violence, for a decline of only 2.8 points from 1996. These forms of severe violence included blockades, invasions, bomb threats and bombings, arson threats and arsons, chemical attacks, death threats, and stalking. Violence levels were 27.6% for the same time period in 1996. But the level of violence at clinics in 1996 and 1997 is down sharply from its high mark of 51.9% in 1994.

Anti-abortion violence is becoming more concentrated among a small number of clinics.The percentage of clinics experiencing high levels (more than 3 types) of violence, harassment, and intimidation has increased slightly since 1996. The number of facilities reporting high levels of violence rose from 7.1% in 1996 to 8.3% in 1997. This increase, though small, reverses the trend from 1993 to 1996 of a steady decrease in the proportion of clinics reporting high levels of violence -- from a peak of 22% of clinics in 1994, to 14.2% in 1995, and to 7.1% in 1996.

The percentage of clinics experiencing no violence, harassment or intimidation has doubled over the last four years. In 1997, almost two thirds of clinics reported no violence; only one-third of clinics in 1994 were free from violence, harassment, and intimidation.

Staff resignations as a result of anti-abortion violence and harassment were up in 1997, reversing the trend toward significant declines in staff resignations in prior years. While 3.9% of clinics reported staff quitting in 1996, 7.1% in 1997 reported physicians, nurses, counselors, lab technicians and/or administrators leaving as a result of clinic violence. One-fourth of clinics in 1993 reported staff resignations as a result of anti-abortion violence.

Vandalism and bomb threats at women's health facilities were the most common forms of violence in 1997. Of respondents, 22.4% reported various forms of vandalism. One in ten (12.4%) clinics reported bomb threats.

As in previous years, lower levels of violence continued to be associated with better law enforcement response. Of clinics which reported local law enforcement response as "excellent" in 1997, only 7.5% experienced high levels of violence, compared with 35.7% of clinics which characterized local law enforcement response as "poor."

Clinics reported increases in several severe types of violence between 1996 and 1997. Increases in arson threats to 3.5%, bomb threats to 12.4%, arsons to 1.8% and gunfire to 1.8% occurred for the first time since 1995.

The proportion of clinics which reported FACE violations to federal officials climbed to 12.7% in 1997 -- from 7.7% in 1996. FACE reports reached their highest levels in 1995, when 20% of clinics reported FACE violations to federal officials.

Almost one-third of clinics (31%) in 1997 were protected by buffer zones, approximately the same percentage of clinics that had buffer zones in 1996.

As in 1996, free-standing clinics, for-profit clinics, and clinics for which abortion constituted over 75% of their practice were more likely to face severe types of violence.

The majority of clinics (58.7%) were experiencing some form of picketing at their facilities at the time of data collection.