SIGN UP FOR JOBS NEWS & ALERTS:
print Print    Share Share  

1993 Clinic Violence Suvey Report

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.