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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

September-29-98

Domestic Terrorism in Alabama Leaves One Dead, One Injured at Abortion Clinic

Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal
Demands Zero Tolerance on this War of Attrition


Washington DC -- Eleanor Smeal, national feminist leader and one of the nation's leading experts on anti-abortion terrorism, decried today's bombing of the New Woman All Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. "The murders of a off-duty police officer and the maiming of a nurse in a bombing at the Birmingham clinic is a tragedy. The killing in Alabama today is the first death as a result of a clinic bombing. This is the 15th bombing or arson of a clinic since January of 1997."
Smeal explained, "The strategy of the violent wing of the anti-abortion movement is a 'war of attrition' - extremists target one clinic, attempt to wipe it out or close it down, and then, move on to another. Terrorism at one-quarter of our nation's women's health clinics is unconscionable. We must have zero tolerance for domestic terrorism."

Smeal added, "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 Feminist Majority Foundation's 1997 National Clinic Violence Survey shows that in the first seven months of 1997, 24.8% 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 27.6% in 1996 and sharply down from its high mark 51.9% in 1994. Severe violence still plagues about 25% of clinics nationwide, and is becoming more concentrated.

Smeal continued, "We fear that neither the public nor the press fully comprehend the gravity of this war of attrition and will accept violence at abortion clinics as part of the normal landscape. In 1997 there were thirteen bombings or arsons at abortion clinics -- thirteen incidents of serious domestic terrorism including, for the first time, a second bomb aimed at law enforcement, which is a classic terrorism tactic. Just Sunday there was an arson attack of a Planned Parenthood clinic in San Antonio, Texas, which fortunately caused only minimal damage."

The survey results also indicate that the percentage of clinics reporting "no violence" has nearly doubled from 33.3% of clinics in 1994 to 61.1% in 1997. The vigilance of the pro-choice community and the increased responsiveness of law enforcement coupled with the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) has contributed to the dramatic decrease in levels of violence over the past five years. Once again, the 1997 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 1997, only 7.5% experienced high levels of violence, compared with 35.7% of clinics that characterized local law enforcement as "poor."

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