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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

January-16-97

New Feminist Majority Foundation Survey Finds Severe Anti-abortion Violence Still Plagues Almost One-Third of Clinics

Data Refute Spate of News Articles Saying Violence Is Over

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A newly released survey, conducted by the Feminist Majority Foundation, reveals that 29.5% of clinics faced severe anti-abortion violence in 1996. Severe types of violence included death threats, stalking, bombings and bomb threats, arsons and arson threats, blockades, invasions and chemical attacks. 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 45.8%. “
Unacceptably high levels of violence continue at abortion clinics, putting clinic personnel, patients, and abortion rights in peril,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Pro-choice vigilance, increased security measures at clinics, and improvements in law enforcement have reduced anti-abortion violence at women’s health clinics for the second consecutive year, but the rate of decline has slowed.”

Our systematic, social science survey contradicts recent impressionistic news accounts that say clinic violence is a thing of the past. Although the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act continues to be an effective tool in reducing clinic violence, our data and our day-in-day-out work with clinics tells us that the violence has by no means ended. Just two weeks ago a physician in New Orleans was brutally stabbed 15 times by an assailant who then traveled to a Baton Rouge clinic, where he was found lying in wait for a second physician. Fortunately, because of the vigilance of pro-choice advocates in New Orleans, this man, who is from Texas is now behind bars and is being charged with attempted murder.” Roe v. Wade and an anticipated weekend of anti-abortion activities at clinics, it serves no one’s interest to allow pro-choice activists, clinics, and the media to be lulled into a sense of false security. Instead, we need to focus on improving response at all levels of law enforcement.” “

The survey shows conclusively that better law enforcement has the capacity to decrease violence. Clinics which reported ‘excellent’ law enforcement response experienced lower levels of violence than those which characterized law enforcement response as ‘poor.’ And some aspects of law enforcement clearly are working. Clinics tell us that their reports of FACE violations are now being treated seriously. Buffer zones also are working -- the one-third of clinics which have buffer zones saw the greater decreases in violence than those without buffer zone protection,” said Smeal.

The survey found that clinics also are looking forward to being able to introduce new medical technologies to women which may diminish anti-abortion violence; over two-thirds (69.9%) of clinics are interested in providing mifepristone to their patients.

The survey, which covered violence committed during the first seven months of 1995, was completed by 312 clinics from 45 states and the District of Columbia. Ninety-five percent of these clinics offer a full range of gynecological and other health services in addition to abortion.

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© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

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