Statement of Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal
WASHINGTON, DC – We are shocked and dismayed that a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously chosen to limit and weaken the protections guaranteed by Congress through the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). Under the reasoning of today’s decision in Planned Parenthood, et al. v. American Coalition of Life Activists, et al., abortion providers and clinic staff must endure the distribution of "Wanted" posters and Web sites that the FBI, a federal jury, and a district court have agreed are threats of violence.
How can the Court ignore that these defendants – anti-abortion extremists and the groups they belong to – acted together to target doctors and clinics when they issued a "Deadly Dozen" list of doctors? How can the Court ignore that "Wanted" posters were distributed and seen as threatening, when historically the distribution of similar posters preceded the murders of doctors? How can the Court ignore the intimidation of the Nuremberg Files Web site, when even the FBI took steps to warn doctors and clinics of the possible dangers that existed when their names were added to that site?
The Court has gallingly characterized anti-abortion extremists as modern day patriots. Such language may only serve to embolden them to step up threats and their campaign of terror. Our research shows, that when the Supreme Court refused to curtail these terrorist activities (Bray v. Alexandria), violence at clinics escalated.
The initial jury verdict in this case chilled the anti-abortion reign of terror. But if this appellate court decision is left to stand, it will unleash it once again.
Should this Court ruling stand, it encourages a society where terror can be increasingly used to solve political debates. Remember that today threats of violence can be projected worldwide in split seconds over the Internet. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling may lead to an unraveling of a civil society – this is about more than anti-abortion violence, but about civility and democracy.
We fear a resurgence of anti-abortion violence if these extremists can threaten and target doctors with impunity. Our eighth annual National Clinic Violence Survey shows that severe anti-abortion violence remains an enduring problem at our nation’s reproductive health clinics with 20% reporting severe violence or threats in 2000.
The Feminist Majority Foundation filed an amicus brief for the plaintiffs in this case and runs the largest and oldest Clinic Access Project in the nation.