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1996 Clinic Violence Survey Report


Severe Violence Still Plagues Almost One-Third of Clinics; Rate of Decline in Violence Slows

Two years after the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the creation of buffer zones around women’s health care clinics, the Feminist Majority Foundation's 1996 National Clinic Survey found that almost one third of clinics (27.6%) reported one or more types of severe violence. This finding documents a decline in the level of clinic violence from 38.6% in 1995 to 27.6%.

The rate of decline in violence, however, has slowed. Between 1995 and 1996, the percentage of clinics reporting severe violence dropped by only 11.0 points, compared with a 13.3% drop in violence between 1994 and 1995. (See Chart 1.)

Chart 1. Clinics Experiencing One or More Types of Anti-Abortion Violence, 1993-1996

Chart 1

The types of severe violence measured by our survey included blockades, invasions, bomb threats and bombings, arson threats and arsons, chemical attacks, death threats, and stalking. These violence types are actionable under FACE prohibitions against violence, threats of violence, and obstruction directed against clinics and clinic personnel as well as a variety of local, state, and federal laws.

Of all clinics surveyed, 18.9% experienced one type of serious violence, 6.4% faced two types of violence, and 1.0% reported 3 types of violence. The 1996 results show a slight increase since 1995 in the percentage of clinics experiencing four or more types of violence: 1.3% of clinics reported four or more types of violence in 1996, compared with .9% in 1995. (See Chart 2.)

Chart 2. Concentration of Anti-Abortion Violence at Clinics, 1993-1996.
Chart 2
Chart 2a

Clinics with free-standing facilities and for-profit clinics were over-represented in the sub-sample of 92 clinics experiencing severe violence. Of clinics experiencing severe violence, 65.1% were free-standing, compared with 56.4% of surveyed clinics overall which are free-standing facilities. More of the violence-afflicted clinics were for-profits than in the overall clinic survey sample. Of the group of clinics which reported at least one type of violence, 24.4% were non-profits, 52.3% were for-profits, and 22.1% are private doctors’ offices. Of all the clinics responding to the survey, 28.8% were non-profit, 42% were for-profit and 27.6% were private doctors’ offices. Clinics targeted for anti-abortion violence also tended to devote a larger percentage of their practice to abortion. Of the clinics which told us they were experiencing violence, 62.8% said abortions comprised more than 75% of their practice, compared with 54.2% in the overall clinic sample.

Violence against clinics was found nationwide. The twelve states in which the survey revealed especially severe violence were Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. (See Appendix B for State-By-State Analysis for Clinics in the Twelve States Experiencing the Highest Level of Violence.)

For the third year, our survey measured additional forms of violence, harassment and intimidation occurring at clinics. When gunfire, home picketing, and vandalism are combined with the other violence variables, the percentage of clinics reporting harassment, intimidation or violence grows to 44.89%. These reports represent a decrease of 10 points from 55.8% in 1995 and of 21.8 points from 66.7 % in 1994. Of the clinics, 25.6% experienced one form of violence, harassment, or intimidation, 12.2% experienced two types, 4.2% three types, and 2.9% experienced four or more types.

Collapsing these twelve violence, harassment and intimidation variables into three levels of violence further reveals the decrease in violence in 1996. Whereas 22.2% of clinics in 1994 reported experiencing a high level of violence (3 or more types), this percentage decreased to 14.2% in 1995 and was almost cut in half again to 7.1% in 1996. A similar decrease occurred for clinics reporting moderate levels of violence (1 or 2 types). In 1994, 44.5% of clinics reported a moderate level of violence; the percentage decreased to 41.6% in 1995 and to 37.8% in 1996. More than half of respondents reported experiencing no violence in 1996 (55.1%) compared to 44.2% in 1995 and 33.3% in 1994.