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1996 Clinic Violence Survey Report


Violence Directed at Clinic Facilities Increases At Same Time Death Threats, Stalking, and Home Picketing Decrease

Some of the most severe forms of anti-abortion violence such as death threats and stalking decreased during the first seven months of 1996, but these decreases were countered by surprising increases in the percentage of clinics reporting bombings, chemical attacks, and arson threats.

The survey revealed continued declines in death threats, bomb threats, stalking, home picketing, and vandalism. Death threats experienced the largest decline -- from 17.1% in 1995 to 7.1% in 1996. Home picketing decreased from 20.3% in 1995 to 14.1% in 1996. Stalking went from 10.6% in 1995 to 7.4% in 1996. Bomb threats were down from 14.5% to 9.3%.

In addition, vandalism, which remained the most highly reported type of anti-abortion violence, decreased from 24.8% in 1995 to 21.8% in 1996. Acts of vandalism included glue in door locks (5.8%), nails in clinic driveways or parking lots (2.9%), paint on buildings (8%), broken windows (7.4%), graffiti (9%), and tampering with phone lines (6.1%). Other forms of vandalism experienced in the past year by responding clinics included scattered trash, destruction of property and landscaping, theft of security devices, and objects such as sand, rosaries, or dead animals discarded at clinic doors.

At the same time, for the first time since 1994, several types of violence targeted at clinic facilities appear to have increased. Bombings were up from .3% in 1995 to 1.0% in 1996. Chemical attacks increased from 1% in 1995 to 1.6% in 1996. Arson threats rose very slightly from 1.6% to 1.9%. (See Chart 3.)

Chart 3. Violence By Type During the First Seven Months of 1996.

Chart 3

In addition, for the first year in the history of our annual survey, the percentage of clinics reporting blockades did not decrease significantly. The steady three-year decline in blockades essentially erached a plateau in 1996. In 1996, 6.7% of clinics reported blockades, compared with 6.5% in 1995. In 1995, blockades had dropped 5.6 points from 12.1% in 1994 and 9.5 points from 16% in 1993. Invasions declined from 5.8% in 1995 to 4.5% in 1996. Invasions occurred at 10.5% of clinics in 1994 and 14.6% of clinics in 1993.

The combination of the activities of abortion rights advocates, FACE, and buffer zones continued to keep the use of blockades and invasions at low levels. Several clinics commented directly on the value of FACE in combatting blockades, drawing a connection between the passage of the Act and a drop in the use of blockades by anti-abortion protesters. One clinic administrator said, "We continue to have protesters every weekend. However, since the passage of FACE they have not attempted any blockades." Clinics also have pointed to support from abortion rights forces within their communities as an effective deterrent to harassment. Staff from another clinic wrote, "The terrific show of support from [our community] during the ACLA visit has humbled and frightened many protesters. We are fortunate."

Chart 4 illustrates the patterns of decline in various types of anti-abortion violence over the past three years, based on our annual surveys.

Chart 4. Clinic Reports of Blockades, Invasions, Death Threats, and Stalking, 1993-1996.
Chart 4 Chart 4a


In another measure of change in levels of anti-abortion violence, clinics were asked to compare the prevalence of each type of violence in 1996 with its occurrence at the clinic in 1995. For the second consecutive year, more clinics reported decreases than increases in every category of violence. Chart 5 shows increases and decreases by violence type in 1996, compared with 1995.

Chart 5. Increases and Decreases by Violence Type During the First Seven Months of 1995.

Chart 5

Clinics cited increases in vandalism (6.1%) and home picketing (4.8%) most frequently. The decreases most often cited were in bomb threats/bombings (16%), home picketing (15.4%), and blockades (15.4%). The smallest net decreases were in stalking and vandalism. The largest net decreases were in death threats, blockades, home picketing and bomb threats/bombings.