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1997 Clinic Violence Survey Report



The bombings of abortion clinics in Oklahoma and Atlanta in January last year catapulted anti-abortion violence into the nation's attention in 1997. By year's end, there had been 13 women's health clinic bombings or arsons -- seventh highest number of abortion clinic bombings and arsons recorded by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms since 1982 and more than double the number of arsons and bombings reported for 1996. Moreover, the January, 1997 Atlanta clinic double bombing marks the first time anti-abortion extremists have used a second anti-personnel bomb targeted at rescue and law-enforcement personnel responding to the first bomb. In this instance, several federal law enforcement personnel were injured.

Despite the tragic escalation in bombings and arsons in 1997, the Feminist Majority Foundation's fifth annual National Clinic Violence Survey found little change in the level of clinic violence between 1996 and 1997. Of the 339 clinics surveyed, 24.8% had experienced one or more types of severe violence in the first seven months of 1997, down slightly from 1996. This measurement of severe violence includes blockades, invasions, stalking, bomb threats, bombings, arson threats, arsons, chemical attacks, and death threats.

Considering that violence dramatically surged immediately after President Clinton's election in 1992, holding the line on clinic violence levels in a climate of increased anti-abortion frustration and militancy following the 1996 elections is a major accomplishment. The fact that the overall level of violence at clinics remained essentially constant is testimony to the combined vigilance of clinics, pro-choice advocates, and law enforcement. Still one-quarter of clinics experiencing severe violence is an intolerable level of violence and constitutes domestic terrorism. Moreover, our survey indicates a concentration of this terrorism and a focused campaign of attrition intended to close clinics.

Since the Feminist Majority Foundation's first clinic violence survey in 1993, the segment of clinics under attack has declined from a high of 51.9% in 1994 to 38.6% in 1995, to 27.6% in 1996 and to 24.8% in 1997. Chart 1 shows the percentage of clinics reporting severe violence over last five years in which the National Clinic Violence Survey has been conducted.

Chart 1

At the same time, the decline in clinic violence which began in 1995 came to a virtual standstill in 1997. At 24.8%, the overall level of severe violence at clinics in 1997 is only 2.8-points less than in 1996, when 27.6% clinics reported incidents of serious violence.

For the fourth consecutive year, our survey also measured additional types of violence, harassment, and intimidation, including gunfire, home picketing, and vandalism. When these three variables are combined with the severe violence variables, the percentage of facilities reporting violence, harassment and intimidation rose to 38.9%. This represents a decrease of 6-points since 1996 when 44.9% of clinics reported these anti-abortion activities.