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1997 Clinic Violence Survey Report



The percentage of clinics experiencing no violence, harassment, or intimidation has doubled over the past four years. In 1997, 61.1% of clinics reported that they had experienced none of the twelve types of violence measured in our survey. In 1994, only 33.3% of clinics were free from violence. In 1995, this figure grew to 44.2% and in 1996 to 55.1%.

Based on these data, we categorized clinics into three levels of violence -- those clinics experiencing no violence, those experiencing moderate violence (1 or 2 types), and those experiencing high violence (3 or more types). This analysis, as presented in Chart 2, makes two trends in anti-abortion violence over the past four years extremely clear. First, the strategies of the abortion rights movement -- passage of FACE, heightened clinic security, improved law enforcement, and community mobilization -- are ending the seige of anti-abortion violence for the majority of clinics. Second, the anti-abortion attack is becoming even more concentrated on a small segment of clinics.

Chart 2

Prior to 1997, there had been a steady decrease in the percentage of clinics reporting high levels of violence. In 1997, this trend reversed for the first time. The 1994 survey found 22% of clinics experienced 3 or more types violence. By 1995, this percentage was down to 14.2% and in 1996 it decreased further to 7.1% . However, in 1997, the number of facilities reporting high levels of violence rose slightly to 8.3%. Clinics experiencing high levels of violence reported their strong concerns about the multiple strategies of anti-abortion harassment, intimidation, and violence they face daily. For example, one clinic administrator described the atmosphere of terrorism at her clinic, which included receiving a continuous flow of threatening letters, having the mail tampered with, the clinic driveways blocked, and having patients intimidated by anti-abortion video cameras. A doctor at another clinic who was stalked in 1997 had in prior years reported being run off the road by anti-abortion activists. In addition, his dog was killed, the wheels on his wife's car were loosened and his elderly parents received threatening phone calls.

At the same time, the percentage of facilities reporting moderate violence continued a decreasing trend from previous years. In 1994, 44.5% of clinics experienced moderate levels of violence (1 or 2 types). This dropped to 41.5% in 1995 and further to 37.8% in 1996. In 1997, the percentage of clinics experiencing moderate violence dropped 7.1-points to 30.7%.

The overall decrease in the percentage of clinics experiencing violence is mirrored in major declines in reports of most forms of serious anti-abortion violence over the last five years. Chart 3 shows that death threats have decreased the most dramatically, from a high of almost 25% in 1994 to 5% by 1997. Stalking was also at its highest point in 1994, with 17.8% of clinics reporting that clinic workers and their families had been stalked. In 1997, 5% of clinics reported stalking. Additionally, reports of blockades and invasions have decreased continuously and significantly since 1993.

Chart 3

Although survey results indicate that clinic violence is a nationwide phenomenon, the states experiencing the most serious violence in 1997 include the following: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. In prior surveys, Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas were among the states that consistently experienced severe violence.