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1997 Clinic Violence Survey Report



Although the percentage of clinics experiencing most serious forms of anti-abortion violence has decreased over the last five years, other forms of violence which had shown declines in previous years slightly increased in 1997. Chart 4 shows that small increases were reported for arson threats, bomb threats and arson between 1996 and 1997.

Chart 4

Chart 5 shows the percentage of clinics reporting each type of violence and intimidation. Between 1996 and 1997, reports of most forms of violence and intimidation continued to decline. The largest decline reported was for home picketing, which dropped from 14.01% in 1996 to 8.3% in 1997. Decreases were also reported for death threats which in 1997 were at 5%, stalking at 5%, blockades at 5%, and invasions at 3.6%. Although chemical attacks had risen from 1.0% to 1.6% between 1995 and 1996, they decreased to 0.3% in 1997.

The smallest decline between 1996 and 1997 was reported for vandalism, which at 22.4% in 1997 remained virtually unchanged since 1996. Of clinics reporting vandalism, 15.8% experienced glue in door locks, 14.5% nails in the driveways, .9% motor oil in parking lots, 25% paint on buildings, 26.3% broken windows, 30.3% graffiti, 31.6% tampering with phone lines. Overall, vandalism and bomb threats were the most common forms of violence reported by clinics surveyed in 1997. Bomb threats were reported by 12.4% of clinics. Chart 5 shows violence reports by type for 1997.

Chart 5

Blockades were reported by 5% of clinics, invasions by 3.6%, and arsons by 1.8%. Bombings were reported by .9% of clinics in our clinic sample. (Please note the survey does not include all bombings and arsons that took place in 1997. Some of the clinics which were the victims of 13 bombings and arsons in 1997 were unable to participate in the survey.)

For the first time, the 1997 survey asked clinics about break-ins and robberies and about the distribution of anti-abortion leaflets targeting particular physicians or clinic workers in the neighborhoods of these clinic employees. Of the clinics, 12 (3.5%) said their clinics or offices had been broken into or robbed during the first seven months of 1997. One in ten clinics (11.8%) reported the distribution of anti-abortion leaflets in the neighborhoods of targeted clinic staff.

For the first time, the survey also measured the number of clinics currently experiencing anti-abortion activity at the time of data collection (as opposed to in the first seven months of 1997). The majority of clinics ( 58.7%) reported current picketing at their facilities. Picketing activity appears to be associated with the percentage of clinic practice devoted to abortion services. Clinics which devoted a higher percentage of their practices to abortion were more likely to experience picketing. Of those clinics which said abortion services accounted for more than 75 percent of their practice, 65.1% reported picketing. Several clinics also commented that in 1997 anti-abortion picketing and sidewalk activity became even more aggressive and virulent.

As another measure of changing levels of violence at clinics, abortion providers were asked to tell us whether occurrences of each type of violence in 1997 to 1996 had increased, remained the same, or decreased at their clinics. For the third consecutive year, most clinics perceived that violence of all types at their facilities had remained at the same level as in the previous year. And, of those clinics perceiving change in the levels of specific types of violence, more clinics reported decreases than increases in every violence category. The greatest net perceived decreases were in blockades, invasions, and chemical attacks. The smallest net perceived decreases were in vandalism and in bombings/bomb threats.