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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 19, 2000

CONTACT

Communications Department
202-667-5881

Violence Against Abortion Providers Declined in 1999

National Abortion Federation Report Cites Federal Task Force, Increased Law Enforcement Response, and Enhanced Clinic Security As Main Factors in Decline

Washington, DC - Most extreme forms of violence directed at abortion providers decreased last year, although the year did see a resurgence in arson attacks, bomb threats and anthrax threats, according to a report released today by the National Abortion Federation (NAF). "In 1999, with the exception of arson, most severe forms of violence decreased," said Vicki Saporta, Executive Director of NAF. She added, "However, there is no cause to celebrate just yet. Bomb threats and anthrax threats are still increasing, and providers are routinely harassed at work and in their homes. Unless we continue our vigilance, the decrease recorded last year could all too easily be reversed."

Saporta gave credit to the National Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers, established by Attorney General Reno after the murder of Dr. Slepian in October of 1998. "We've been saying for a number of years that law enforcement response is the key to stemming the tide of violence," said Saporta. "We work with the Task Force on an almost daily basis. Their activities have led to an improved response from law enforcement officials, which has in turn prevented further violence."

For example, "When NAF found a site on the Internet that was offering over one million dollars to anyone who murdered an abortion provider, we immediately notified the Justice Department. The site was down within 24 hours." Additionally, "We worked with the Task Force on five briefings for American providers and law enforcement officials in cities along the Canadian border before the Remembrance Day holiday. These meetings provided security advice to providers, and information about James Kopp, who has been charged with the murder of Dr. Slepian but remains at large."

"To help clinics with their security needs, NAF's Security Team provided 43 security audits last year at clinics and physicians' homes. We were able to provide recommendations for security enhancements that improved security for physicians and facilities."

Saporta also emphasized the role that communities have played in reducing violence. She cited Buffalo, and the community's opposition to and preparation in dealing with a Spring of Life reunion, as a powerful example of what communities can accomplish. "The end result was that despite the extensive efforts of its organizers, they could only turn out a small number and no violence resulted."

"Buffer zones, like the one that was in place this past spring in Buffalo, do not stop protests, but they do help protect clinic staff and patients from physical violence and harassment. We hope that the Supreme Court's review of the floating buffer zone in Colorado today will result in that law being upheld. We know from experience that these laws do not have a chilling effect on protests or on the ability of protesters to exercise their right to free speech. NAF's statistics, for example, show that the number of protests taking place in the United States has been increasing over the last decade. Buffer zones do not impede free speech, but they do a lot to stem the violence against abortion providers and patients."

Saporta concluded, "Despite the recent decrease in violence against abortion providers, more work remains to be done. While some predict that the violence will end with the final FDA approval of RU-486 or the early option pill, we know that that is not a realistic expectation. Anti-choice extremists will still target the doctors, nurses, counselors and other health care professionals who provide abortion services. The violence will not disappear by wishful thinking. Instead, it is up to us, law enforcement officials, and communities to remain vigilant and work together to make certain that those who oppose choice do not continue to use violence to achieve their ends."

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The National Abortion Federation is the professional association of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to ensuring that abortion remains safe, legal and accessible.
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