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Friday, January 16, 2003


Communications Department

National Abortion Federation Reports Slight Drop in Abortion Clinic Violence

Internet Harassment of Women on the Rise

Washington, D.C. (January 16) - Violence and acts of intimidation against abortion providers dropped slightly in 2002 due to a combination of vigorous law enforcement efforts and the prosecution of those engaged in anti-choice violence, as well as strong security precautions at clinics, according to the National Abortion Federation's 25th annual report on violence. NAF's report is the only annual national compilation of its kind on violence against providers and clinics.

"We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement officials and prosecutors, which have contributed to the overall decline in extreme forms of violence against abortion providers, said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation. Nevertheless, "we need to continue to be vigilant in protecting women's access to reproductive health care services and the safety of the dedicated health care professionals who provide those services," she added.

In 2002 there was a slight decrease in the total number of incidents of extreme violence against abortion providers, specifically bombings, arsons and attempted bombings and arsons, the report noted. "Thankfully there were no murders or attempted murders again last year," Saporta said.

The visibility given to the arrest, imprisonment, and prosecution of two violent, high profile anti-choice extremists, formerly on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted List, served as an important deterrent in dissuading others from committing violent acts, said the NAF report. One is James Kopp, the confessed murderer of Dr. Barnett Slepian, a Buffalo-area abortion provider who was gunned down in his home in October, 1998. The other is Clayton Waagner, a violent career criminal who has admitted to sending hundreds of anthrax threat letters to clinics in 2001 and posting threats on the "Army of God" website to kill staff working at abortion clinics. Both men remain in prison awaiting trial.

In their successful pursuit of Waagner, the FBI stated that it considered all "threats against abortion providers to be serious violations of federal law and all violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." "It is precisely this type of assurance and subsequent follow through from federal authorities that has made a difference in reducing incidents of extreme violence against abortion providers," Saporta said.

Nevertheless, in 2002, anti-choice extremists increasingly shifted their focus toward intensifying their harassment and intimidation of individual women seeking access to reproductive health care clinics. The principal means of these attacks on women was the use of "abortion-cams" to photograph and post pictures of women and clinic staff on anti-choice web sites. "This practice is abhorrent and must be stopped," said Saporta. "The use of abortion cams creates even more tension outside clinics and is a violation of the privacy rights of patients," she added.

The National Abortion Federation is gathering information to assess the legal options that may be available to challenge such practices. "NAF hopes to be able to move forward with legal action to stop this invasion of privacy in the coming months," said Saporta.

There were 247 identified acts of violence last year, down from the record high of 795 in 2001. The most notable decline was the number of anthrax threat letters delivered to clinics, dropping from 554 in 2001 to 23 last year. Most other acts of violence decreased slightly in 2002.

Since 1977, NAF has catalogued more than 4,000 acts of violence against abortion providers and recorded more than 75,000 incidents of harassment, bomb threats, and picketing.

A copy of the report is available by calling the Communications Department at NAF at 202-667-5881 or online.


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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