The 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey is the 14th comprehensive nationwide survey of women’s health clinics conducted since 1993 by the Feminist Majority Foundation. The Survey results provide new evidence that the misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in the summer of 2015, have sparked a wave of violence and threats against abortion providers.
2016 NATIONAL CLINIC VIOLENCE SURVEY
FEMINIST MAJORITY FOUNDATION
Katherine Spillar Executive Director
Director of the National Clinic Access Project
Susie Gilligan Field Director
Data Analysis and Report Preparation:
Sarah Simon, Lindsay Wilson, Michele Sleighel
Casey Engstrom, Jenna Zweinstein, Melissa Marciasl, Myko Lyric, Hannah Ferster, Clair Sliney, Riley Horan, Emma Roberts, and Grace Duginski,
Released February, 2017
Feminist Majority Foundation
West Coast Office 310-556-2500
East Coast Office 703-522-2214
The 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey is the 14th comprehensive nationwide survey of women’s health clinics conducted since 1993 by the Feminist Majority Foundation. The Survey results provide new evidence that the misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in the summer of 2015, have sparked a wave of violence and threats against abortion providers. The CMP videos have been thoroughly debunked; investigations in 13 states, and by three Congressional Committees, found no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. Tragically, on November 2015, Robert Lewis Dear, apparently influenced by the distortions in the videos, opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, CO, killing 3 and wounding nine.
This incident and countless anecdotes of increasing levels of violence against providers across the country in the fall of 2015 led us to fear that anti-abortion extremists had been emboldened by the release of these videos. The results of the 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey, the first quantitative measure of nationwide violence recorded since the release of the CMP videos, corroborate these fears.
The Survey found that the percentage of clinics reporting the most severe types of anti-abortion violence and threats of violence has dramatically increased in the past two years, jumping to 34.2% of clinics in the first six months of 2016, up from 19.7% in the first six months of 2014. Some of the most frequent types of violence and threats were blocking access to and invasions of clinics, stalking, death threats, and bombing threats. One clinic reported that protestors repeatedly tell staff and doctors to “watch our backs” and “nobody cares when a murderer gets killed.”
The 2016 survey also measured the concentration of violence and threats against clinics. The proportion of clinics reporting high levels of violence, threats, and harassment (three or more types) increased from 13.5% in 2014 to 16.0% in 2016. Clinics reporting moderate levels of violence, threats, and harassment (one to two types) have increased as well, up to 33.5% from 29.8% in 2014. Incredibly, nearly half of all abortion providers in the country (49.5%) experienced some form of severe violence, threats of violence and harassment in 2016, up from 43.3% in 2014.
Clinics were asked how often they experience anti-abortion activity, including protests and demonstrations. Nearly 25% of clinics report they experience anti-abortion activity at their facility on a daily basis. Another 38.4% report that such activity occurs weekly. Thus, some 63.2% of women’s health clinics nationwide experience frequent and regular anti-abortion activity. An additional 27.9% of clinics report occasional activity. This means that the overwhelming majority of clinics (91.1%) report experiencing some type of anti-abortion activity in the first half of 2016, with 63.2% of providers experiencing activity at least once a week. By contrast, in 2014, 88% of clinics reported experiencing some type of anti-abortion activity.
Effective law enforcement response continues to be essential in preventing incidences of violence and harassment. Clinics that rated their experience with local law enforcement as “poor” or “fair” were significantly more likely to experience high levels of severe violence and harassment (47.0%) than those who rated local law enforcement as “good” or “excellent” (16%). Some clinics even responded that local law enforcement is a hindrance, rather than a help, to their clinics. One stated that, “They never arrest or do anything no matter what the [anti-abortion] protestors do…. the police department lets their officers’ religious beliefs interfere with doing their job as an officer of the law. It seems like they are officers of THEIR law.”
These survey results show a clear need for increased prosecution of anti-abortion extremists to counter the dramatic increase in levels of severe violence and threats. Furthermore, the incendiary rhetoric of the anti-abortion members of the House Select Committee in their final report, and the outcome of the 2016 election, is providing new fuel for already emboldened extremists. The potential for more violence remains high, especially in locations where lax or hostile law enforcement allows harassment and threats to go unchecked.
The National Clinic Violence Survey, which measured the incidence of anti- abortion violence in the first half of 2016, was mailed to 740 clinics in July 2016. This survey is the most comprehensive study of anti-abortion violence, harassment, and intimidation directed at clinics, patients, and health care workers. It includes information provided by abortion providers of various national organizational affiliations, such as the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Abortion Care Network, as well as independent, unaffiliated clinics.
Providers were mailed the questionnaire in July and also given the option to respond online through an identical survey. A series of three follow-up calls to each clinic were made over the next month, to urge clinics to complete and return the survey. As a result of these efforts, a total of 319 providers responded to the survey, out of 740 clinics contacted. All respondents were assured that their individual responses would remain confidential.
Severe Violence and Threats of Violence
More than one-third of all abortion providers (34.2%) experienced one or more incidents of severe violence and threats of violence in 2016, up from 19.7% in 2014 (see Chart 1). Severe violence and threats of violence are defined to include eleven variables: blocking clinic access, invasions, bombings, arson, chemical attacks, stalking, physical violence, gunfire, bomb threats, death threats, arson threats, as well as “other incidences of severe violence” and “other threats of severe violence”, as long as the described event matched our definition of severe violence and threats of violence.
The most commonly reported types of severe violence and threats of violence in 2016 included blocking clinic access, bomb threats, facility invasions, stalking, and death threats.