Abortion Clinic Violence: A Brief History

When someone brings up abortion, sides are immediately drawn. It is a binary, a black or white issue. There are weighted terms to describe the sides; pro-life or pro-choice, anti-choice or anti-life. This issue incites debates over morality and religious conviction versus women’s reproductive rights. Although these sides emerge into the public sphere mostly through political debate and through rallies like March for Life which focus on discussion and raising awareness to the cause, the real conflict surrounding abortion is often hidden.

The truth is, confrontations between supporters and protesters of abortion have a historically violent past. Starting after the legalization of abortion in 1973 in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, protesters would swarm abortion clinics. What began as demonstrating with assorted posters and signs, anti-abortion protesters would block the entrances to abortion clinics, preventing anyone from entering. This resulted in clashes between those attempting to enter and being physically pushed back as well as police who were called to deal with the protesters. 

Protesters got more impassioned. Now, in addition to blocking entrances, protesters called in bomb threats to vacate the clinics and prevent the doctors from providing services, as well as carrying out actual butyric Acid attacks, more commonly known as stink-bombs. But the clashes did not stop there.

In 1976, the first clinic arson was reported. In 1978, a wave of bombings stuck abortion clinics. But in the 1990s, anti-abortion protesters began using physical violence against doctors and nurses. This ranged from stalking to assaults and even escalating to murder. There have been 8 murders of clinic doctors and staff, the most recent being Dr. George Tiller who was shot, for the second time, and killed an his church in Wichita, Kansas in 2009. 

But this violence is mainly hidden from public view. The only time real media covers abortion clinic violence is in the case of a high-profile murder, and then, the real focus is on whether abortion is right or wrong. 

The incidences of physical violence are fewer in recent years, in part due to the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance Act which criminalized acts of physical violence, vandalism, and blocking entrances to clinics. However, in no way is the anti-abortion protest movement over. Many clinics are consistently picketed. Protesters attempt to sway those entering by acts of intimidation and coercion. Since most of these interactions are non-violent, they are technically legal. 

In this blog, I will document the current-day interactions between anti-abortion protesters, clinic staff, and those seeking services at clinics. By focusing on such notable organizations as Planned Parenthood, I will show how the pattern of coverage of abortion in news media is skewed toward the legality of it, rather than protecting people who seek a legal service.

 

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Jlmorgan
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Going further...

Great first post.

I am not sure if I agree that violence against abortion clinics is an underreported story - but I am very interested in having you prove me wrong about that.

Do you plan on conducting first person interviews? 

Thanks!

Haley Davis
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I think that explicit

I think that explicit violence agaisnt abortion clinics, in the form bombings or murders, is reported. However, the everyday interaction and intimidation that occur outside of clinics by protesters is underreported. This includes protesters shouting at patients and telling them they're going to hell, as well as much more. Additionally, most of the stories that cover violence against abortion clinics fall back into a right vs. wrong debate over abortion, instead of focusing on the illegal crime against a clinic or clinic doctor. 

I plan on doing some interviews, both with clinic representatives and protesters themselves. 

Haley Davis

Jlmorgan
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Good points

The fact that media often takes these violent stories into the direction of aborition being right v wrong, rather than reporting on a person who committed an illegal act is an excellent point. 

Why do you think the media focuses its coverage in this way? 

I'm really looking forward to your interviews!

Haley Davis
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It's so much easier to turn

It's so much easier to turn issues into pro or con issues. This reduces the number of voices heard. For these violent stories, it is easier to focus on the right vs. wrong aspect of abortion rather than the violent individual because it makes people uncomfortable. Normally, the person is acting out of religious conviction and typically adheres to some form of Christianity. American news outlets are only comfortable talking about violent religious individuals when it comes to Islam or a group labeled as a "cult."

Haley Davis

Jlmorgan
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Thanks

Great points!

I think the perspective your presenting is definitely under reported - looking forward to reading more!