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US states begin outlawing abortions, which have been practiced legally in most societies for thousands of years; at the time of the adoption of the US Constitution, abortions before “quickening” (i.e. birth) were commonly performed. In 2010, the National Abortion Federation will explain: “The motivations for anti-abortion laws varied from state to state. One of the reasons included fears that the population would be dominated by the children of newly arriving immigrants, whose birth rates were higher than those of ‘native’ Anglo-Saxon women.” As medical procedures were developed to increase the safety of both births and abortions, medical doctors began attempting to legally exclude practicioners such as homeopaths, midwives, and apothecaries from performing abortions, in part due to legitimate medical concerns and in part to ensure that they collected the fees paid by clients for abortions. In the late 1800s, the newly formed American Medical Association (AMA) argues that abortion is both immoral and dangerous. By 1910, all but one state has criminalized abortion except where necessary, in a doctor’s judgment, to save the woman’s life. “Back-alley,” or “criminal” abortions become commonplace, often performed by untrained “practitioners” in dangerous and unsanitary conditions or by the women themselves; many women are unnecessarily killed or injured during these procedures. Though in the mid-1960s some states will begin liberalizing their abortion laws, it will not be until 1973 that abortion becomes legal throughout the United States (see January 22, 1973). (National Abortion Federation 2010)
An anti-abortion activist enters the Concern Women’s Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. The activist throws flammable liquid in the face of the receptionist and sets fire to the interior of the building. According to author Harvey Kushner, this occurs in February 1977. (Kushner 2003, pp. 38) In its extensive listings of clinic attacks, the National Abortion Federation will not list a women’s clinic bombing for February 1977, but it will list an attack very similar to the Concern Clinic attack for February 1978. The organization will describe the bombing as follows: “Man entered clinic, blinded a technician by throwing chemicals, and set center on fire, destroying it. Clinic was full of patients at the time; they escaped without injury.” The monetary damage to the clinic is around $100,000. (National Abortion Federation 2010)
President Clinton signs the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act into law. The law provides for the legal protection of abortion clinics and women’s health clinics against violence perpetuated against them. The law was proposed after an abortion provider, Dr. David Gunn, was shot to death in Florida in 1993 (see March 10, 1993); that same year, 12 arsons, one bombing, and 66 blockades were carried out against abortion clinics. FACE forbids the use of “force, threat of force, or physical obstruction” to prevent someone from providing or receiving reproductive health services. The law also provides for both criminal and civil penalties for those who break the law. (US Department of Justice 7/25/2008; National Abortion Federation 2010) The FACE Act works in concert with two Supreme Court decisions, Madsen v. Women’s Health Center and NOW et al v. Scheidler to establish “buffer zones” around women’s clinics and allow anti-abortion organizations to be investigated under federal racketeering statutes. (Kushner 2003, pp. 40) Signing the FACE Act into law, Clinton says, “We simply cannot—we must not—continue to allow the attacks, the incidents of arson, the campaigns of intimidation upon law-abiding citizens that [have] given rise to this law.” Clinton cites the murder of Gunn and the shooting of Dr. George Tiller (see August 19, 1993) as incidents that FACE is designed to address. He adds: “No person seeking medical care, no physician providing that care should have to endure harassments or threats or obstruction or intimidation or even murder from vigilantes who take the law into their own hands because they think they know what the law ought to be.” (Eviatar 6/12/2009) In 2010, the National Abortion Federation will note that while FACE “has had a clear impact on the decline in certain types of violence against clinics and providers, specifically clinic blockades,” violence against abortion clinics and abortion providers has continued. (National Abortion Federation 2010)
Scores of family planning clinics in at least 12 states have received letters containing anthrax threats, according to officials of feminist and abortion-rights organizations. Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation says that over 200 clinics and advocacy organizations received letters in early November, all delivered in Federal Express envelopes. The envelopes that were opened contained a suspicious white powder and letters signed by the Army of God (AOG), a violent anti-abortion group (see 1982). This was the second such mailing in recent weeks; the first mailing was comprised of some 280 letters containing threatening letters and white powder purporting to be anthrax. None of the powder in any of the envelopes contained real anthrax; the letters were apparently hoaxes. Some of the letters in the latest mailings said: “You’ve ignored our earlier warnings. You’ve been exposed to the real thing. High-quality.” Groups targeted by the mailings include the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, Catholics for a Free Choice, Advocates for Youth, and the American Association of University Women. The persons responsible for the mailings somehow obtained the account numbers of two pro-choice organizations, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Abortion Federation, and used those accounts to pay for the mailings. The mailings have been traced to at least three drop-off locations in Virginia and Philadelphia. More packages are believed to be en route, and Federal Express is trying to intercept them. “I think the people responsible are despicable,” says Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation. “They actually used our account number and our address, so our members would feel comfortable opening them.” Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says: “These letters are designed to terrorize us, and disrupt our work and our lives. That’s terrorism, plain and simple, and we take it very seriously.… The fact that they would forge the names of our staff members to terrorize employees is truly evil. Their heinous activities will not succeed.” Brian Emanuelson of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection says, “These were intended to be a threat to scare people and we want to make sure this is not what they say it is.” (CBS News 11/9/2001) The anthrax mailings were from anti-abortion activist and AOG member Clayton Waagner (see 1997-December 2001).
Journalist Daphne Eviatar writes that during the eight years of the Bush presidency, prosecutions and enforcement of the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE—see May 1994) “cratered,” with Justice Department officials refusing to prosecute or sometimes even investigate complaints of vandalism, harassment, and assault. After the recent murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller (see May 31, 2009), Eviatar and the Washington Independent obtained government data showing that enforcement of the FACE law, and other federal laws designed to protect abortion providers and clinics, declined by 75 percent during the Bush presidency. Between 1994 and 1999, when President Clinton was in office, the Justice Department filed 17 complaints under the FACE Act. Between 2001 and 2009, when President Bush was in office, the Justice Department only filed a single case. Tiller’s own clinic was vandalized numerous times, but complaints against the actions were ignored by the department. Statistics provided by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) show that over 3,200 acts of violence against abortion providers in the US and Canada were committed between 2000 and 2008, and the organization says the number of actual incidents was probably “much higher.” The number does not include threats, vandalism, and harassment. NAF statistics show that at least 17 cases of “extreme” violence against abortion providers in the US were reported, including arson, stabbings, bombings, and fake anthrax mailings. But the Bush Justice Department only prosecuted 11 individuals for these attacks. The two highest-profile anti-abortion prosecutions were those of anthrax mailer Clayton Waagner (see 1997-December 2001) and bomber Eric Rudolph (see April 14, 2005). However, none of Waagner’s or Rudolph’s associates in the extremist organization Army of God (see 1982) were ever prosecuted as accessories to the two activists’ crimes. Neither was the Army of God ever investigated as a potential domestic terrorist organization (see Early 1980s). (Eviatar 6/12/2009)
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