Citizens' Issues
For Abortion Providers, a Constant Barrage of Personalized Harassment

Shootings like the one at a Colorado clinic are rare. Stalking, hate mail, and intimidating protests are the daily reality


Since 1993, 11 people have been killed in abortion-related attacks 2014 doctors, clinic staff, and last week, a police officer and two visitors in the line of fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. While the investigation continues into the shooter's background and motives, David Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University, says that stalking and harassment pose a much more common threat to abortion providers and their families. For their May 2015 book "Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism," Cohen and co-author Krysten Connon interviewed 87 providers in 34 states 2014 clinic owners, doctors, and other employees. ProPublica spoke with Cohen about their findings; the interview was edited for clarity and length.


Nina Martin: How did you come to write your book?

D.C.: It came from work that we had been doing representing the Allentown Women's Center in Pennsylvania. The director there had been dealing with some pretty severe targeted harassment. The protesters picketed her house. They harassed her at work. They sent letters to her mom. It got so bad that she was wearing a bulletproof vest to work. This kind of personalized, individual targeting is not a part of the national conversation, and it should be.


N.M.: Some of the providers you interviewed had experienced some horrifying attacks and harassment over the years: death threats, physical assaults, vandalism, arson. Other types of harassment were less obviously dangerous but still very intrusive. What was the most striking pattern to emerge?

D.C.: A lot of people deal with home picketing. It's a particularly invasive form of harassment because the home is where we go to escape the world and the public life that we live. Extremists will come to someone's home on a weekend and protest with signs that say "A Murderer Lives Here" and pass around pictures of the provider and yell to the neighbors that they need to do something about this terrible person in their midst. It sends a not-so-subtle message: We know where you live, we know where to find your family, and maybe we'll do something more. It's not something that gets picked up in the media. It's ongoing.

There's hate mail at home and work, targeting of family members by showing up at schools.


N.M. How do protesters gather the information they use to target providers?

D.C.: They have found information about providers by exploring medical agency and state department of health databases. [Abortion foes have employed similar tactics to dig up information about clinic patients, as ProPublica reported this summer.] They will use license plates to track down registration information. They have hired private investigators. The Internet certainly makes it easier to gather this information and spread it.


N.M.: And sometimes it's the legal process that makes providers vulnerable, right? As your book points out, people who testify against protestors or give depositions in lawsuits are required to disclose personal information that may then be used to harass them.

D.C.: The problem is that a lot of people in the legal system don't understand the lives of abortion providers, so they ask them to turn over information about the clinic, about their personal lives, as part of the discovery process, and that information can be used to revictimize them. People who testify against anti-abortion activists may face retaliation. That should be something that is punished by law already, but prosecutors are reluctant to get involved. Using the legal system can be a powerful tool for abortion providers, but it's a dangerous tool, too.


N.M.: All of that must take a huge psychological toll.

D.C.: It has a deep impact on their lives. For some it's so constant and so pervasive that they think of it as normal. Then, as they were telling us their stories, they would realize: This is not normal. One doctor said he was like a soldier in the field, a cop on the beat, a fireman going into a burning building. A lot of them feel like they are targets, they are in danger, they have to be vigilant all the time. They are traumatized. But these aren't soldiers in battle. They're medical personnel working in office buildings.


N.M.: The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic where last week's shootings occurred had cameras everywhere, bulletproof glass and a safe room. What kind of precautions do individual providers take to protect themselves and their families from violence and harassment?

D.C.: Some providers do nothing, figuring that for their own assessment of risk, that's the best way to handle things. But others take all sorts of actions. They register their home or business to a P.O. Box or in someone else's name. They wear disguises. They take different routes to work every day, and they make arrangements with airlines that let them change flights easily so protesters don't know their schedules. Sometimes they carry guns. One of the doctors that we talked to said, "If anyone had told me when I went to medical school that I would go to work armed and with a bulletproof vest, I would have thought they were crazy. But I do have a bulletproof vest and I do go to clinics armed these days."


N.M.: States have enacted a huge number of abortion restrictions in the past few years. Is there any correlation between those kinds of laws and violence or harassment against providers?

D.C.: There was a study a few years ago that showed that states with more abortion restrictions have a greater incidence of low-level harassment and vandalism, although the study didn't show a link to more extreme acts of violence and murder. The Feminist Majority Foundation has reported that more clinics are dealing with this kind of targeted harassment since 2010. To the extent that that's true, it's probably related to the fact that we've seen an unprecedented number of abortion restrictions since 2010, when the Tea Party took over so many state legislatures. Many of those restrictions are specifically aimed at clinics and doctors. I'm not ascribing intentionality there, but extremist regulations and extremist language make for a volatile mix.


N.M.: What about those videos claiming to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal organs for profit? How do you think something like that affects the overall level of violence and harassment?

D.C.: You add into the mix these deceptive videos 2014 I mean, how awful is that, selling baby parts? 2014 and extremists believe it. It really adds to the volatility of the environment.

In Colorado, a deranged man shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic. The affiliate, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was one of the clinics featured in these videos. Police said that afterwards accused attacker Robert Dear Jr. talked about "no more baby parts." Even if [as news reports suggest] the attacker was not a member of Operation Rescue or the Army of God or another extremist anti-abortion group, he was part of this environment that was vilifying abortion, vilifying Planned Parenthood.


N.M.: Over the years, state and federal lawmakers have made attempts to protect clinic employees and patients from harassment 2014 for example, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act of 1994. Some of these laws haven't stood up to Supreme Court scrutiny. What measures, if any, have proven effective?

D.C.: Clinic blockades were very common in the 1980s and 201890s 2014 physical blockades at the clinic door, sometimes with human bodies, sometimes with a car where the key has been thrown away and someone's locked underneath the car and that key's been thrown away, too. The FACE Act has been incredibly successful against that kind of action. What the act hasn't eliminated is the kind of personal targeting we have been talking about. That largely goes under the radar.


There are some laws that make a difference. Some municipalities have home picketing laws that say you can only picket someone's home in particular ways or that bar it completely. There are stalking laws and anti-harassment laws that sometimes are helpful, but a lot of those laws need to be broadened to include the type of harassment that abortion providers face. There's a great law in California that protects abortion providers' identities in public databases 2014 it's called Safe at Home and was originally designed to protect domestic violence survivors. It's a wonderful model for other states to enact. Hate crime laws should also be expanded to cover abortion providers. Police and judges need to understand how this kind of harassment works.


N.M.: Back in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security attempted to classify anti-abortion extremism as a form of domestic terrorism. There was a huge outcry from the right, and the Obama administration backed down. Why do you think terrorism is the appropriate label for the kind of violence and harassment you've documented?

D.C.: The ultimate goal is to shut down abortion clinics so there's no more abortion in this country. When Scott Roeder killed Dr. George Tiller in 2009, he said he was saving thousands of babies because now they don't have an abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas. People hope they can harass someone enough that they'll stop providing abortions. They hope that they can terrorize someone's family enough that their family pushes them to stop providing abortions.

They have been unsuccessful through the normal political process in overturning Roe v. Wade. So they're using violence and the fear of violence to accomplish a political goal. That's terrorism.


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Donald Spitz

11 months ago

I don't see where babykilling abortionists or their helpers have anything to complain about. They do kill innocent babies don't they? Whatever happens to them, they deserve
Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Nifty, Sensex in no man’s land – Wednesday closing report
If Nifty closes below 7,880, a downtrend may start
We had mentioned in Tuesday’s closing report that Nifty, Sensex were still on course to head higher and that Nifty has to remain above 7,800 for the uptrend to continue. On Wednesday, the Indian stock markets were bearish on account of negative cues from economic data and the day’s trading closed with small losses of less than 0.5% in the major indices. The trends of the major indices in the course of the day’s trading are given in the table below:
Negative macro-economic data coupled with a bearish outlook by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and an impending US rate hike decision subdued Indian equity markets on Wednesday. Initially, both the bellwether indices of the Indian equity markets opened on a firm note following US markets positive close on Tuesday. However, the gains were capped ahead of the release of key US macro data on employment. Investors were concerned over a slowdown in demand which was indicated by lacklustre eight core industries (ECI) data and purchasing manager’s index (PMI) data.
News from abroad on economic data, in particular the US economy was also negative, which added to the cautious outlook of Indian investors. The US manufacturing Index in November contracted to the lowest level since June 2009 when the economy was caught up in the worst financial crisis in decades. The manufacturing index, also known as the purchasing managers index (PMI), fall to 48.6 in November after registering 50.1 in October, Xinhua cited the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) as saying on Tuesday. A reading above 50 indicates the sector is generally expanding, while a reading below that level indicates contraction. The ISM's new-orders index and the production index decreased while the employment index rose. The dismal data shows that a strong US dollar and a weak global economy continue constraining factory activities. Of the 18 manufacturing industries, only five reported growth which included non-metallic mineral products, food and tobacco. A business survey conducted by the institute showed continued concerns about less demand from China and European markets were affecting the US business.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Tuesday that Goods and Services Tax Bill (GST) is the need of the hour and would be a game changer once it gets parliament's nod. "With GST, India's gross domestic product (GDP) will increase by anywhere around 1% to 1.5%. There are lots of benefits of GST which includes the unified tax regime across India and reduction of black money," he said while addressing the BJP parliamentary party meeting. "In the long run the prices would come down, so would the inflation. The growth would kick start, the jobs would increase. There will be increase in exports too. It (GST) will be a game changer," he added. Jaitley emphasized the need to increase production to create employment and get taxes and use them for social security and development. "This will enable maximum governance and will reduce harassment, paper work, corruption and hence passage of GST is the need of the hour," he said. He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the initiative and held discussions with the main opposition party to solve the deadlock over the GST issue.
Commercial vehicles major Ashok Leyland Ltd said on Tuesday it closed last month logging 16% volume growth over the corresponding period last year. In a statement issued here, the company said it sold 8,971 units last month as against 7,732 units sold in November 2014. Out of these, 6,297 units were of medium and heavy commercial vehicles and 2,674 units of light commercial vehicles. Ashok Leyland shares closed at Rs92.85, down 0.54% on the BSE.
Two and three wheeler maker TVS Motor Company Ltd said on Tuesday it logged sales of over 225,000 units last month. In a statement, the company said it closed last month selling 225,401 units up from 220,046 units sold in November 2014. It also said that the incessant rains for the past three weeks in Chennai have had an adverse effect on company's production during this period. The company suffered sales loss of approximately 15,000 units due to the inclement weather, the statement said. The shares of the company closed at Rs289.20, down 4.87% on the BSE.
The top gainers and top losers of the indices are given in the table below:
The closing values of the major Asian indices are given in the table below:


Army, Air Force, Navy deployed in flood hit Chennai
The army, air force and navy were pressed into service on Wednesday for helping residents here, battling floods caused by the heaviest rains in the last 100 years in Tamil Nadu.
Four army columns have been deployed in the affected areas and additional columns have been placed on stand by, an official spokesperson said. The navy has sent three relief teams, consisting of around 90 sailors and officers.
A navy spokesperson said additional boats were being deployed. Arrangements have been made to shelter around 100 people at (E) shelter. Medical teams have been kept ready.
Naval ship INS Airavat has proceeded to Chennai from Visakhapatnam with relief material. The navy is also assessing the flood hit areas through Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
The Indian Air Force meanwhile deployed C17 aircraft to carry three teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to Tirupati. It will be moving 12 teams.
Six Chetak helicopters and two Mi 17 helicopters were ready and one Chetak and one Cheetah helicopter were sent to conduct recces of the affected areas.
The unprecedented torrential rains, recorded as the heaviest in 100 years, have battered Tamil Nadu's northern districts such as Chennai, Tiruvallur, Kanchipuram and Cuddalore, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said while speaking to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
Jayalalithaa told Modi that the state machinery was geared up to tackle the challenges.
The state has deployed Disaster Response Force, fire and rescue service personnel and coastal security group in the affected places.
The rains stopped on Wednesday morning, offering some respite to the people. The weather office, however, on Wednesday forecast heavy rains in the next three days.
During the last spell of rains, around 180 people lost their lives in four districts of Chennai, Kanchipuram, Cuddalore and Thiruvallur.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.


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