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Conflict of Rights: Public Safety and Abortion Clinic Conflict and Violence

NCJ Number
Dennis J. Kenney; Dina Rose; Tara O'Conner Shelley; Cristine Maglieri; Melissa Reuland; Deborah Lamm Weisel
Date Published
375 pages
Abortion is one of the most controversial and culturally divisive issues in society, and protests directed against abortion centers have often become violent and frequently conflict with civil rights.
Although there is a broad range of activity associated with anti-abortion sentiment, incidents surrounding the abortion debate can be broadly categorized into four groups: demonstrations, nonphysical harassment, civil disobedience, and violence. The frequency of conflict and violence is difficult to estimate, however, because little systematic data collection has occurred. In a 1996 survey, the Feminist Majority Foundation found that 30 percent of abortion clinics had experienced one or more severe types of violence during the first 7 months of the year. Severe violence was defined to include death threats, stalking, chemical attacks, bombings and bomb threats, invasions, arson and arson threats, and blockades. Congressional hearings determined that violence surrounding the abortion debate is increasing. Participants in the conflict and violence are examined, as well as victims, offenders, and affected third parties. Effects of and remedies for abortion-related violence are discussed. Detailed quantitative and qualitative data gathered from a national survey of police and case study research in several U.S. cities are presented. Policy recommendations on how to deal with abortion-related violence are offered that focus on organizational preparedness, responding to planned or large events, responding to calls for service, collaboration with police and community agencies, and issues of impartiality and bias. Appendixes contain supplemental information on abortion violence and the law enforcement response. References and tables