NEWSFLASH: Rates of Severe Violence Targeting Abortion Providers, Patients and Clinics at a 20-Year High

The Feminist Majority Foundation’s 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey, released today, found that severe anti-abortion violence and threats of violence against women’s health clinics have skyrocketed in the last two years. The number of clinics reporting that they have experienced severe violence was the highest since FMF’s 1995 survey.

The 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey, which collected data on clinic violence during the first six months of 2016 from 319 independent and affiliated abortion providers from across the country, painted a ghastly picture of the landscape facing abortion providers and their patients. 34.2 percent of providers reported experiencing the most severe types of threats and violence—including death threats, stalking and blocking access to clinics. 49.5 percent of clinics nationwide reported experiencing at least one incident of break-ins, stalking, picketing doctors and clinic staff at home or vandalism. Ultimately, a whopping 91.1 percent of clinics reported experiencing any type of anti-abortion activity during the survey period, with 63.2 percent of providers experiencing it at least on a weekly basis.

Clinics that reported “poor” or “fair” experiences with local law enforcement were significantly more likely to experience high levels of severe violence and harassment than their counterparts with strong working relationships with police and other local authorities.

The FMF also released a video to accompany the survey results that puts on stark display the extreme tactics anti-abortion extremists utilize to intimidate abortion providers, their patients and their staff members on a daily basis. These trained operatives are not mere “activists.” They are engaged in a systematic campaign to shut down women’s health clinics—at any cost, human or otherwise.

Between 2010 and 2016, an unprecedented amount of abortion restrictions were passed into law across the U.S. This marked rise in clinic violence was undoubtedly rooted in the rise of anti-abortion myths and misnomers that paved the way for those laws, but also occurred more acutely against the backdrop of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood released by the Center for Medical Progress and the divisive and misleading anti-abortion rhetoric of the 2016 election. The release of the survey and video comes on the eve of a series of rallies occurring nationwide to defund Planned Parenthood scheduled for Saturday, February 11.

“The hateful and violent rhetoric that is spouted constantly creates a hostile climate where violence thrives,” said Eleanor Smeal, FMF President. “We’ve been doing this survey since 1993 and seen time and time again that this rhetoric quickly escalates to threats. And when threats go up, violence occurs. You cannot consistently call women and doctors murderers and then escape responsibility when others are emboldened to commit violence.”

FMF’s National Clinic Access Project, which was launched in 1989, leads efforts nationwide to reduce anti-abortion violence, to keep women’s health personnel and patients safe, to keep clinics open and to bring violent anti-abortion extremists to justice. The FMF has also launched a multi-platform campaign pushing back against anti-abortion extremism.




Carmen Rios is a self-proclaimed feminist superstar and the former digital editor at Ms. Her writing on queerness, gender, race and class has been published in print and online by outlets including BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, DAME, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic, the National Women’s History Museum, SIGNS and the Women’s Media Center; and she is a co-founder of Webby-nominated Argot Magazine. @carmenriosss|