9 jun. 2009

Solders in the Army of God

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FREEDOM OF ACCESS TO CLINIC ENTRANCES ACT

History

The abortion debate first turned deadly in 1993, when Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed by an anti-abortion zealot in Pensacola, FL. In addition, twelve arsons, one bombing, and 66 blockades were carried out against abortion clinics during that year.

In response to this unprecedented act of political assassination, and with the support of pro-choice groups, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The bill was signed into law by President Clinton in May 1994.

About FACE

The federal FACE law is designed to protect both those providing and those receiving reproductive health care services. It 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. More (PDF file, 48K)

The Impact

The FACE law has had a clear impact on the decline in certain types of violence against clinics and providers, specifically clinic blockades. The threat of the significant federal penalties for violations of the protections this legislation guarantees began to have an effect even before the bill was signed.

Since its enactment, though anti-abortion violence continues, clinic blockades have dwindled to their lowest levels since they were first used to prevent women from accessing reproductive health care.

Some other types of violence against abortion providers and their patients have also decreased. This is directly attributable both to the deterrent effect of the penalties the FACE law imposes, and the federal involvement in investigation of anti-abortion violence which was facilitated by the passage of FACE.

Read the full text of the law


Scott Roeder, the 51-year-old man accused of fatally shooting OB-GYN George Tiller last Sunday, has threatened more violence against abortion providers. In a conversation with the AP, the alleged murderer stated:

"I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal," ... When asked by the AP what he meant and if he was referring to another shooting, he refused to elaborate further.

It’s not clear if Roeder was just mouthing off to get publicity or if the alleged killer was referring to specific events planned by possible accomplices. While it sounds like the former, this time around authorities are thankfully taking the threat seriously and upping protection of abortion facilities:

Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a written statement Sunday that "we take this matter seriously, which is why the Attorney General ordered increased protection of appropriate people and facilities last week."

As many commentators pointed out following Tiller's murder, violent acts by anti-choice extremists are meant to intimidate women's health providers into abandoning abortion services. As Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, pointed out in a statement released following Tiller's death:

Dr. Tiller's murder will send a chill down the spines of the brave and courageous providers and other professionals who are part of reproductive-health centers that serve women across this country. We want them to know that they have our support as they move forward in providing these essential services in the aftermath of the shocking news from Wichita.

And the situation is pretty dire as is. According to some alarming statistics assembled by the Guttmacher Institute:

• The number of U.S. abortion providers declined by 2% between 2000 and 2005 (from 1,819 to 1,787). Eighty-seven percent of all U.S. counties lacked an abortion provider in 2005; 35% of women live in those counties.[2]

• Forty percent of providers offer very early abortions (even before the first missed period) and 96% offer abortion at eight weeks from the last menstrual period. Sixty-seven percent of providers offer at least some second-trimester abortion services (13 weeks or later), and 20% offer abortion after 20 weeks. Only 8% of all abortion providers offer abortions at 24 weeks.[2]

• The proportion of providers offering abortion at four or fewer weeks’ gestation increased from 7% in 1993 to 40% in 2005.[11]

• In 2005, the cost of a nonhospital abortion with local anesthesia at 10 weeks’ gestation ranged from $90 to $1,800; the average amount paid was $413.[2]

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