California Abortion Clinics Attacked More Often than Clinics in Other States, State Senate Report Shows
Since 1982, abortion clinics in California have been bombed and set on fire more frequently than in any other state, according to a state Senate report conducted in response to debate over a bill (SB 780) that would create a state version of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The law was established in 1994 to stop protestors from blocking access to abortion clinics. In addition to the bombings, the Senate Office of Research found that 30 of the 244 clinic arson crimes reported nationwide occurred in California, and more than 50% of the 172 surveyed clinics and abortion providers across the state reported threats, vandalism, assaults, blockades and other crimes between 1995 and 2000. The survey also found that 30% of clinic employees said they or their families had been threatened, harassed or assaulted away from clinics. Just fewer than 50% of survey participants found police response to such personal or clinic incidents inadequate due to law enforcement officers' unfamiliarity with the law or their "unwillingness" to arrest or prosecute. These numbers are "front and center" in the effort to pass state Sen. Deborah Ortiz's (D-Sacramento) bill, which was approved by the Senate and is up for an Assembly committee vote today. The measure would strengthen state protection of clinics, physicians and patients by giving local police and district attorneys a "clearer mandate" to prosecute violence against clinics, supporters say. But bill opponents contend that existing criminal laws are sufficient to quell violence against providers, and note that the legislation would criminalize even the distribution of antiabortion pamphlets at clinic sites. Last year, Ortiz introduced a bill that would have classified abortion-related crimes as hate crimes with enhanced penalties, but that bill failed to pass (Ness, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/9).
Noting that clinics providing abortion services "must be protected from threats, violence and harassment," a San Francisco Chronicle editorial says that Ortiz's bill "is worth approval as an insurance policy against possible repeal of abortion clinic protections by the Bush administration." Pointing to the Senate report on abortion clinic attacks, the editorial concludes, "[C]linics, doctors and nurses deserve this bill's protection as a permanent guard against violent conduct" (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.