The 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act makes it a federal crime to injure, intimidate, or interfere with those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health care services. That includes not just murder, assault, arson, and property damage, but also death threats, burglaries, harassing phone calls, hate mail, and blockades. In recent years, we’ve also seen a rise in bio-terrorism threats (especially hoax anthrax letters) directed at reproductive health care providers. The FBI helps investigate these crimes, working closely with a variety of law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice.
Do these crimes actually happen? Yes. Eric Rudolph killed a police officer and critically wounded a nurse when he bombed an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1998. That same year, a New York doctor who ran a well-known reproductive services clinic was shot and killed in his home by a single sniper’s bullet. In 1994, John Salvi shot and killed two Boston abortion clinic workers and wounded five others.
From 2000-2007, there was a drastic decrease in the number of violent acts against reproductive health care providers and clinics due in part to the FBI’s increased liaison with these potential targets as well as liaison with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. After the 2009 murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, KS, the FBI has seen increase in reported criminal activity occurring at clinics across the country as well as threats against providers.