STUDY: Anti-Abortion Legislation May Inspire Anti-Abortion Harassment

A new study examines the connection between the states with the most restrictive anti-choice laws and the states with the most aggressive levels of harassment against abortion doctors, providers, and clinics. Although the researchers couldn’t point to causation, they did find an association between more restrictive state-level abortion legislation and increased harassment of abortion providers.

Salon’s Irin Carmon speculated that the increased media spotlight on the states that pass restrictive anti-choice laws could incite the Americans who are obsessively, passionately anti-abortion to take action against abortion providers. Or, as one of the study’s authors told Salon, anti-abortion activists could take their cues from state governments. As she put it, when state legislators target abortion providers, it “probably in some way sanctions targeting us for harassment.”

Although the study’s authors focused on what they deemed to be nonviolent protests — such as vandalism of clinics and intimidation of patients — because acts of anti-abortion violence were relatively rare during their data collection in 2010, they do note that acts of serious violence against abortion providers has been on the rise over the past two decades. Perhaps the most famous symbol of the violence leveled against abortion providers is Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas-area women’s health advocate and abortion doctor who was murdered at his clinic in 2009 — a clinic that was recently purchased by a women’s health group that hopes to re-open it to once again provide abortion services to women in the area.