Those who work or volunteer at women’s health clinics and hospitals around the country live in daily fear if they play any role in the delivery of abortions, Professor David S. Cohen and alumna Krysten Connon, ’12, said during an April 16 discussion of their new book moderated by Professor Rose Corrigan.
“Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism” features accounts by doctors, nurses, clinic administrators and volunteers across the U.S. who constantly contend with violence and threatened violence because they provide abortions.
The book, to be released in May by Oxford University Press, is based on interviews Cohen and Connon conducted with nearly 90 doctors, nurses, clinic and hospital administrators and volunteers in 35 states. The book provides a compendium of chilling tales, from the burning of a home to the posting of “wanted” posters and personal information on the Internet. Some of those interviewed said that even their families are not safe; their children have been followed home from school and their elderly parents in nursing homes have received visits from anti-abortion protestors.
The targeted threats echo the eight or nine assassinations of abortion providers that have occurred in the past 20 years at workplaces, inside private homes and even a church, Cohen said.
“The message is ‘You’re not safe anywhere,’” Cohen said, crediting Connon with proposing the research that ultimately resulted in the book.
Connon said she had been stunned to learn that the director of a Pennsylvania women’s health clinic felt compelled to wear a bullet-proof vest to work every day.
“That story is not portrayed in the media,” said Connon, one of several students and alumni who Cohen enlisted to help defend the Allentown Women’s Center against a lawsuit that alleged the visual barrier center volunteers erected to separate clinic patients from protesters violated their free speech rights.
(Cohen, his students and the clinic prevailed, winning a motion for summary judgment in U.S. District Court).
The book also proposes legislative and policy initiatives that could help protect abortion providers.
Cohen noted that California has taken positive steps, allowing abortion providers to conceal their home addresses by publishing alternative addresses in public databases. In contrast, Connon added, some states have sought to make abortion providers’ whereabouts easier to find.
The serious threat that members of the anti-abortion movement pose should drive policy makers and the law enforcement community to take significant steps, Cohen said.
“They are using tactics that are violent or play on the threat of violence, which fits the definition of terrorism,” he said, applauding abortion providers’ courage and conviction in continuing to deliver a needed service and even in sharing their stories. “They wanted people to know what they live with.”