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Professor David S. Cohen, Alumna File Brief to Shield Scientists from Harassment

Professor David S. Cohen and Alumna Krysten Connon Discuss their book "Living in the Crosshairs" on MSNBC Professor David S. Cohen and alumna Krysten Connon discuss their book as guests on MSNBC

March 24, 2017

Professor David S. Cohen and alumna Krysten Connon, ’12, filed an amici brief aimed at protecting University of Washington scientists and researchers from violence and harassment by anti-abortion activists.

Cohen and Connon, along with an attorney from the Women’s Law Project, filed the brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on March 16 on behalf of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Feminist Majority Foundation.

The brief was filed to safeguard the safety of UW scientists engaged in fetal tissue research, which has become a focus of David Daleiden, the same anti-abortion activist who released videos misleadingly edited to suggest that Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of embryos.

The scientists are seeking to prevent disclosure of their identities and personal information contained in UW records related to the research, which are being sought by the anti-abortion activist.

The brief provides an account of harassment, intimidation and violence by anti-abortion activists that has included murders, attempted murders, bombings and acts of arson over the course of several decades.  It also cites anti-abortion activists’ efforts to produce “WANTED” posters and disseminate personal information about individuals involved in providing abortions on websites that encourage extremists to threaten and intimidate the health care providers.

“When similar information has been released in the past, such as the information about the abortion providers in the videos Defendant Daleiden disseminated in 2015, it has led to death threats and has appeared to inspire murder,” the brief said, citing the 2015 attack in which gunman Robert Dear justified killing three people at a Colorado clinic by alluding to “baby parts” trade that the videos purported to expose.

The brief cites extensive research that went into Cohen and Connon’s book, “Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism,” which was published by Oxford University Press in 2015.

Cohen and Connon joined with Women’s Law Project attorney Susan Frietsche in urging the court to uphold a district court’s preliminary injunction barring release of the UW scientists’ personal information.