Study: Antiabortion laws inspire abuse

When legislatures target clinics, so do in-your-face activists, new research shows

Published October 1, 2012 3:50PM (EDT)

               (Reuters/Molly Riley)
(Reuters/Molly Riley)

"They will know your habits and routines. They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live," said the letter to the abortion provider. "You will be checking under your car everyday — because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it."

Mila Means hadn't even begun to actually provide abortions in Wichita, Kan., when Angel Dillard sent her that letter last year, claiming in court that its writing was both "divinely inspired" and protected by the First Amendment. But according to a new study in Contraception co-authored by an abortion provider in California, Kansas' draconian state laws around reproductive rights may have encouraged Dillard.

Dr. Jen Russo, a fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, co-authored a study with the University of Colorado's Kristin Schumacher and the University of California's Dr. Mitchell Creinin crunching the numbers on the states that have the most onerous restrictions on abortion access and those where abortion providers report the greatest amount of harassment. (They stuck to nonviolent harassment --  glued locks, vandalism and intimidation of patients and the like -- since in 2011, the sample year, incidents of violence were relatively isolated and would skew the math.) They found a statistically significant relationship between the two, though they could only speculate on causation.

One possibility: When state legislatures pass laws around abortion, the added attention to the issue fuels the obsessions of volatile people. Another, Russo told Salon, could be that the targeting of providers' state governments "probably in some way sanctions targeting us for harassment."

By Irin Carmon

Irin Carmon is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @irincarmon or email her at

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Abortion Kansas Reproductive Rights War On Women