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Office of the Attorney General


Washington, DC





December 22, 1997





SUBJECT: Violence Against Providers of Reproductive Health Services

The number of bombings and other unlawful acts of violence, obstruction, and intimidation at reproductive health clinics nationwide has increased significantly this year. Already, at least 12 abortion clinics have been bombed in 1997--more than twice as many as in all of 1996. Although no abortion provider has been killed during this period, I am very concerned that persons who violate the law by committing acts of violence, obstructing access to clinics, or otherwise intimidating doctors and patients, have become increasingly aggressive, threatening and dangerous.

The Department must do everything it can to prevent unlawful interference with the delivery of constitutionally protected reproductive health care services, and it must continue to view as one of its highest priorities the investigation and prosecution of criminal and civil violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) and other relevant statutes. To achieve these ends, we must ensure that the level of coordination and communication among law enforcement officials--both between Main Justice and the United States Attorneys' Offices, and between federal and local officials in the field--is as high as possible.

In early September 1997, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights formed a working group here at the Department to coordinate policy objectives among federal agencies and to make sure that law enforcement efforts in this area are given the highest priority. Chaired by the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the working group consists of senior representatives of the Civil Rights Division, the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the United States Marshals Service. The working group has begun meeting on a regular basis to share information and otherwise coordinate the government's prevention and law enforcement activities.

We need your help for the Department's initiative to be a success. Specifically, I direct that each United States Attorney take the following steps:

1.   Keep Main Justice (via the Civil Rights Division) informed of all relevant developments in your districts, regardless of how insignificant those developments may appear to you or your staff. The Civil Rights Division has learned a great deal about many of the persons and groups who perpetrate violent and other unlawful acts against abortion providers in different states around the country, and it may be able to provide you with significant information about a person's unlawful activities in other states--information of which you might not otherwise be aware. In addition, the Division has developed a substantial legal expertise in both the criminal and the civil enforcement of the FACE Act, and it stands ready to assist you in the prompt investigation and prosecution of your cases. The criminal provisions of the FACE Act have given the Department a valuable new tool for punishing and deterring acts of violence against abortion providers. Civil actions brought under the FACE Act may be particularly successful in curbing violence and unlawful acts of obstruction and intimidation at abortion clinics; the civil enforcement tools available including temporary restraining orders, injunctions, damages and civil penalties, can prevent violence and other unlawful conduct before it occurs.

Your principal point of contact within Main Justice should be Neal Kravitz, Counsel to the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Mr. Kravitz can be reached at (202) 514-4016.

2.  As you know, in January 1995, following the murder of two clinic workers in Brookline, Massachusetts, President Clinton directed that all 93 United States Attorneys establish local task forces within their districts to coordinate law enforcement efforts relating to abortion violence. The President directed the United States Attorneys to include representatives of federal and local law enforcement agencies on their local task forces, to work with the United States Marshals Service and with senior officials in Main Justice to evaluate risks of harm to particular abortion providers or their patients, and to coordinate the provision of security for them when appropriate. Shortly thereafter, I directed the local task forces to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of possible violations of federal law involving access to reproductive health services.

I now direct that each of you promptly convene a meeting of the local abortion violence task force in your district. Make sure that all relevant federal and local law enforcement agencies are represented on the task force, and emphasize the high priority that efforts to protect against and prosecute abortion violence must receive. Make sure that procedures are in place for the sharing of information and the coordination of efforts when an act of violence or unlawful obstruction or intimidation occurs or is imminent, or when a request for protection must be evaluated.

3.   Identify a point of contact within your office. The point of contact should be a senior AUSA charged with directing the regular work of the local abortion violence task force and maintaining contact with the Civil Rights Division. Please provide the name, address and telephone number of the point of contact to Brenda Baldwin White, Counsel to the Director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, by January 7, 1998. Ms. White's fax number is (202) 514-8340.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation and assistance in this important responsibility.

Updated March 8, 2017