_Protest or Terrorism?

Law scholars document the rise in violence faced by women’s health-care providers and propose a new legal standard.

_David S. Cohen

Cohen is an associate professor at Drexel’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law, where he teaches constitutional law and gender and the law. Krysten Connon is a 2012 graduate of the Kline School of Law.

Abortion is statutorily legal and one of the safest and most common medical procedures in the United States, with nearly one in three women electing to terminate a pregnancy in her lifetime.

But providing those women with abortion services can be deadly. Eight abortion providers have been murdered since 1993 and incidents of harassment, threats and other forms of intimidation are dramatically increasing, as new research details.

“These stories need to be told because the experiences illuminate the truth of the issue and offer us a path to a better policy.”

–David S. Cohen associate professor in the Thomas R. Kline School of Law

Law Professor David S. Cohen and Krysten Connon ’12, an alumna of the Kline School of Law and an attorney in Philadelphia, document the antagonism faced by abortion providers and their families in their book, “Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism” (Oxford University Press, 2015).

“Providers told us about being physically assaulted, picketed at home, threatened over the phone and stalked around town. Providers’ children have been the targets of protests at school, providers’ parents have been harassed in nursing homes and their spouses have been targeted at work,” she says. “Abortion providers live with a staggering amount and variety of targeted harassment.”

With nearly 90 extensive, in-depth interviews conducted across the country, their work is the largest study ever to investigate both what happens to providers and how the law can better help them.

Drawing on ideas from the interviews, the authors propose several legal and societal reforms that could improve the lives of providers, foremost among them is redefining targeted harassment as terrorism rather than protest.