Privacy Rights and Abortion Outing: A Proposal for Using Common-Law Torts to Protect Abortion Patients and Staff

By Clapman, Alice | The Yale Law Journal, April 2003 | Go to article overview

Privacy Rights and Abortion Outing: A Proposal for Using Common-Law Torts to Protect Abortion Patients and Staff


Clapman, Alice, The Yale Law Journal


I. INTRODUCTION

When Lori Driver, an anti-abortion activist, learned that Lisa Smith (1) was scheduled to have an abortion the following day, Driver looked up Smith's telephone number and left her two telephone messages. Smith did not return Driver's calls, so Driver stepped up her efforts, going to Smith's house and leaving anti-abortion literature and a plastic model of a fetus on her doorstep. The next morning, the day of Smith's scheduled abortion, Driver left a message on her answering machine, asking her parents to call about a medical emergency involving their daughter. When Smith arrived at the clinic for her appointment, a protestor called out to her by name and accused her of murdering her baby. An unknown caller left a message for Smith at the clinic that Smith's parents knew about her plan and were distraught. Meanwhile, a clinic representative called Driver's number pretending to be Smith's father returning her message, and the person at the other end informed him that Smith had gone in for an abortion. (2)

This example has become all too ordinary. (Incidentally, a divided court denied relief to Smith.) Having lost the legal battle to criminalize abortion, (3) anti-abortion protestors have shifted to a strategy of extralegal deterrence through various techniques of shaming, harassment, and obstruction. Protestors publicize the names of patients (4) and, in at least one case, their medical records. (5) They film patients entering and leaving clinics, and post the images on the Internet. (6) They record license plates in clinic parking lots; track down drivers' names and addresses; visit patients' homes; and send letters to them and their families, friends, boyfriends, and husbands. (7) Protestors even pose as abortion providers, taking down personal information from callers and using that information to contact family members and urge them to intervene. (8)

Abortion doctors are also targets of intentional exposure. Protestors picket outside doctors' homes, photograph them, videotape them, and observe them through binoculars. (9) They leaflet cars with the names and addresses of clinic staff. (10) They post doctors' names, addresses, phone numbers, and license plate numbers, as well as video footage of clinic entrances, on the Internet. (11) Intent on going further, they have been planning, and may already have begun, to broadcast clinic footage on public access television. (12)

What all these activities--to which this Note refers as "abortion outing"--have in common is that they destroy the privacy and anonymity (13) on which the practice of abortion fundamentally depends. Patients need anonymity to be safe from community retaliation and free from the unwanted influence of friends, family members, and acquaintances. Doctors need privacy to be safe from harassment or violence by community members who oppose what they do. Abortion opponents have rightly guessed that reducing anonymity deters abortion, and their guess is paying off. Fewer and fewer doctors are practicing abortion, to the point where abortion is no longer accessible in much of the country, (14) and prospective patients have been driven away from clinics by the threat of publicity. (15)

Because Roe's constitutional right to privacy only protects women against state actors, abortion-rights advocates have fought at the federal and state levels for statutory and judicial protections against protestors. At the federal level, for example, they have helped pass the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1995 (FACE), (16) which criminalizes the use of, among other things, force or threats to prevent women from entering clinics, and the Drivers' Privacy Protection Act of 1994, (17) which makes it more difficult for anti-abortion activists, among others, to obtain personal information based on names and license plates. At the state and local levels, they have secured laws, (18) ordinances, (19) and injunctions (20) restricting protests outside clinic entrances and doctors' homes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Privacy Rights and Abortion Outing: A Proposal for Using Common-Law Torts to Protect Abortion Patients and Staff
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.