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Nomination of Grace C. Becker


March 10, 2008

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Arlen Specter
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Re: Nomination of Grace C. Becker to be Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division

Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Specter:

On behalf of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers in the United States, I write regarding the nomination of Grace C. Becker to the position of Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. As an organization that interacts directly with this Division, we urge you to obtain assurances that Ms. Becker will continue to enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), and take other measures to protect abortion providers from violence.

i. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act

FACE makes it a federal crime to use or attempt force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, or interfere with providers of reproductive health care services or their patients. This law is vital in protecting clinics, their employees, and women seeking reproductive health care services from violence and threats of violence. The Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division is responsible for pursuing criminal and civil actions stemming from violations of the Act. Accordingly, we urge you to ascertain Ms. Becker's understanding of the FACE Act, whether she will strongly enforce the FACE Act against those who interfere with access to reproductive health care, and whether she will vigorously defend the law against constitutional challenges.

ii. The Department of Justice Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers

Ms. Becker should also provide assurances that she will maintain the Department of Justice's Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers. Currently, this Task Force performs several functions including: (1) coordinating investigations and prosecutions of clinic violence; (2) serving as a clearinghouse for information on acts of violence against abortion providers; (3) making security recommendations to enhance the safety and protection of providers; (4) assisting the U.S. Attorneys' local working groups on clinic violence; (5) enhancing training of federal, state, and local law enforcement on issues relating to clinic violence; and (6) supporting federal civil investigation and litigation of abortion-related violence.

NAF has documented that the Task Force's work has led to a decrease in extreme forms of violence against abortion providers. As a medical association representing abortion providers around the country, we would like the Senate Judiciary Committee to obtain Ms. Becker's commitment to continuing the Task Force and ensuring that it has the resources necessary to carry out its mission.

iii. U.S. Marshal Service Protection for Abortion Providers

Finally, we suggest that you question Ms. Becker on whether she would be willing to recommend that the Attorney General dispatch federal marshals to protect a health care provider in the event of an imminent threat. Prior Attorneys General have dispatched federal marshals when necessary to protect the lives of abortion providers. Specifically, the Attorney General deployed marshals in upstate New York after the murder of Dr. Slepian in 1998. More recently, the Attorney General deployed marshals in Wichita, Kansas in July of 2001 during protests by vigilant anti-abortion extremists.

iv. Conclusion

Over the last decade, significant strides have been made in curbing extreme violence against abortion providers. Law enforcement has prevented violent incidents and has captured and prosecuted anti-abortion criminals who threaten the safety of abortion providers, their patients, and the communities in which they live. However, clinic violence does continue to impact the lives of women and reproductive health care providers in communities throughout the United States. In the past year alone, clinics across the country have been the targets of arsons, attempted bombings, attempted arsons and blockades.

For this reason, the Senate must ensure that under Ms. Becker's leadership, the Civil Rights Division will continue to work with law enforcement to prevent clinic violence and vigorously pursue and prosecute those who violate laws protecting clinics, providers and patients. We urge the Judiciary Committee to fully explore this issue with Ms. Becker before she is confirmed.

Sincerely,

Vicki Saporta
President and CEO

cc: Senator Edward M. Kennedy

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