Critics Say 'Abortioncams' Invade Privacy

Aug. 16, 2001 -- "Watch People Going in and out of Baby Butcher Shops in Your City or Town," an anti-abortion rights Web site urges.

With a click of the mouse, users can view pictures and video of people entering or leaving abortion clinics — including patients who undergo abortions and doctors who perform them.

Abortion rights activists say it's an invasion of privacy that encourages violence against those captured on camera.

"It is aimed at intimidating women and health-care professionals and is escalating tensions outside abortion clinics," says Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation.

Just the Facts?

But the creator of Abortioncams.com — Neal Horsley, who founded The Christian Gallery News Service, an anti-abortion rights group based in Carrollton, Ga. — says he is only exercising his constitutional rights as a "journalist."

"If they make it illegal for me to report the abortion story then the idea of a free press will have been completely overturned by judicial tyranny," he insists. "All I'm doing is reporting the news."

Horsley has enlisted anti-abortion rights demonstrators, including his 20-year-old daughter Kathy, to serve as Christian Gallery "reporters" and shoot anyone walking in or out of abortion clinics with still or video cameras.

"What they're doing is evil — These people … are ripping babies limb from limb," he says. "Anybody who goes within 5 miles of an abortion clinic has to understand that they're entering into a story of momentous social concern."

Saporta says her organization's lawyers are researching possible legal lines of attack, including whether the Web site's activities constitute an invasion of privacy.

"It certainly violates a patient's confidentiality," she says. "We're looking to see if they in fact cross First Amendment lines into areas that would be illegal."

From the Creator of 'The Nuremberg Files' …

Horsley also posts "The Nuremberg Files" on his Web site — a frequently updated list of the names and home-states of abortion providers, abortion-rights activists, politicians who support abortion rights, women who have received abortions and various judges and police officers. The title is a reference to the post World War II trials of alleged Nazi war criminals.

Personal information, such as home phone numbers and addresses, are also provided for many of the physicians. The names of those who are killed appear with a black line through them. The names of those who are wounded are listed in gray.

"His site certainly gives extremists the information they would need to target an abortion provider for violence if they chose to do that and his rhetoric is very inflammatory," says Saporta, who is on what critics say amounts to a "hit list." "I don't think he really cares whether or not it leads to violence — In fact, … he is encouraging others to commit acts of violence."

"The Nuremberg Files" were widely publicized in 1998 after Dr. Barnett Slepian, a Buffalo, N.Y., obstetrician listed on the site, was shot to death in his home by a sniper.

A page on Horsley's Web site discussing his plans to take abortioncams.com to public access cable features a picture of Horsley holding a camera and wearing a T-shirt with the word "Sniper" printed on it.

The site also features animation of dripping blood, pictures of aborted fetuses and a wide collection of his anti-abortion rights rhetoric.

Experts Say 'Abortioncams' Constitutionally Protected

Horsley maintains the purpose of his operation is only to "deter" women from having abortions and doctors from performing them, and denies encouraging violence. But he concedes that posting photographs and video of women going into abortion clinics does put their "security" in jeopardy.

"Do you … insist that publishing the pictures of the 'mothers' who go to kill their children is wrong?" he asks on his Web site.

"[I]f you do hold the present peace and security of the 'mothers' at higher value than the life of the child, if you hold such a confused and evil value system, make no mistake about it: to the people who created http://www.abortioncams.com you are the enemy … "

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March that "The Nuremberg Files" were not against the law, reversing an earlier ruling by a lower court.

And legal experts say Horsley's activities, including his new "Abortioncams" project, are constitutionally protected.

"If they say, 'These are the people whom we are going to kill,' … that would be constitutionally unprotected," says law professor Eugene Volokh of the University of California at Los Angeles. "But the mere fact that they reveal this information or that people would understandably find this to be menacing doesn't strip it of its constitutional protection."

"I can see certainly see why people would be upset, but it's pretty clearly constitutionally protected," Volokh adds.

Tom Shine contributed to this report.

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