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Visitors to abortion clinic traced through license tags

An anti-abortion group is using license plate numbers to get the addresses of people who visit a clinic here.

The Brevard County chapter of Operation Goliath has started tracing the plate numbers on vehicles driven to the Aware Woman clinic, chapter director Bruce Cadle said. The clinic provides abortions, contraceptives and pregnancy counseling.

Christine Jagos operates Operation Goliath's sidewalk counseling program, in which protesters hand out pamphlets to clinic visitors. She said the new tactic is a way to reach more people, not an attempt to harass them or invade their privacy.

Counselors write down the license plate numbers on cars in which women arrive, then trace the addresses through "a source in the (Department of Motor Vehicles)," Ms. Jagos said. Group members then mail information in plain envelopes to the vehicles' owners, she said.

Patricia Baird Windle, the clinic's owner, said the tactic "disgusts" her: "When they say it's not an invasion of privacy, they're doing their typical propaganda doublespeak. It's a lie _ of course it's an invasion of privacy."

Anti-abortion activists are limited to protesting on the sidewalk because Ms. Windle has a restraining injunction to keep them off clinic property.

"Because we're limited to the sidewalk and they would have to come to us, there are a lot of women we just can't reach," Ms. Jagos said.

Janet Farrell, a courier for a medical laboratory, received anti-abortion literature from Operation Goliath less than 24 hours after stopping at the clinic on her daily route.

"They sent me pictures of dead fetuses and a letter saying, "Please don't get your abortion and, if you must, do it at a licensed doctor's,'

" said Ms. Farrell, of Merritt Island. "It was ridiculous. Whether I'm pro-life or pro-abortion doesn't matter."

Brevard County Tax Collector Rod Northcutt said addresses can be obtained legally through registration information, but interested people must fill out forms in the tax collector's office.

Northcutt is not aware of any Operation Goliath members requesting the information through his office, but has taken calls from people whose addresses were traced, he said.

Using the Department of Motor Vehicles source helps Operation Goliath members reach potential clinic patients as quickly as possible, before any who might be considering abortions decide to proceed, Ms. Jagos said.

Jack Pelham, bureau chief of the state Motor Carrier division in Tallahassee, said three people there are authorized to give registration information by phone _ but only if the caller is an attorney or official in law enforcement or banking.

Anyone who gives out information improperly could be reprimanded or fired, Pelham said.

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