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Context of 'January 13, 2003: Operation Rescue Denies Anti-Abortion Violence, Blames Media'

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The National Organization for Women (NOW) expands its NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit against anti-abortion activists to include Randall Terry and Operation Rescue, a “spin-off” organization (see 1986) of another defendant in the lawsuit, the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980 and 1986). Terry and Operation Rescue routinely blockade abortion clinics, sometimes using physical force. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Randall Terry, Operation Rescue, Pro-Life Action League, National Organization for Women

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue (see 1986) and a co-defendant in the NOW v. Scheidler class-action lawsuit (see June 1986, September 22, 1995, and March 29 - September 23, 1997), agrees to the issuance of a permanent injunction against him. Terry will face steep fines if he engages in future acts of violence or terrorism against women’s health clinics. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Randall Terry

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

After 12 years of litigation, the National Organization for Women (NOW) wins its lawsuit against the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN, also known as the Pro-Life Action League, or PLAL—see 1980 and 1986) and other anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986, September 22, 1995, and March 29 - September 23, 1997). The jury hearing the case unanimously agrees that the defendants engaged in a nationwide conspiracy to deny women access to medical facilities. The jury determines that Operation Rescue (see 1986), PLAN, PLAN president Joseph Scheidler, and their co-defendants are racketeers under the RICO Act and should be held liable for triple damages for the harm their violent acts caused to women’s health clinics. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Pro-Life Action League, National Organization for Women, Operation Rescue, Joseph Scheidler

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

James Kopp.James Kopp. [Source: Women's eNews (.org)]Dr. Barnett Slepian, an obstetrician in Buffalo, New York, who performs abortions, is shot to death in his kitchen, by a bullet that enters through the window of his Amherst, New York, home. His wife and one of his four children witness his murder. Anti-abortion advocate James Kopp shoots Slepian with a high-powered rifle. Kopp uses the pseudonym “Clive Swenson,” and is well known under that name in a Jersey City, New Jersey, Catholic congregation. Militant anti-abortionists call him “Atomic Dog.” It will take the FBI over two years to find Kopp, who will be arrested in France (see March 29, 2001). Kopp, who apparently was drawn to anti-abortion protests in the 1970s after his girlfriend had an abortion, has been active in anti-abortion protests for decades and joined Randall Terry’s Operation Rescue in 1986. It is also believed he joined the violent anti-abortion organization “Army of God” in 1988 (see 1982), as well as the “Lambs of God,” a Catholic anti-abortion group whose leader has characterized the anti-abortion movement as a “war between God and Satan.” Kopp is well known for designing intricate locks that anti-abortion protesters use to lock the doors to women’s health care clinics. Slepian has been listed as a “wanted” abortion provider on the anti-abortion Web site “Nuremberg Files,” which The Guardian will describe as “a virtual hit list of doctors who carry out abortions” (see January 1997). Within hours of his murder, Slepian’s name is reposted on the site, this time with a line drawn through it. [Washington Post, 1998; Womens eNews, 3/30/2001; Guardian, 4/1/2001; National Abortion Federation, 2010] By early November, Kopp will be named as a suspect in the murder, though he will not be formally charged until May 1999. He will be placed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list in June 1999. [National Abortion Federation, 2010] In 2002, Kopp will confess to the murder (see November 21, 2002). He will be found guilty a year later (see March 17-18, 2003).

Entity Tags: Lambs of God, Barnett Slepian, James Kopp, Army of God, Operation Rescue, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

Anti-abortion advocate James Kopp, accused of murdering Dr. Barnett Slepian (see October 23, 1998), confesses to the crime during an interview with the Buffalo News. “I did it, and I’m admitting it,” he says. “But I never, ever intended for Dr. Slepian to die.… I regret that he died. I aimed at his shoulder.” Kopp, who for months has vehemently denied any involvement in Slepian’s death, is accompanied by his lawyer, Bruce Barket. Both Kopp and Barket intend to make their legal defense about abortion, and will attempt to claim moral justification for the murder due to Kopp’s anti-abortion views. Of other abortion providers, Kopp says: “They’re still in danger, absolutely. I’m not the first, and I probably won’t be the last.… To pick up a gun and aim it at another human being, and to fire, it’s not a human thing to do. It’s not nice. It’s not pleasant. It’s gory, it’s bloody. It overcomes every human instinct. The only thing that would be worse, to me, would be to do nothing, and to allow abortions to continue.” Kopp claims he wants to set the record straight for the sake of his supporters who were publicly proclaiming his innocence and saying the FBI had framed him. Kopp adds that he selected Slepian’s name from the phone book, and that he also cased the homes of several other physicians before deciding that Slepian’s was the most vulnerable due to a window in the back that faced the woods. After his confession, prosecutors charge Kopp with an additional charge of reckless murder with depraved indifference to human life. [Associated Press, 11/21/2002; Buffalo News, 11/22/2002; National Abortion Federation, 2010]
Ends Claims that Kopp Innocent, Framed by Police - In January 2003, the magazine Catholic Insight will observe: “With this admission, Kopp knocked the feet out from under those pro-life supporters who had suggested that he couldn’t have committed the crime because he was a pacifist, had poor eyesight, was a poor marksman, or was being framed by the police. Pro-life advocates who earlier had condemned the shootings as unacceptable acts of violence could take solace in the fact that Kopp made it clear he acted alone in the Slepian shooting and that no one in the Buffalo pro-life community had suggested Slepian as a target.” [Catholic Insight, 1/1/2003]
Anti-Abortion Advocates Condemn Kopp's Shooting but Welcome Trial as Platform for Debating Abortion - The Reverend Paul Schenck, an anti-abortion advocate who has led numerous protests and has been arrested for blockading abortion clinics, says of Kopp: “James Kopp has admitted to being a cold-blooded killer, a vigilante who acted as judge, jury, and executioner. In what he did, he undermined the whole moral philosophy of the pro-life movement, which views every human life as intrinsically valuable and created in God’s image. He should fade into ignimony after being utterly rejected by all people of conscience. May God have mercy on his soul.” [US Newswire, 11/21/2002] Bishop Henry Mansell, a local anti-abortion leader, says while he disapproves of Kopp’s action and the use of violence against abortion providers, he welcomes the use of Kopp’s trial to create a platform for an abortion debate. “We don’t believe the end justifies the means,” Mansell says. “But given a trial, I hope there would be a discussion and an exploration of the issues in depth.” Pro-choice lawyer Glenn Murray disagrees, saying, “I would hate to think that those who want a referendum on abortion would exploit an act of terrorism.” [Buffalo News, 11/22/2002] “Kopp is an extremist, a terrorist, a self-confessed murderer plain and simple, so his jailhouse confession is nothing more than a cynical attempt to manipulate us all through the media,” says Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, a pro-choice organization. The Reverend Philip “Flip” Benham, director of the anti-abortion organization Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue), says Kopp “betrayed the pro-life movement, unborn children, and the Lord he proclaims to serve. You never overcome the problem of murder by murdering people.” [Associated Press, 11/21/2002]
Kopp Will Be Found Guilty - Kopp will be found guilty of Slepian’s murder (see March 17-18, 2003).

Entity Tags: Barnett Slepian, Bruce Barket, Glenn Murray, Gloria Feldt, Catholic Insight, Paul Schenck, James Kopp, Henry Mansell, Philip (“Flip”) Benham

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

The anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue releases a statement from its director, the Reverend Philip “Flip” Benham, criticizing a rally held in Buffalo, New York, to memorialize James Kopp, the confessed murderer of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian (see October 23, 1998 and November 21, 2002). Benham accuses pro-choice advocates of participating in the “murder” of “over 45 million children killed by ‘legalized’ abortion,” and says: “Those who advocate murdering abortionists are going to be given a national platform from which to spew their vitriolic poison. How sad!” Benham denies that Operation Rescue has ever advocated or supported violence against abortion providers (see August 1988, January 7, 1998, and April 20, 1998), adding that his organization has “totally debunked” the idea that “murdering abortionists is somehow justifiable biblically,” and blames “the media” for propagating “this poisonous lie” that anti-abortion advocates espouse violence in order to “divert our attention from the true holocaust savaging our nation, and paint every Christian who lives out his faith at an abortion mill as a wild-eyed lunatic, bent on doing violence.” [Operation Save America, 1/13/2003]

Entity Tags: Philip (“Flip”) Benham, James Kopp, Operation Rescue

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

A portion of the ‘Wanted’ poster featuring the names, photos, and addresses of two Charlotte-area abortion doctors, distributed by Operation Save America.A portion of the ‘Wanted’ poster featuring the names, photos, and addresses of two Charlotte-area abortion doctors, distributed by Operation Save America. [Source: Think Progress (.org)]The Reverend Phillip “Flip” Benham is convicted of stalking abortion doctors in his home state of North Carolina. Benham receives two years’ probation. Benham is the leader of Operation Save America, once known as Operation Rescue ((see 1986, July 1988, August 1988, July-August 1991, January 7, 1998, April 20, 1998, October 23, 1998, and January 13, 2003). He distributed numerous Old West-style “Wanted” posters that included the names, addresses, and photographs of four Charlotte-area doctors who provide abortions. The court rules that Benham violated a North Carolina law designed to protect citizens from being targeted by “a lone-wolf assailant.” Benham and his colleagues put up posters near the doctors’ offices and in their neighborhoods, placed them on cars, and tacked them to doors. According to Detective Milton Harris of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, “By them handing out the flyers with doctors’ photos on it, it was an indication to us that they were actually singling those doctors out within that residential neighborhood to protest.” Harris adds, “The purpose of the law is to protect that person’s identity against basically a lone-wolf assailant coming in there and possibly doing harm to that individual or that family.” One doctor who spoke during the trial said the posters were “a call for my murder” (see May 31, 2009), said they made him “fear… for his life,” and said he now “gets down on his hands and knees to make certain there are no bombs under his car.” Prosecutors said that the posters were the equivalent of “placing targets” on the doctors. Benham insists that the posters are no threat, and says his only intent was to “inform the community” that the doctor “kills babies… for a living” and has “no respect for life of children in the safety and neighborhoods of their mothers’ wombs” (see 1995 and After, January - April 2003, and September 13, 2010). But Cindy Thompson of the local National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter says that Benham “needs to leave women alone and let us make up our own minds” about whether to have abortions. “This is not free speech,” says Kathy Spillar of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a group that tracks violence against abortion providers. “This is the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. These wanted posters are communicating a threat to these abortion providers, and essentially they become targets of anti-abortion extremists willing to kill.” [National Public Radio, 11/8/2010; Think Progress, 11/9/2010; United Press International, 11/9/2010]

Entity Tags: Milton Harris, Katherine Spillar, Operation Save America, Philip (“Flip”) Benham, Cindy Thompson

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

The Reverend Phillip “Flip” Benham, director of Operation Save America, once known as Operation Rescue (see 1986, July 1988, August 1988, July-August 1991, January 7, 1998, April 20, 1998, October 23, 1998, and January 13, 2003), is convicted of stalking a Charlotte, North Carolina, doctor. A jury takes a little over 90 minutes to convict Benham. One juror tells a reporter that it was obvious after looking at the stalking statute that Benham “violated every part of it.… He went to the doctor’s house. He went into the doctor’s office and took pictures. He spoke to neighbors and called him a murderer. That is harassing. That causes fear.” Mecklenburg County prosecutors say Benham sought to scare the doctor from practicing in Charlotte. Benham, whose group operates out of nearby Concord, North Carolina, was convicted of the same charges almost a year earlier (see November 8, 2010), but exercised his right to a jury trial. He is convicted of misdeameanor stalking because he distributed posters with a doctor’s name and photo on “Wanted” posters. The posters read, “Wanted… By Christ, to Stop Killing Babies.” The doctor in question provides abortions. Benham also illegally entered the doctor’s home and his clinic to take photographs, and he and his supporters posted hundreds of the “Wanted” flyers around the doctor’s neighborhood. Benham is sentenced to 18 months’ probation and ordered to stop his behaviors. The “abortion industry” and the city of Charlotte have succeeded in “removing our voice from the street,” Benham says. “I can’t speak. I can’t get within 500 feet. They’ve stolen from innocent babies a voice that has spoken for them.” Several other abortion providers have been murdered after similar flyers were distributed in other cities, including Dr. David Gunn (see March 10, 1993), Dr. George Patterson (see August 21, 1993 and After), Dr. John Britton (see July 29, 1994), and Dr. George Tiller (see May 31, 2009). DuVergne Gaines, the legal coordinator for the Feminist Majority Foundation, which provides legal and security assistance to Charlotte-area women’s health clinics, says, “For too long, Benham and his organization have been able to stalk and terrorize abortion providers and their families with impunity.” Benham’s lawyer says he will file an appeal, and says Benham’s actions have nothing to do with the murders of the previous doctors. Benham says he will continue to protest at other abortion clinics; as for the doctor he was convicted of stalking, he says, “There will be other people who will come and stand up for what’s right.” [Charlotte Observer, 7/2/2011]

Entity Tags: Philip (“Flip”) Benham, DuVergne Gaines, Operation Save America

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

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