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Context of 'Fall 2009: Operation Save America Uses ‘Wanted’ Posters to Target Abortion Providers'

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Randall Terry, a former used-car salesman and anti-abortion activist, forms a group he calls “Operation Rescue” in Binghamton, New York. Terry is a protege of Joseph Scheidler (see 1980 and 1985). Terry’s organization focuses on what it calls “rescues,” usually full-scale blockades of women’s health clinics. In many of these actions, hundreds of activists will be arrested. [Kushner, 2003, pp. 38-39]

Entity Tags: Randall Terry, Joseph Scheidler, Operation Rescue

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

A prison photo of Michael Griffin.A prison photo of Michael Griffin. [Source: Bonnie's Life of Crime (.com)]Dr. David Gunn, a women’s doctor and abortion provider in Pensacola, Florida, is shot to death by anti-abortion advocate Michael Griffin, while members of the anti-abortion organization Rescue America protest outside his clinic. The protesters scream, chant, and wave signs declaring, “David Gunn Kills Babies.” Griffin steps forward from a group of protesters, yells, “Don’t kill any more babies!” and fires three shots into Gunn’s back as he is exiting his car. Gunn dies during surgery at a nearby hospital. Griffin informs police that he shot Gunn with a .38 revolver he is carrying, and surrenders to police officers without incident. Steve Powell, an employee at the office park which houses the clinic, later tells reporters that the Rescue America protesters seemed “just happy” after the shooting. Gunn had just opened the clinic a month before, and commuted to work from his home in Eufaula, Alabama. Gunn’s is one of two clinics providing abortions in Pensacola; the city also houses three “abortion counseling” facilities, operated by anti-abortion groups whose objective is to convince women not to have abortions. Gunn has received threats for several years, but in recent months the threats have become more dire. Recently, anti-abortion group Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986) featured Gunn in a “Wanted” poster (see 1995 and After) distributed in Montgomery, Alabama; the poster included Gunn’s photo, home phone number, and other identifying information. OR spokeswoman Margeaux Farrar says the organization knows nothing about the posters and did not print them. The Reverend Joseph Foreman, one of the group’s founders, says Gunn’s murder is just the beginning if the government continues to try to “silence” anti-abortion protesters. Foreman tells reporters, “I’ve been saying for years that if the government insists on suppressing normal and time-honored dissent through injunctions, it turns the field over to the rock-throwers, the bombers, and the assassins.” Many of Griffin’s colleagues and fellow protesters will argue that Gunn’s murder was “justifiable.” Many of those advocates are members of a newly formed organization, the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA—see July 1993). [Washington Post, 3/11/1993; Ms. Magazine, 12/2002; Kushner, 2003, pp. 39; CBS News, 4/19/2007] Griffin will be represented by Florida lawyer Joe Scarborough at some court proceedings, though Scarborough will not represent him at his actual trial. Scarborough (R-FL) will go on to represent his Florida district in the US House of Representatives. [New York Times, 10/25/1994]

Entity Tags: Joseph Foreman, Rescue America, Joseph Scarborough, David Gunn, American Coalition of Life Activists, Michael Griffin, Steve Powell, Operation Rescue, Margeaux Farrar

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

John Salvi shortly after his arrest.John Salvi shortly after his arrest. [Source: Sonya Rapoport]Anti-abortion activist John Salvi, a former hairdresser, murders two receptionists at two separate women’s clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Murders Receptionists, Sprays Bullets in Clinics - Salvi quietly enters a Planned Parenthood clinic, asks receptionist Shannon Lowney, “Is this Planned Parenthood?” and then shoots her to death with a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle. Salvi then sprays the lobby with gunfire and departs. Minutes later, he enters the Preterm Health Services building two miles away and kills the receptionist, Lee Ann Nichols (some media sources identify her as “Leanne Nichols”). He again sprays the building with gunfire, but this time flees after security guard Richard Seron returns fire, in the process dropping a satchel containing a second gun and some 700 rounds of hollow-point ammunition. Eyewitness Angel Rodriguez later tells reporters: “He was completely calm and took his time. He kept the gun low on his hip and ran backwards, firing at least five shots. He was trying to scare people, and it worked.”
Shooting at Norfolk, Virginia Clinic - Police identify Salvi through a gun shop receipt he has left behind in the satchel, but are unable to find him until law enforcement officials arrest him for a non-fatal shooting at a women’s clinic in Norfolk, Virginia. In all, Salvi kills two and wounds five more.
Condemnation - Some anti-abortion groups are quick to condemn the shootings. The Reverend Flip Benham, leader of Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986), tells reporters: “You don’t use murder to solve the problem of other murder. It is heresy.” Eleanor Smeal of the Fund for the Feminist Majority says, “While there are two sides to the issue of abortion, there are no two sides to the issue of shooting people for their opinions.” Law enforcement officials cannot find direct ties between Salvi and anti-abortion organizations.
'Ready to Go Off' - A woman who attended beauty school with Salvi, Karen Harris, later recalls: “He never showed emotion. He always had a straight face. But the main thing was how he would stare at people. He’d just stare and stare and wouldn’t look away.” Doreen Potter, who employed Salvi at a hair salon, later recalls that he flew into a rage a week before the shootings when she told him he couldn’t cut a client’s hair. After the incident, she will say, “this guy looked like he was ready to go off.” [Time, 1/9/1995; Washington Post, 3/19/1996; Washington Post, 1998; Kushner, 2003, pp. 39; CBS News, 4/19/2007; Associated Press, 5/31/2009]
Federal Authorities Ignored Warnings of Violence at Brookline Clinic - Planned Parenthood officials will later say that they had received an increased number of threats to their Brookline clinic in recent weeks, in part because that clinic is involved in testing the controversial RU-486 “morning after” conception prevention pill. They also say they had requested extra federal protection (see February 1994), a claim the US Attorney for the area refuses to discuss with reporters. [Time, 1/9/1995]
Convicted of Murder, Suicides in Cell - Shortly after his arrest, anti-abortion activists will rally in support of Salvi outside his Norfolk prison (see January 1995). In 1996, Salvi will be convicted of the deaths and sentenced to life without parole; soon after, he will commit suicide in his jail cell (see March 19, 1996).

Entity Tags: Karen Harris, Operation Rescue, Eleanor Smeal, John Salvi, Fund for the Feminist Majority, Lee Ann Nichols, Doreen Potter, Shannon Lowney, Angel Rodriguez, Philip (“Flip”) Benham, Richard Seron, Planned Parenthood

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

The American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA), an organization of anti-abortion advocates who called the 1993 murder of an abortion doctor “justifiable” (see March 10, 1993 and July 1993), launches a campaign it calls the “Deadly Dozen.” The ACLA releases Old West-style “unwanted” posters of 13 prominent abortion providers. Many of the posters include the providers’ work and home addresses. The targeted doctors say they are very aware that similar posters created by other anti-abortion organizations had preceded the murders of three of their colleagues, and call the campaign a “hit list.” The FBI offers protection to the 13 providers, and many of them begin wearing bulletproof vests and taking other security precautions. After the ACLA is named in a lawsuit to prevent it from publishing the material (see 1996), ACLA leaders give some of the “Deadly Dozen” data to Neal Horsley of Carrollton, Georgia, who posts the material on his “Nuremberg Files” Web site (see January 1997). The Web site names doctors and abortion rights supporters and calls for them to be tried for “crimes against humanity.” In later years, when an abortion provider is murdered, their name will appear on the site with a line through it. Horsley uses gray tape for the names of abortion providers or staff who have been wounded. The entire Web site is designed to look as if it is dripping in blood. [Ms. Magazine, 12/2002]

Entity Tags: American Coalition of Life Activists, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Neal Horsley

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 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

A federal appeals court in San Francisco rules that anti-abortion organizations who engage in the practice of distributing posters targeting abortion providers (see 1995 and After) are illegally threatening the lives and well-being of the people they are targeting. The 6-5 verdict also rules that Web sites such as The Nuremberg Files (see January 1997), which list doctors’ names and addresses and “lines out” the names of those doctors who are murdered, also threaten the lives of the named doctors. The defendants unsuccessfully claimed they were engaging in constitutionally protected political advocacy; the plaintiffs—four doctors and two health clinics—argued that the speech in question encouraged violence against abortion providers. The verdict overturns a previous three-judge ruling by the same court and reinstates a $109 million award for the plaintiffs. Writing for the majority, Judge Pamela Ann Rymer states: “While advocating violence is protected, threatening a person with violence is not.… This is not political hyperbole. They were a true threat.” Maria Vullo, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the essence of the decision is rejection of threatening speech. Of the “political advocacy” practiced by the defendants, Vullo says, “It’s really terrorism.” Christopher Ferrara, a lawyer for the defendants, says his clients will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. “This is a threat case without any identifiable threat,” he says. “We’re found liable for the format we chose.” [New York Times, 5/17/2002] In spite of the verdict, the practice will continue (see January - April 2003, Fall 2009, and September 13, 2010).

Entity Tags: Christopher Ferrara, Maria Vullo, Pamela Ann Rymer, “The Nuremberg Files”

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

ALL president Julie Brown points to her organization’s ‘Deadly Dozen’ poster.ALL president Julie Brown points to her organization’s ‘Deadly Dozen’ poster. [Source: Life Magazine]A new advertising and poster campaign attacking pro-choice Catholic senators harks back to the dangerous “Deadly Dozen” campaign of 1995 (see 1995 and After), according to pro-choice advocates. The 1995 advertising and poster campaign targeted over a dozen health care and abortion providers, usually listing their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. The new campaign is by the American Life League (ALL—see 1979), an anti-abortion organization centered in Stafford, Virginia. Both the 1995 and the current campaigns feature “Old West” themed posters. ALL’s posters provide photographs of a dozen pro-choice US senators under the announcement, “Wanted For Fradulently Claiming Catholic Faith”; like the earlier campaign, the senators are branded as “The Deadly Dozen.” The senators pictured include Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Tom Daschle (D-SD), John Kerry (D-MA), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The campaign calls for bishops to refuse communion to the senators. Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation says she is appalled by ALL’s choice of slogans. “This type of language is associated with violence,” she says. “Seven people lost their lives as a result of this type of verbiage. What is the American Life League thinking?” The new ad campaign is running in selected newspapers, including the Washington Times and The Wanderer, a weekly Catholic newspaper in Massachusetts. A new round of posters is planned, targeting, among others, Governor Gray Davis (D-CA) of California and other California pro-choice lawmakers, according to ALL official Joseph Giganti. Giganti says ALL is opposed to violence and calls comparisons between his organization’s campaign and the 1995 campaign “reckless and careless.… Our ads don’t refer to being wanted dead or alive; it is referencing the fact abortion kills. We are simply saying, if you are in fact Catholic, how can you continue to support abortion?” Giganti blames pro-choice groups for “purposely… misinterpret[ing]” the campaign and using it “as a stepping stone to voice their own opinions.” At least 11 Catholic diocesan newspapers have turned down the ads. “The kind of advertising they are doing is inflammatory,” says Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. “It could incite someone, set someone off. But the more dominant issue is that they will disgust people. This ad will only reinforce pro-choice. People who have mixed feelings about abortion, people who are moderates will be turned off by the advertisements.” A spokesman for one targeted senator, Christopher Dodd (D-CT), says of the campaign: “There is no place in America for personal attacks on those with whom one disagrees. Ultimately, Senator Dodd’s religious views are a personal matter between him and God.” [Life, 1/22/2003; Womens ENews, 4/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Vicki Saporta, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, Frances Kissling, Gray Davis, Joseph Giganti, Christopher Dodd, American Life League, Barbara Mikulski, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

A ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ poster featuring the name of a Charlotte-area abortion provider.A ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ poster featuring the name of a Charlotte-area abortion provider. [Source: Women's Rights (Change.org)]A women’s clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Family Reproductive Health Clinic, is targeted with a series of “Wanted” posters naming the clinic’s doctors, and claiming they are “Wanted Dead or Alive” for the “crime” of abortion. The posters read in part: “We would like to introduce you to [two named doctors]. Their specialties are obstetrics, gynecology, and murder. Not only do these two men assist women and deliver babies, but they also harm women and kill babies.… You may contact them at their office or the clinic in which they perform the abortions.” The posters list the addresses of the named doctors’ private practices. The practice of anti-abortion organizations using such posters began as early as 1995 (see 1995 and After) and was ruled an illegal threat in 2002 (see May 16, 2002). The practice has allegedly resulted in the murders of three abortion doctors (see March 10, 1993, December 30, 1994 and After, and October 23, 1998), who were all named in similar “Wanted”-style posters. The practice has continued in spite of the court verdict (see January - April 2003). The clinic has been targeted for closure since 2002, when the Reverend Flip Benham, the head of Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue—see 1986), moved to the Charlotte area and vowed to shut it down. Since then, Benham and his group’s members have harassed and intimidated the clinic’s staffers and patrons; Benham has been videotaped screaming at patients that “Satan will drink the blood of your babies” and that the women will “go to your deaths” if they have abortions. Benham and his followers often use microphones amplified to what a clinic official calls “deafening levels” to speak to the patients, “swarm” patients’ cars as they enter the parking lot, and follow them up to the doors of the clinic, often stepping within inches of the patients as they harangue them. The clinic official says of the patients, “We try to prepare them for this when they make their appointment, but until you go through something like this, you can’t imagine what it’s like.” The police do little to curb the protesters’ actions, the official says. [Ms. Magazine, 9/2009]

Entity Tags: Philip (“Flip”) Benham, Family Reproductive Health Clinic, Operation Rescue

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

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