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Context of '1985: Anti-Abortion Activists Gather to Celebrate Clinic Bombings'

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Joseph Scheidler.Joseph Scheidler. [Source: Pro-Life Action League]Anti-abortion activist Joseph Scheidler forms a group variously known as the Pro-Life Action League (PLAL) and the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN). Scheidler was a ranking member of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the US’s largest anti-abortion organization, until 1978, when he was dismissed from the group for his advocacy of violence. [Kushner, 2003, pp. 38]

Entity Tags: Pro-Life Action League, Joseph Scheidler, National Right to Life Committee

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

The Pensacola Ladies Center, in Pensacola, Florida, is twice firebombed by anti-abortion activists in what author and researcher Harvey Kushner will call “part of a well-coordinated attack that include[s] two private physicians’ offices.” [Kushner, 2003, pp. 38]

Entity Tags: Harvey Kushner, Pensacola Ladies Center

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

Anti-abortion activists with the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) gather at a motel in Appleton, Wisconsin, to celebrate their successes and plan further actions. The PLAN members apparently count a wave of abortion clinic bombings and arsons as successes; the motel’s marquee reads, “Welcome Pro-Life Activists—Have a Blast,” and some PLAN members wear firecrackers on their name badges. One of the featured events of the gathering is the reading of a letter from imprisoned clinic arsonist Curt Beseda. In 2002, author and journalist Frederick Clarkson will write: “This small but seminal meeting in many ways epitomized the brazen yet banal nature of organized antiabortion extremism—a rah-rah atmosphere, like some perverse parody of a pep rally, in which threats of future violence were cloaked as free speech, and past criminal acts were celebrated as valid tools for intimidating fellow citizens. A fringe culture was coalescing.” [Ms. Magazine, 12/2002] At this and other PLAN meetings, PLAN president Joseph Scheidler vows to stop abortion “by any means necessary.” He has previously called PLAN a “pro-life mafia.” The organization proclaims “a year of pain and fear” for anyone seeking or providing abortion. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002; Ms. Magazine, 12/2002]

Entity Tags: Joseph Scheidler, Frederick Clarkson, Pro-Life Action League, Curt Beseda

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

Joseph Scheidler, the president of the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980), and three PLAN members enter the Summit Women’s Health Clinic in Middletown, Delaware. Scheidler later says he is “casing the place,” according to court records. The day after the visit, protesters vandalize the clinic, seriously damaging equipment. [Ms. Magazine, 12/2002]

Entity Tags: Summit Women’s Health Clinic, Joseph Scheidler, Pro-Life Action League

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

Members of the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980 and 1986) enter a women’s health clinic, the Pensacola Ladies Center, in Pensacola, Florida. They attack the clinic administrator, throwing her down the stairs; attack and injure an official of the National Organization for Women (NOW); blockade the clinic; and wreck medical equipment. During the attack, PLAN president Joseph Scheidler stands outside, praising the attackers and publicly claiming credit for the incident. The clinic will close for several days for repairs. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002] The Ladies Center was firebombed twice in 1984 by anti-abortion activists (see 1984). [Kushner, 2003, pp. 38] One of the protesters who takes part in the blockade and assault is James Kopp, who in 1998 will murder an abortion provider (see October 23, 1998). [Womens eNews, 3/30/2001]

Entity Tags: Pensacola Ladies Center, Joseph Scheidler, James Kopp, Pro-Life Action League, National Organization for Women

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

National Organization for Women logo.National Organization for Women logo. [Source: National Organization for Women]The National Organization for Women (NOW) files a lawsuit against Joseph Scheidler, Scheidler’s organization Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980), and other anti-abortion organizations. NOW is joined in the suit by the Delaware Women’s Health Organization and the Pensacola Ladies Center (see March 26, 1986), and later the Summit Women’s Health Organization (see 1986). The lawsuit is part of a strategy devised by NOW president Eleanor Smeal to use federal antitrust laws to charge Scheidler and others with being part of a nationwide criminal conspiracy to close women’s health clinics through the use of violence and terror. The suit becomes known as NOW v. Scheidler. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002; Ms. Magazine, 12/2002] The lawsuit seeks a nationwide injunction to stop the clinic invasions, and asks the courts to make those responsible for the attacks pay for the damage they caused. In 2002, the future president of NOW, Kim Gandy, will say of the lawsuit: “NOW decided we had to stop the violence. Scheidler and his gang were calling in blitzes—they would attack clinics without warning and hold staff and patients hostage. Clinics were being blockaded and invaded. If we did not act, we thought clinics would not be able to stay open.” NOW attorney Fay Clayton will say the case seeks “to ensure that the constitutional right [to abortion] recognized [in 1973] would exist not just in theory, but in reality.” According to a 2002 Ms. Magazine report, the case only targets anti-abortion protesters who engage in criminal acts such as criminal trespass, assault, and conspiracy to block access to clinics. It makes no effort to halt peaceful protests as protected by the First Amendment. The lawsuit claims that PLAN and others engaged in what the federal racketeering law prohibits: namely, a “pattern of racketeering activity,” including the use of fear, force, and violence, in order to prevent people from receiving and providing legal abortions. Clayton maintains that the actions met the legal definition of organized crime. [Ms. Magazine, 12/2002]

Entity Tags: Summit Women’s Health Organization, Fay Clayton, Eleanor Smeal, Delaware Women’s Health Organization, Joseph Scheidler, Pro-Life Action League, Kim Gandy, Pensacola Ladies Center, National Organization for Women

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

A number of anti-abortion protesters, including many members of Operation Rescue (see 1986), are arrested outside the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. They spend several weeks together in jail, and it is believed that while there, many of them join the “Army of God,” an anti-abortion organization devoted to using violence to prevent abortions (see 1982 and August 1982). One of the jailed protesters is James Kopp, who in 1998 will murder an abortion doctor (see October 23, 1998). Others include Lambs of Christ leader Norman Weslin; Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon, who will later shoot another abortion doctor (see August 19, 1993); and John Arena, who will later be charged with using butyric acid to attack abortion clinics and providers. According to government documents, Kopp is already a leader of the Army of God, and may recruit new members during his stay in jail. [Extremist Groups: Information for Students, 1/1/2006; National Abortion Federation, 2010]

Entity Tags: James Kopp, Rachelle (“Shelley”) Shannon, Army of God, Lambs of Christ, Operation Rescue, John Arena, Norman Weslin

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

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

The National Organization for Women (NOW) expands its lawsuit against anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986), adding charges of extortion and violation of federal racketeering laws. NOW brings charges under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a law originally designed to address organized crime. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: National Organization for Women

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

A court dismisses a lawsuit, NOW v. Scheidler, brought by the National Organization for Women against anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986). [National Organization for Women, 9/2002] The lawsuit will be reinstated five years later (see September 22, 1995).

Entity Tags: National Organization for Women

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

Anti-abortion protesters gather on a street corner in Wichita.Anti-abortion protesters gather on a street corner in Wichita. [Source: Patriotic Thunder (.org)]Anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue (see 1986), under the new leadership of the Reverend Keith Tucci, conducts a seven-week occupation of three women’s clinics in Wichita, Kansas. Some 2,700 activists and protesters are arrested during the course of events. [Associated Press, 7/5/1993; Kushner, 2003, pp. 38-39] The occupation is part of what the organization calls the “Summer of Mercy,” which involves a series of clinic blockades, occupations, and harassment of abortion providers, clinic staff, and patients. The event lasts six weeks, and culminates in a rally that fills Wichita’s Cessna Stadium and features conservative Christian activist Dr. James Dobson. One of the clinics targeted is operated by Dr. George Tiller; Tiller will be shot by an anti-abortion activist in 1993 (see August 19, 1993) and murdered by another in 2009 (see May 31, 2009). [Associated Press, 7/5/1993] Some of the Operation Rescue members arrested face charges for attacking police officers trying to keep order at the clinics. Tucci and two other anti-abortion organization leaders, the Reverends Pat Mahoney and Joe Slovenec, are jailed until they agree to comply with Judge Patrick Kelly’s order not to blockade the clinics. Two other Operation Rescue leaders, Randall Terry and Michael McMonagle, are ordered along with Tucci, Mahoney, and Slovenec to leave Wichita; when they refuse to comply with Kelly’s initial order to stop the blockades after agreeing to it, Kelly observes, “You are learning for the first time, I think, that you can’t trust a damned thing they say.” Mahoney retorts, “Hell will freeze over before I surrender my constitutional rights.” He, Tucci, and Slovenec promise to return to Wichita despite the court orders and again protest at the clinics. [Associated Press, 8/31/1991; Associated Press, 7/5/1993] The Bush administration attempts to derail Kelly’s curbing of the anti-abortion activities; the Justice Department files a “friend of the court” brief challenging Kelly’s jurisdiction in the case. “The position we have taken before the Supreme Court of the United States is that the courts do not have jurisdiction, that it is a matter properly handled in state and local courts,” says Attorney General Richard Thornburgh. [Newport News Daily Press, 8/9/1991]

Entity Tags: Richard Thornburgh, US Department of Justice, Patrick Kelly, Operation Rescue, Michael McMonagle, Bush administration (41), George Tiller, James Dobson, Joe Slovenec, Keith Tucci, Pat Mahoney, Randall Terry

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, 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

Dr. George Tiller, a women’s health doctor and abortion provider, is shot once in each arm outside the Women’s Health Care Services clinic in Wichita, Kansas, by anti-abortion activist Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon. Shannon has a long history of violent attacks against abortion clinics on the West Coast, using both fire and acid to disrupt or close women’s health care clinics. [Washington Post, 1998; Kushner, 2003, pp. 39] Shannon is a member of the violent anti-abortion group Army of God (see 1982). After her arrest, she will tell authorities that her attempt to murder Tiller was a means of “enforcing God’s will.” Police will find a copy of the secret “Army of God Manual” (see Early 1980s) buried in her backyard. [Extremist Groups: Information for Students, 1/1/2006] In 2009, Tiller will be murdered by another anti-abortion activist (see May 31, 2009).

Entity Tags: Women’s Health Care Services, George Tiller, Rachelle (“Shelley”) Shannon, Army of God

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

Dr. George Patterson, a woman’s health doctor in Mobile, Alabama, is shot to death behind a downtown X-rated movie theater. Patterson owns and operates four abortion clinics in Florida and Alabama. His murder comes two days after a Kansas abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller, was shot (see August 19, 1993), and Patterson owns the Pensacola, Florida, clinic where Dr. David Gunn was murdered (see March 10, 1993). Patterson had taken over Gunn’s duties in the Pensacola clinic. Patterson’s wallet is not taken, leading police to believe the shooting was politically motivated and not the result of a robbery. Anti-abortion activist Paul Hill of Pensacola says that whether or not Patterson’s murder had anything to do with his abortion provisions, “the killing has stopped, and so it had the desired result.” Hill will himself murder another abortion provider less than a year later (see July 29, 1994). Witnesses tell police that Patterson, who frequented the theater, got into an altercation with another man as that man stood near Patterson’s car. The man fired a pistol shot into the ground, witnesses say, the two struggled, and then the man shot Patterson in the neck. The man jumped into Patterson’s Cadillac, but quickly got out, leapt into his own car, and drove away. Abortion advocates say Patterson liked to keep out of the public eye; Dr. Bruce Lucero, another Alabama abortion provider, says that Patterson “urged me to take a lower profile and said bad things happened to people who were too visible.” Still, Patterson’s clinic had been the frequent target of anti-abortion protests. One member of a protest group, Vicki Kline of Alabama Citizens for Life, says: “I didn’t know him by sight, but just that he did a lot of abortions. I certainly wouldn’t wish him ill, and in fact I prayed for his conversion for a number of years. But I guess he who lives by the sword perishes by the sword.” Two weeks later, Winston McCoy of nearby Eight Mile is arrested for Patterson’s murder. Investigators say they can find no evidence of a connection between Patterson’s murder and his medical practice. [New York Times, 8/29/1993; Associated Press, 9/5/1993]

Entity Tags: George Tiller, Alabama Citizens for Life, Bruce Lucero, George Patterson, Vicki Kline, David Gunn, Winston McCoy, Paul Hill

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

Paul Hill, speaking to reporters after his conviction for murder.Paul Hill, speaking to reporters after his conviction for murder. [Source: Trosch (.org)]Dr. John Britton, a physician and abortion provider, and volunteer security escort Jim Barrett, a retired Air Force colonel, are shot to death outside the Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida, by Paul Hill, a leader of the radical anti-abortion group American Coalition for Life Activists (ACLA—see July 1993). [Washington Post, 1998; Kushner, 2003, pp. 39; Fox News, 9/3/2003] Eight years before, several officials at the same clinic were attacked by anti-abortion protesters (see March 26, 1986). Hill later says he was inspired by the 1993 murder of another Pensacola abortion provider, Dr. David Gunn (see March 10, 1993). He bought a new shotgun after the Gunn slaying, and practiced on a firing range. The morning of the murder, as Britton, Barrett, and Barrett’s wife June enter the clinic parking lot, Hill opens fire, shooting Barrett in the head and chest. He then reloads and shoots Britton and Barrett’s wife. Dr. Britton is fatally wounded in the head and chest, while Mrs. Barrett sustains wounds in her arm. Hill then puts the shotgun down to avoid being shot himself by police, and walks away from the scene. He is arrested within minutes, and tells officers, “I know one thing, no innocent babies are going to be killed in that clinic today.” [Fox News, 9/3/2003] Hill will be executed for his crimes in 2003 (see September 3, 2003).

Entity Tags: David Gunn, John Britton, June Barrett, Jim Barrett, Paul Hill

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

District Court Judge David Coar reverses earlier court decisions and reinstates a lawsuit filed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) against anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986). NOW president Patricia Ireland says, “We’re thrilled and anti-abortion terrorists ought to be shaking in their boots.” The ruling allows NOW to investigate defendants’ recent actions, including murders and attempted murders by anti-abortion activists (see August 19, 1993 and July 29, 1994). [National Organization for Women, 9/22/1995; National Organization for Women, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Patricia Ireland, National Organization for Women, David Coar

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

A Texas jury awards Dr. Norman Tompkins and his wife Carolyn damages of $8.6 million, in a lawsuit the couple filed against anti-abortion activists. The organizations Operation Rescue, Missionaries to the Pre-Born, and the Dallas chapter of the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980 and 1986) were found liable in over 10 months of harassment against the couple. During that time, anti-abortion activists picketed the family’s home and offices; followed them to social events, church, and elsewhere; distributed fliers calling Tompkins a murderer; and were overheard by neighbors talking about shooting Tompkins. They left frequent anonymous threats on the family’s answering machine; one such message said in part: “I’m going to cut your wife’s liver out and make you eat it. Then I’m going to cut your head off.” Dr. Tompkins, an obstetrician/gynecologist, eventually quit his practice and the couple moved from their Dallas home. The defendants are liable for $3.6 million in punitive damages, $2.25 million for intentionally inflicting emotional distress, and $2.8 million for invading the Tompkins’ privacy. [Newport News Daily Press, 10/29/1995; National Organization for Women, 1/1996; Sarah Jones, 10/20/2010]

Entity Tags: Norman Tompkins, Missionaries to the Pre-Born, Operation Rescue, Pro-Life Action League, Carolyn Tompkins

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

The Justice Department ends its two-year grand jury investigation into possible conspiracies behind abortion clinic violence (see 1986, March 26, 1986, June 1986, March 10, 1993, 1995 and After, and 1996). The jury finds no evidence of any national conspiracy to commit violence on the part of anti-abortion organizations. However, Nation reporter Bruce Shapiro will write in 2001 that the evidence unearthed by the FBI’s investigation in a 1998 abortion doctor murder (see October 23, 1998 and March 17-18, 2003) proves the existence of just such a conspiracy. [Nation, 4/23/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Bruce Shapiro

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

District Court Judge David Coar rules that NOW v. Scheidler, a lawsuit brought by the National Organization of Women (NOW) against anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986 and September 22, 1995), can be designated as a “class-action” lawsuit. Coar certifies NOW as the class representative of not only all NOW members but all women “whose rights to the services of women’s health centers in the United States at which abortions are performed have been or will be interfered with by defendants’ unlawful activities.” Coar later rules that if NOW proves its case, then defendant Randall Terry and his Operation Rescue organization (see 1986) will be held responsible for all acts of terrorism and violence perpetuated by the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980 and 1986). Coar rejects the defendants’ argument that their “moral imperative” to stop abortion justifies their violent acts. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]

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

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

Based on the recent lawsuit by the National Organization for Women (see April 20, 1998), District Judge David Coar issues a nationwide injunction against the anti-abortion advocates who lost the case. Coar’s injunction forbids the defendants from hindering the right of women to obtain reproductive health services at clinics and the right of the clinics to provide those services. One of the defendants, Joseph Scheidler, will appeal the ruling on several grounds, including the First Amendment right of free speech. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: National Organization for Women, David Coar, Joseph Scheidler

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

An appeals court rejects an argument by anti-abortion advocate Joseph Scheidler (see 1980 and 1986) that he should be allowed to continue his campaign of violence and intimidation towards women seeking abortions and other health services (see July 16, 1999). The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals finds that “the First Amendment does not protect violent conduct” and that “violence in any form is the antithesis of reasoned discussion.” Scheidler and his colleagues will appeal to the Supreme Court. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Joseph Scheidler

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

The US Supreme Court agrees to review NOW v. Scheidler (see June 1986, September 22, 1995, and March 29 - September 23, 1997) on the basis of two technical issues raised by the defendants. The Court refuses to hear the defendants’ challenge that the First Amendment was violated by earlier rulings or that speech is at issue. The Court will determine whether women victimized by the violence of the anti-abortion advocates in the lawsuit can be protected from future crimes by an injunction as opposed to merely recompensed for the losses caused by the actions (see July 16, 1999), and whether it was appropriate to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against defendants who claim their actions were prompted by religious or moral motivations. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002] The Court will overturn the decision on technical grounds (see February 28, 2006).

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

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

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

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

Anti-abortion activist Joseph Scheidler (see 1980, 1985, June 1986, April 20, 1998, October 2, 2001, and February 28, 2006) claims to have renounced the violent tactics that made him such a notorious figure of the anti-abortion, or pro-life, movement (see 1986 and March 26, 1986). Scheidler, 75, a former Benedictine monk and newspaper reporter who lives in Chicago, says he now favors peaceful marches on abortion clinics, the display of posters with graphic depictions of aborted fetuses, and what he calls “counseling” of women seeking abortions. “Obstruction—that’s over,” Scheidler says. “I was in some of those demonstrations, but I could see that was not going to be the real way. You’ve got to convert people away from abortion. You don’t just keep them out of the clinics. They just arrest you and you’re gone, and they go back in. I always hated it when the day was done, and they were all going back to the clinic and we were sitting in a [police] wagon.” He adds: “Nothing’s going to change in what we do. I haven’t stopped doing anything that I thought was effective. What will change is I think more people will come out.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 2/27/2003]

Entity Tags: Joseph Scheidler

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

In an 8-0 decision, the US Supreme Court reverses the findings of earlier courts and finds for the defendants in the NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit (see June 1986, September 22, 1995, and March 29 - September 23, 1997). The Court, ruling on technical grounds (see April 22, 2002), determines that it was improper for the National Organization for Women (NOW) to use laws covering racketeering and organized crime against anti-abortion advocates who committed violence against women’s clinics. The Court also notes that Congress’s 1994 passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE—see May 1994) Act indicated that Congress did not view the law as pertaining to this area. [FindLaw, 2/28/2006; Los Angeles Times, 3/1/2006]

Entity Tags: National Organization for Women, US Supreme Court, Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

A 2002 photo of Dr. George Tiller.A 2002 photo of Dr. George Tiller. [Source: Abortion Essay (.com)]Dr. George Tiller, one of the handful of doctors in the USA willing to perform late-term abortions, is shot to death while attending services at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. The 67-year-old doctor is slain in front of several witnesses by a single assailant in the foyer of his church while serving as an usher at about 10 a.m. Law enforcement officials say they believe the murder is “the act of an isolated individual,” but add that they are also looking into the suspected assailant’s “history, his family, his associates.” [CNN News, 5/31/2009; New York Times, 5/31/2009] Tiller’s murderer is eventually identified as anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder (see May 31, 2009).
Murder Caps Off Years of Violence, Harassment - Tiller’s murder comes after repeated harassment and violence against him, his clinic, and his patients. In 1986, the clinic was bombed, causing serious damage. In 1991, 2,000 protesters outside the clinic were arrested over the course of the summer. In 1993, Tiller was shot in both arms outside the clinic (see August 19, 1993). During a trial for performing illegal abortions, in which he was acquitted (see March 27, 2009), Tiller testified that he had spent years under the protection of federal agents after the FBI learned in 1994 that he was a top target on an anti-abortionist assassination list. [Agence France-Presse, 5/31/2009] In recent months, Tiller had been targeted by Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly, who repeatedly referred to him as “Tiller the Killer.” Tiller’s clinic was defaced with a poster titled “Auschwichita,” that claimed Tiller was like Hitler because he espoused Christianity just as Hitler did. The poster also used the term “Tiller the Killer,” and called Tiller an “equal opportunity executioner.” [Sarah Jones, 10/20/2010]
Responses from Family, President, Activists - Responding to Tiller’s murder, President Obama tells the nation, “However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence” (see May 31, 2009). Troy Newman, the president of the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986), says his organization has always sought “nonviolent” measures to challenge Tiller, including efforts in recent years to have him prosecuted for crimes or investigated by state health authorities. “Operation Rescue has worked tirelessly on peaceful, nonviolent measures to bring him to justice through the legal system, the legislative system,” Newman says. “We are pro-life, and this act was antithetical to what we believe.” Newman says that Roeder may have posted on OR-hosted Web sites, but says of the suspect, “He is not a friend, not a contributor, not a volunteer.” The media will quickly unearth deeper ties between OR and Roeder than Newman initially acknowledges (see May 31, 2009). In a statement, the Tiller family says: “George dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence. We ask that he be remembered as a good husband, father, and grandfather, and a dedicated servant on behalf of the rights of women everywhere.” [New York Times, 5/31/2009]

Entity Tags: Scott Roeder, Troy Newman, George Tiller, Bill O’Reilly, Barack Obama, Operation Rescue, Fox News

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

ALL’s ‘Deadly Dozen’ poster.ALL’s ‘Deadly Dozen’ poster. [Source: Pro Ecclesia (.com)]The anti-abortion advocacy organization American Life League (ALL) releases another in a series of “Deadly Dozen” ad campaigns. The first, in 1995, targeted a dozen abortion and health care providers, and was subsequently blamed for a spate of deadly violence against those named in the ads (see 1995 and After). In 2003, ALL launched a second “Deadly Dozen” campaign, this time targeting US senators (see January - April 2003). The current round of ads features a poster listing a dozen Catholic lawmakers, including members of Congress and of the Obama administration. The list includes Vice President Joseph Biden (D-DE); Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis; Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); and Representatives Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rosa DeLaurio (D-CT), and Mike Castle (R-DE). As with ALL’s 2003 campaign, the current campaign calls on the named lawmakers’ community bishops to deny them communion. The ad concludes with the slogan, “You can’t be Catholic and pro-abortion!” A blogger in Delaware reports seeing the poster in the vestibule of his church. [Jay Anderson, 9/13/2010]

Entity Tags: Mike Castle, Hilda Solis, Ginny Brown-Waite, Barbara Mikulski, American Life League, John Kerry, Mary L. Landrieu, Joseph Biden, Rosa DeLaurio, Nancy Pelosi, Ken Salazar, Obama administration, Susan Collins, Kathleen Sebelius

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 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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