Anti-Abortion Violence

Anti-abortion violence is violence committed against individuals and organizations that provide abortion.[1] Incidents of violence have included destruction of property, in the form of vandalism, to crimes against people, including kidnapping, stalking, assault, attempted murder, and murder, to crimes affecting both people and property, including arson and bombings.

Anti-abortion violence is most frequently committed in the United States, though it has also occurred in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. G. Davidson Smith of Canadian Security Intelligence Service defined anti-abortion violence as "single issue terrorism".[2] A study of 1982-87 violence considered the incidents "limited political" or "subrevolutionary" terrorism.[3]


[edit] Definition and characteristics

Anti-abortion violence is a form of terrorism specifically visited upon people who or places which provide abortion. Such incidents range from the vandalism, arson, and bombings of abortion clinics, as committed by Eric Rudolph, to the murders or attempted murders of physicians and clinic staff, as committed by James Kopp and Peter James Knight.

A small fraction of those opposed to abortion have sometimes resorted to very public demonstrations of violence in an effort to achieve their objective of curbing the termination of pregnancy. Those who engage in or support such actions defend the use of force – as justifiable homicide or defense of others – in interest of protecting the life of the fetus.[4]

[edit] By country

[edit] United States

The majority of anti-abortion violence has been committed in the United States of America.

[edit] Murders

In the U.S., violence directed toward abortion providers has killed at least eight people, including four doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort.[5]

  • August 21, 1993 Dr. George Patterson, was shot and killed in Mobile, Alabama, but it is uncertain whether his death was the direct result of his profession or rather a robbery.[6][7]

[edit] Attempted murder, assault, and threats

According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an organization of abortion providers, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers.[10] Attempted murders in the U.S. included:[5][11][12]

  • August 19, 1993: Dr. George Tiller was shot outside of an abortion facility in Wichita, Kansas. Shelley Shannon was charged with the crime and received an 11-year prison sentence (20 years were later added for arson and acid attacks on clinics).
  • July 29, 1994: June Barret was shot in the same attack which claimed the lives of James Barrett, her husband, and Dr. John Britton.
  • December 30, 1994: Five individuals were wounded in the shootings which killed Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols.
  • October 28, 1997: Dr. David Gandell of Rochester, New York was injured by flying glass when a shot was fired through the window of his home.[13]
  • January 29, 1998: Emily Lyons, a nurse, was severely injured, and lost an eye, in the bombing which also killed Robert Sanderson.
  • May 21, 1998: Three people were injured when acid was poured at the entrances of five abortion clinics in Miami, Florida.[14]
[edit] Anthrax threats

The first hoax letters claiming to contain anthrax were mailed to U.S. clinics in October 1998, a few days after the Slepian shooting; since then, there have been 655 such bioterror threats made against abortion providers. None of the "anthrax" in these cases was real.[11][15]

  • November 2001: After the genuine 2001 anthrax attacks, Clayton Waagner mailed hoax letters containing a white powder to 554 clinics. On December 3, 2003, Waagner was convicted of 51 charges relating to the anthrax scare.

[edit] Arson, bombing, and property crime

According to NAF, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidents of trespassing, 1264 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid ("stink bombs").[10] The first clinic arson occurred in Oregon in March 1976 and the first bombing occurred in February 1978 in Ohio.[16] More recent incidents have included:[5]

  • December 25, 1984: An abortion clinic and two physicians' offices in Pensacola, Florida were bombed in the early morning of Christmas Day by a quartet of young people (Matt Goldsby, Jimmy Simmons, Kathy Simmons, Kaye Wiggins) who later called the bombings "a gift to Jesus on his birthday."[17][18][19]
  • October 1999: Martin Uphoff set fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, causing US$100 worth of damage. He was later sentenced to 60 months in prison.[20]
  • May 28, 2000: An arson at a clinic in Concord, New Hampshire on resulted in damage estimated at US$20,000. The case remains unsolved.[21]
  • September 30, 2000: A Catholic priest drove his car into the Northern Illinois Health Clinic after learning that the FDA had approved the drug RU-486. He pulled out an ax before being forced to the ground by the owner of the building who fired two warning shots from a shotgun.[22]
  • June 11, 2001: An unsolved bombing at a clinic in Tacoma, Washington destroyed a wall, resulting in US$6000 in damages.[20]
  • July 4, 2005: A clinic Palm Beach, Florida was the target of an arson. The case remains open.[20]
  • December 12, 2005: Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe threw a Molotov cocktail at a clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana. The device missed the building and no damage was caused. In August 2006, Hughes was sentenced to six years in prison, and Dunahoe to one year. Hughes claimed the bomb was a –memorial lamp– for an abortion she had had there.[23]
  • September 13, 2006 David McMenemy of Rochester Hills, Michigan crashed his car into the Edgerton Women's Care Center in Davenport, Iowa. He then doused the lobby in gasoline and then started a fire. McMenemy committed these acts in the belief that the center was performing abortions, however Edgerton is not an abortion clinic.[24]
  • April 25, 2007: A package left at a women's health clinic in Austin, Texas contained an explosive device capable of inflicting serious injury or death. A bomb squad detonated the device after evacuating the building. Paul Ross Evans (who had a criminal record for armed robbery and theft) was found guilty of the crime.[25]
  • May 9, 2007: An unidentified person deliberately set fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Virginia Beach, Virginia.[26]
  • December 6, 2007: Chad Altman and Sergio Baca were arrested for the arson of Dr. Curtis Boyd's clinic in Albuquerque. Altman–s girlfriend had scheduled an appointment for an abortion at the clinic.[27]
  • January 22, 2009 Matthew L. Derosia, 32, who was reported to have had a history of mental illness [28] rammed a SUV into the front entrance of a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota.[29]

[edit] Outside the United States

Outside of the United States, known incidents of anti-abortion violence were committed in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

[edit] Australia

  • July 16, 2001: Steven Rogers, a security guard at a clinic in Melbourne, Australia was shot in the face and killed by Peter James Knight. Knight was charged and was sentenced to life in prison on November 19, 2002.[30]
  • January 6, 2009: A firebombing using Molotov cocktails was attempted at a medical clinic in Mosman Park, Western Australia. Faulty construction of the bombs limited damage to a single external burnt area, though if successful damage would have been severe. It is believed that the inviduals who made the attack were responsible for graffiti "baby killers" on the site, indicating a pro-life reason for the attack. The site turned out to in fact not be an abortion clinic, though the attackers most likely were not aware of this.[31]

[edit] Canada

[edit] Attempted murder

Violence has also occurred in Canada, where three doctors have been attacked to date. There is speculation that the timing of the shootings is related to the Canadian observance of Remembrance Day. The physicians were part of pattern of attacks, which targeted providers in Canada and upstate New York, including Dr. Barnett Slepian. All victims were shot in their homes with a rifle, at dusk, in late October or early November. James Kopp was charged with the murder of Dr. Slepian and the attempted murder of Dr. Short; he is suspected of having committed the other shootings as well.[11][12]

[edit] Bombing and property damage
  • February 25, 1990: Two men broke into a clinic in Vancouver and destroyed $C30,000 worth of medical equipment with crowbars.[33]
  • May 18, 1992: A Toronto clinic operated by Henry Morgentaler was firebombed, causing the entire front wall of the building to collapse.[34]

[edit] New Zealand

In 1999 Graeme White was found guilty and jailed for tunneling into an abortion clinic in a failed attempt to blow it up.

[edit] Explicit support of anti-abortion violence

Some organizations in the United States either explicitly or implicitly advocate violence against abortion providers. Two such organizations are the Army of God, an underground network of activists who believe that the use of violence is an appropriate tool for fighting against abortion, and the American Coalition of Life Activists, who published the Nuremberg Files.

The American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) was especially controversial because of its wanted-style posters. These posters would feature a photograph of a physician that performed abortions along with a monetary reward for any information that would lead to their "arrest, conviction and revocation of license to practice medicine"[35]. The ACLA described these physicians as –war criminals[36] and accused them of committing –crimes against humanity– (reference to Washington). The Nuremberg Files was a controversial web site which published the names, home addresses, telephone numbers, and other personal information of abortion providers– highlighting the names of those who had been wounded and striking out those of which had been killed. Dr. George Tiller's name was included on this list along with many others. The site was accused of being a thinly-veiled hit list intended to incite violence; others claimed that it was protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.[37] A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision finally shut the site down in 2002 after a prolonged debate.

The Army of God alone was responsible for bombing and setting fire to over one hundred clinics before the year 1994. They also invaded more than three hundred clinics and vandalized more than four hundred[38]. While this group has committed numerous property crimes, they are notorious for their more personal acts of violence such as kidnapping, attempted murder and murder. In August 1982, three men identifying as the Army of God kidnapped for eight days Hector Zevallos (a doctor and clinic owner) and his wife, Rosalee Jean.[39] In 1993, Shelly Shannon, a very active member of the Army of God, was found guilty for the attempted murder of Dr. George Tiller[40]. That same year, law enforcement officials found the Army of God Manual, a tactical guide to arson, chemical attacks, invasions, and bombings buried in Shelly Shannon's backyard.[39] And while Paul Jennings Hill was found guilty of the murder of both Dr. John Britton and clinic escort James Barrett, the Army of God justified his actions on the grounds that "whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child... if in fact Paul Hill did kill or wound abortionist John Britton, and accomplices James Barrett and Mrs. Barrett, his actions are morally justified if they were necessary for the purpose of defending innocent human life".[11]

[edit] Reactions

[edit] Pro-life reactions

The pro-life organization National Coalition for Life and Peace has rejected violence as a form of opposition to abortion.[41] However, one commentator has argued that the rhetoric of the pro-life movement implicitly condones violence against abortion providers[undue weight?].[42] This contention is disputed by some pro-life activists.[citation needed]

Pro-life activism has consisted of picketing, vigils for aborted fetuses, and sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics. California and New York have responded to such activities with laws that protect access to abortion, particularly the creation of buffer zones or safety bubbles where protesters are not permitted to approach those entering or exiting facilities providing abortion.[43]

In response to incidents of anti-abortion violence, groups in the pro-life movement have sought to isolate themselves from violent factions. Pro-life advocates have vocally condemned violent actions against abortion providers as running contrary to the values and goals of the right-to-life cause.[44] Following the 1998 bombing of a clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, Feminists for Life offered a reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible.[45] In 2001, Priests for Life, a group of pro-life Catholics in the United States, put in place a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of fugitives wanted in connection with violence against abortion providers.[46] The American Life League issued a "Pro-life Proclamation Against Violence" in 2006.[47] Joseph Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League has a chapter in his book called "Violence: Why It Won't Work." [48] Other pro-life groups to take a stand against violence include Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and Pro-Lifers Against Clinic Violence.

Other anti-abortion organizations have neither condemned nor condoned anti-abortion terror, although these groups have published the private home addresses of abortion workers and led public prayers for abortion workers to suffer "execution" and "calamity".[49]

While still rejecting violence, a few pro-life leaders have tempered their condemnation of anti-abortion violence by suggesting that the harm created by anti-abortion crime is small in comparison to the harms committed by abortion providers. Joseph Scheidler observed that "for the sake of proper perspective" he wanted to note that "no amount of damage to real estate can equal the violence of taking a single human life" through abortion.[48] David C. Nice, of the University of Georgia, contextualizes this support for violence as a political weapon against women's rights, one that is associated with tolerance for violence toward women.[50]

[edit] Pro-choice reactions

Pro-choice organizations have responded to anti-abortion violence by lobbying to protect access to abortion clinics. The National Abortion Federation and the Feminist Majority Foundation collect statistics on incidents of anti-abortion violence. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act was passed in 1994 to protect reproductive health service facilities and their staff and patients from violent threats, assault, vandalism, and blockade.[51] State, provincial, and local governments have also passed similar laws designed to afford legal protection of access to abortion in the United States and Canada.

One form that this legislation can take is in the creation of a "buffer zone" around an abortion clinic or around the home of someone who works there; pro-life demonstration is limited to a specific distance from the building or prohibited altogether. In the U.S., three states – Colorado, Massachusetts, and Montana have passed "buffer zone" laws – and, in Canada, the province of British Columbia has enacted The Access to Abortion Services Act.

[edit] Anti-abortion violence in popular culture

[edit] Literature

  • The Fourth Procedure, a 1995 novel by Stanley Pottinger, is a medical thriller and murder mystery that features anti-abortion violence in its plot. Two men responsible for the bombing of an abortion clinic turn up dead with baby dolls surgically implanted inside of them.[52]
  • Insomnia by Stephen King has much of the plot focusing around violent pro-life campaigners and their opposition towards a pro-choice speech due to be held in their town. The group murders several women they believe to be seeking abortion and attempts to assassinate the speaker. They are motivated by a conspiracy theory that the speaker is part of secret society that was a continuation of Herod's Massacre of the Innocents.

[edit] Film

  • Palindromes, a 2004 film by director Todd Solondz, features the murder of an abortion doctor in his home similar to the Barnett Slepian case.

[edit] Television

  • The popular crime drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit showed the possible motive of a murder as anti-abortion violence in the episode "Hammered." The Nuremberg Files are mentioned in the episode when they go to tell the doctor's ex-husband about the murder. The abortion clinic they visit has bulletproof glass, because they had been the target of a sniper who shot a receptionist nonfatally. Also, when the detectives go to the clinic, they experience an egging of the clinic as they look into collecting several boxes of hate mail that the clinic received.
  • The first episode the spy drama Spooks is about a fictional anti-abortion terrorist leader coming to the UK to set up a series of terror cells.

[edit] Music

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Jelen, Ted G. (1998). Abortion. In Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Walnut Creek, California: AltaMira Press.
  2. ^ Smith, G. Davidson (Tim). Canadian Security Intelligence Service. (1998). Single Issue Terrorism. Commentary. Retrieved June 9, 2006.
  3. ^ Michele Wilson, John Lynxwiler (1988), "Abortion clinic violence as terrorism", Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 11 (4), pp 263 – 273
  4. ^ O'Keefe, Mark. (January 24, 1999). "Anarchy in the name of God." The Oregonian. Retrieved June 9, 2006.
  5. ^ a b c NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation. (2006). Clinic violence and intimidation. Retrieved February 9, 2010
  6. ^ Crow, Karen. (August 19, 2005). A Violent Week in August. Choice! Magazine. Retrieved January 25, 2007.
  8. ^ Berlet, Chip. "Clinic Violence, The Religious Right, Scapegoating, Armed Militias, & the Freemason Conspiracy," The Body Politic, Vol. 5, No. 2 February 1995.
  9. ^ Wichita Eagle Retrieved on May 31, 2009
  10. ^ a b National Abortion Federation (2009), "Incidence of Violence & Disruption Against Abortion Providers in the U.S. & Canada", Retrieved February 9, 2010
  11. ^ a b c d Robinson, B.A., Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (November 9, 2004), "Violence & Harassment at U.S. Abortion Clinics", Retrieved April 13, 2006.
  12. ^ a b National Abortion Federation (2006), "Clinic Violence: History of Violence", Retrieved April 13, 2006
  13. ^ "Abortion politics meet law enforcement". Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  14. ^ "3 injured in Fla. abortion clinic vandalism; FBI launches probe", The Baltimore Sun, May 22, 1998
  15. ^ National Abortion Federation (2007), "Anthrax Attacks", Retrieved February 10, 2007
  16. ^ National Abortion Federation. (2007). "Arsons and Bombings." Retrieved February 10, 2007.
  17. ^ Triggle, Nick (1 June 2009) "Anti-abortion and violence in the US" BBC News
  18. ^ Churchville, Victoria (6 January 1985) "Bomb Suspects Cite Religious Motive" The Washington Post p. A-16
  19. ^ See also: Christmas abortion bombings at Pensacola wiki
  20. ^ a b c National Abortion Federation (no date). History of Violence/Extreme Violence. [1]
  21. ^ Daley, B.(2000, May 30). The Boston Globe. –Abortion Clinic Fire –Suspicious–: Women–s Health Center Has Been Target Of Past Protests, Vandalism– Lexis Nexis Academic Universe. Retrieved March 26, 2009
  22. ^ "Axe-wielding priest attacks abortion clinic". CNN. 2000-09-30. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  23. ^ Feminist Wire. July 13, 2006. Louisiana Clinic Bomber Pleads Guilty. Daily Newsbriefs. [2] Retrieved March 26, 2009
  24. ^ "Man Crashes Into Davenport Health Clinic". KWQC. 2006-09-13. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  25. ^ Intelligence Report. Fall 2007. Anti-Abortion Violence. [3] Retrieved March 26, 2009
  26. ^ "Planned Parenthood Arson." (May 12, 2007). Retrieved May 14, 2007.
  27. ^ (ABC affiliate). December 27, 2007. Suspects In Abortion Clinic Fire Plead Not Guilty [4] Retrieved March 26, 2009
  28. ^ "[5]"
  29. ^ "Man charged with driving into Planned Parenthood facility." (January 23, 2009). "Minneapolis Star-Tribune." Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  30. ^ "Australian abortion clinic guard killed." (July 16, 2001). BBC News. Retrieved April 13, 2006.
  31. ^ "arsonists attack mosman park clinic." (July 16, 2001). BBC News. Retrieved April 13, 2006.
  32. ^ Canada abortion doctor stabbed." (July 13, 2000). BBC News. Retrieved April 13, 2006.
  33. ^ Diemer, Ulli. (May 1990). News Briefs. Connexions Digest. Retrieved February 11, 2007.
  34. ^ Bagley, Gordon. (1992). Bombing of Toronto abortion clinic raises stakes in bitter debate. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 147(10), 1528–1533. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
  35. ^ Eviatar, Daphne. "Little-Enforced Law Opens Window for Suits Against Extremist Groups." 03 Jun 2009. The Washington Independent, Web. 23 Nov 2009. <>.
  36. ^ Volokh, Eugene. ""Menacing Speech, Today and During the Civil Rights Movement"." 03 Apr 1001. Web. 23 Nov 2009. <>.
  37. ^ Clarkson, Frederick. (May 31, 2001). Journalists or terrorists?. Retrieved April 13, 2006.
  38. ^ "The Death of Dr. Gunn." New York Times 12 Mar 1993: n. pag. Web. 22 Nov 2009. <>.
  39. ^ a b Baird-Windle, Patricia & Bader, Eleanor J., (2001), Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism, New York, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-0-312-23925-1
  40. ^ Warner, Bill. "Bill Warner Private Investigator Sarasota Fl to Panama City, Male & Female Detectives ." Dr. George Tiller Murdered by Army of God (AOG) Member, Shooting Suspect Scott P. Roeder Identified By Sheriff, AOG Alive And Well in Wichita Kansas.. Bill Warner Private Investigator, 31 May 2009. Web. 22 Nov 2009. <>.
  41. ^ National Coalition for Life and Peace Condemns Abortion Facility Bombing
  42. ^ George Tiller and the Paradox of Anti-Abortion Violence
  43. ^ National Abortion Federation. In the states, Ensuring Access. Clinic Protection bills. Retrieved on November 1, 2009.
  44. ^ Wallace, James M. (October 11, 1998). "Anti-abortion violence negates pro-life goals." News & Record. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
  45. ^ Toalston, Art. (January 30, 1998). "Fatal abortion clinic bombing condemned by pro-life leaders." BP News. Retrieved February 6, 2007.
  46. ^ Eckstrom, Kevin. (2001). "Priests for Life Offers $50,000 Reward for Clinic Shooters." Beliefnet. Retrieved February 6, 2007.
  47. ^ American Life League. (n.d.). Pro-life proclamation against violence. Retrieved April 13, 2006.
  48. ^ a b Scheidler, Joseph M. (1993). "Chapter 81: Violence: Why It Won't Work" Closed: 99 Ways To Stop Abortion Retrieved March 18, 2009.
  49. ^
  50. ^ Nice, David C. (February 1988). "Abortion Clinic Bombings as Political Violence". American Journal of Political Science 32 (1): 178–195. doi:10.2307/2111316. Retrieved 2007-11-26. 
  51. ^ "Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) FAQ". 1995-04-18. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  52. ^ Braille Library. (September 1999). Narrated by David Hartley Margolin. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
  53. ^ Manson, Marilyn (May 28, 1999), "Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?", Rolling Stone, Retrieved February 10, 2007
  54. ^ Goldberg, Michelle (November 17, 1999), "Sharps & Flats",, Retrieved February 10, 2007

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