On December 30, 1994, an anti-abortion zealot named John Salvi walked into two clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts and killed two abortion clinic workers. He wounded five others. There had been other murders, of course, but this one was different because Mr. Salvi went in not necessarily targeting the doctor. It was just a random massacre of people who were there to help women.
As a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I was at the Baltimore Aquarium when I got the call about the murders. On an empty tank of gas, my younger son and I sped back to the office in Alexandria and we started the drill. We gathered as much accurate information as possible (not an easy task) and issued a broadcast fax to several hundred clinics across the country. We got them the information because they needed to be prepared when their local media showed up at their door for comments. I was never presumptuous enough to suggested talking points. These folks were in danger every day of their life – they knew what to say.
I gave a few interviews as well. The one I remember most clearly was when I was flown to New York City to be on Good Morning America. Things were crazy for a while, even though they caught Mr. Salvi rather quickly after he unsuccessfully tried to shoot up one of our clinics in Norfolk, Virginia.
About a week later, an agent from the FBI called and asked to meet with me. He came to the office a few days later and he expressed concern that this latest shooting spree was something different in that it targeted “ancillary personnel.” He added that it might inspire another terrorist to “up the ante” and go after others that were peripherally involved in the abortion issue, like pro-choice advocates. My first reaction was that high profile advocates like Eleanor Smeal with the Feminist Majority Foundation and Kate Michelman with the National Abortion Rights Action League certainly deserved protection. But, although I was a relatively low profile advocated, the fact that I had been on Good Morning America caused the FBI some concern. I started envisioning a federal marshal sitting in my office every day and going with me to the local book store. But, instead, the agent just said that “you need to protect yourself.” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about and when I asked him directly he said “you might think about getting a gun.”
Now, I am totally anti-gun. If I could I would take every one away from every American, the NRA be damned. So, when he made the suggestion, I just had to laugh. Ultimately, however, they frightened me enough and a few days later I walked literally across the street where there was a small little gun shop. Hey, I live in Virginia, what can I tell ya?
I walked in and told the crust ole guy behind the counter about my situation and he calmly started talking about twenty twos or twenty threes or whatever, how certain guns feel in the palm of your hand, how you intend to use them, firing power, cost. My friggin head was spinning. Then he suggested I try holding a few guns just to “get the feel.” When he handed me the first one – a real live gun – my hand started to shake and I started sweating palpably. It’s one thing to play guns as a kid, using a stick as an imaginary AK 47, wiping out the bad guys. It’s another thing to hold a weapon that, once loaded, can actually kill a person. I imagined how I would actually use it to defend myself, where I would have to keep it on my person. I thought about having to be so aware of my surroundings that if a would-be assassin crept up behind me, I would be able to calmly turn around, whip the gun out of my pants, cock the pistol, aim and shoot before he shot me. In a more likely scenario, I visualized walking down the street at night and having an old school buddy tap me on my back to say hello. Oh yeah, I’m cool enough to tell the difference between a prolife assassin and my ole baseball buddy!
I dropped the whole idea pretty quickly. My family and I, however, did take precautions. When an unidentified box was delivered to our office one day, I called the police, they brought the dogs and after watching it for an hour, they opened the box, only to find a bottle of wine. And when Doctor Bart Slepian was later killed while standing in front of his window in his home, we kept all of our blinds closed for months and remained very aware of who might be outside in our wooded lot. In a way, it was good for me to go through these exercises as it reminded me what our abortion doctors and their staff were going through on a daily basis. They have to be aware of the cowards who might sneak up behind them or who might be stalking in the woods. These pro-life assassins should only have half as much courage as these doctors.
- Michigan’s Extreme Anti-Abortion Bill Leads the Nation in Batshittery [Roe V. World] (jezebel.com)
- Remembering George Tiller As Our Fight Continues (sairasays.wordpress.com)
- Stop Asking, Where Are the Young Feminists? Because They’re Right Here! (opinionessoftheworld.com)