The other day I was chatting with a twenty year old neighbor that I’ve known for years and at some point we got to talking about my history in the pro-choice movement. I talked about working for the National Abortion Rights Action League in the early 1980’s and then how I helped organize the National Coalition of Abortion Providers. And when I related how I had seen several of our doctors murdered by pro-life terrorists, he gave me a blank stare. “They killed the doctors?” he asked.
It’s bad enough that the younger generations have no recollection of the days of illegal abortion but now the string of murders committed over the years (and under the banner of God) may also be fading from our collective memories. Well, if I have anything to say about it I will do all I can to make sure that the violence that has occurred will not disappear into the dustbin of history.
The first doctor to be murdered was Doctor David Gunn.
David Gunn was known as a “circuit rider.” He spent most days on the road, working in a number of abortion clinics throughout Florida, Alabama and Georgia. He had a Bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and an M.D. from the University of Kentucky. At some point, anti-abortion extremists starting piecing together how he was travelling from clinic to clinic and he became a target for harassment. Normally a laid back guy, David started expressing concern for his safety in the early 1990’s, especially after he discovered that Operation Rescue had distributed an old-fashioned “Wanted” poster with Gunn’s picture on it. In addition to the picture, the poster included his home phone number and other identifying information. In response, David purchased three handguns. He kept one in his glove compartment, one under the seat and one in the trunk.
On March 10, 1993, David left his hotel room early in the morning and made his way to the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services on Bayou Boulevard, a clinic that he had helped open just a month before. His new clinic, nestled among offices for lawyers, doctors and accountants, bore no ostensible signs and the patient load was generally rather light. And lately, a group of protestors had started standing outside of the facility in protest. On this day, one of them was a young man named Michael Griffin.
As always, Doctor Gunn pulled into his parking space at the back of the clinic. When he got out of his car, David’s limp was palpable, a result of his childhood bout with polio. He did not grab any of his guns because he did not want them in the clinic around the patients and staff. He took a few steps towards the clinic and at 9:30 am, David Gunn’s life was snuffed out. It came with no warning, he had no time to defend himself. He was just gone.
It seems that when Michael Griffin saw Gunn’s car pull up, he casually left the protest, walked up behind the car then calmly shot David Gunn in the back three times. He was heard to yell out “Don’t kill any more babies!” After the act, he threw down his .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver and waited for the police to arrive.
Michael Griffin was immediately arrested, charged with murder and, despite alleging that he had been “brainwashed” by anti abortion activists John Burt, was quickly found guilty. He remains in jail in Florida to this day.
The first murder of an abortion doctor made national headlines for weeks. Prime Time specials, the Donohue Show, Nightline all covered the act. Doctor Gunn’s son, David, Jr., became a spokesperson for abortion providers. A number of abortion doctors left the field, concerned for their safety. And the federal government, i.e., the Clinton Administration, did nothing. Meanwhile, there were other assassins waiting in the wings, hatching similar plans.
This was just the first assassination of an abortion doctor.
- Anti-abortion minister to get new trial on charges he stalked doctor (wcnc.com)
- Anti-abortion minister to get new trial on charges he stalked doctor (charlotteobserver.com)
- Consider the Coat Hanger (theatlantic.com)
- Kansas gets even crazier (salon.com)
- Republican sheriff candidate promises not to murder abortion doctors if elected (rawstory.com)