Anti Abortion Terrorism

Anti Abortion Terrorism

It’s quite possible that I met Lee Ann Nichols just a few weeks before she was killed at an Abortion office..

As a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, in early December, 1994, I had gone up to the Boston area to visit a number of member clinics.  One of my first stops was the Preterm Clinic on Commonwealth Avenue.  As always, I was escorted around by the administrator and introduced to all the staff people.  Lee Ann was the receptionist but I just can’t remember if I met her.

Just a few months after Paul Hill murdered Doctor Baird Britton and his bodyguard, pro-life terrorist John Salvi also took the law into his own hands in a shooting spree at two clinics in the area.  Witnesses had testified that Salvi had been a somewhat regular presence in front of Preterm and the Planned Parenthood clinics. As for his mental state, letters released after his arrest indicated his belief in conspiracies by the freemasons, the Vatican and the KKK, which he thought was targeting Catholics.   Salvi’s mother later said that her son had told her that he “was the thief on the cross with Jesus.” He also told her that “…the mafia and KKK are out to get me.”

Anti Abortion Terrorism

Anti Abortion Terrorism

On Decebmer 30, 1994, John Salvi calmly walked into the Planned Parenthood facility and shot Shannon Lowney, the receptionist.  He then walked over to Preterm where he killed Nichols and engaged the security guard, Richard Seron, in a gun battle.  After that, Salvi dropped a bag containing a second gun and 700 rounds of ammunition and fled the city.  A nationwide alert was put out and the NCAP office was inundated with calls from clinics all along the east coast asking what security precautions they should take.  The next day, 1,200 miles away in Norfolk, Virginia, the Reverend Donald Spitz and his followers ended their regular protest outside the Hillcrest Clinic and fifteen minutes later, Salvi suddenly appeared at the building’s main entrance.  He sprayed the lobby with a hail of bullets but no one was hurt.  Within 10 minutes, police surrounded a pick-up truck and Salvi was arrested.

At one point, the Boston Globe reported that Salvi had a piece of paper with Donald Spitz’ name on it.  Spitz was “follower” of Paul Hill and espoused the “justifiable homicide” theory.  Spitz was never charged with aiding Salvi in any way but Salvi’s trial gave Spitz a lot of national attention because he stood outside the courtroom defending Salvi’s actions.

I had met Spitz a few times and I always thought that, like Paul Hill, he loved the media spotlight.  So, this particular case was ripe for him and his ego.  He knew folks would be outraged if he said he supported Salvi and some pro-choice folks were apoplectic that he was out there applauding Salvi’s rampage.  Still, I was one of the few that suggested that he was within his Free Speech rights and that we should just ignore him and not give him the attention he desired.

About two years later, after he was convicted of murder, Salvi was found dead in his prison cell.  The official report said that his death was a suicide but there was some controversy because other reports claimed that he was found with his hands and feet tied together, cotton shoved in his mouth and a bag placed and tied over his head.

For the abortion provider community, this new outrage upped the ante even more because now someone had just decided to walk into a clinic and start shooting.  He was not necessarily targeting a doctor.  Indeed, I remember talking to some clinic line staff who very privately expressed some “comfort” that the assassins until then had “just” been targeting the doctors.  But this was different.  Suddenly, parents and loved ones of clinic staff were asking their loved ones to leave the potentially dangerous situation.

It seemed that no one was safe anymore.