And then the shooting suddenly stopped…

Between March 1993 and December 1994, the terrorist campaign against abortion providers was relentless.  Over the course of those 20 months, Michael Griffin had crept up behind Doctor Gunn and shot him in the back, Paul Hill put his shotgun to Doctor Britton’s face knowing the doctor wore a bullet proof then took aim at the two other passengers in the car, and John Salvi walked calmly into two clinics and indiscriminately started shooting anyone who happened to be there, killing two clinic workers.  Meanwhile, during this same period, Doctor George Tiller had survived an attempted assassination in Wichita, Kansas.

Then, for almost three years, the guns went silent.

Not that this campaign of “domestic terrorism” ceased altogether.  During those years, there was a rash of butyric acid attacks against clinics.  At night, an assailant would take a syringe that had been filled with the acid and injected it through the keyhole of an abortion clinic. The next day, when clinic staff opened the door, they were hit with the powerful smell that, while it did not kill anyone, sent numerous workers to the hospital.  It also forced abortion clinics to close for days and spends hundreds and thousands of dollars trying to get rid of the toxic element.



Then, on October 28, 1997, Doctor David Gandell, an abortion doctor in Rochester, New York was sitting in his home when a shot went through his window and he was injured by flying glass.  Unfortunately, no one really paid much attention to the incident.  Part of the reason was because the doctor was not well known, he did not go to any meetings, was not public about what he did.  And he was “up there” in Rochester.  Furthermore, he wasn’t killed, he was “only” injured.

So, for a few years, things were relatively calm.  We felt that the Clinton administration’s Department of Justice was on the watch, many doctors started shelving their cumbersome bullet proof vests and we started to let our guard down a little.  We didn’t know that another terrorist by the name of Eric Rudolph was out there plotting.

On July 27, 1996 Rudolph detonated a bomb at the site of the Atlanta Summer Olympic games, killing spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounding 111 others.  Then, in January 1997 he planted a bomb at the Northside Family Planning Center, an abortion clinic in the suburbs of Atlanta but no one was injured so, again, because there were no “bodies,” the media did not cover it well.

Then, on the morning of January 29, 1998, Rudolph left a bomb composed of dynamite surrounded by close-packed nails in some bushes near the entrance to the All Woman New Women abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.  He lingered near the scene holding a remote-control and at 7:33 a.m. he detonated the device when he saw Robert Sanderson, who was providing off-duty security for the clinic, approach the device.  The bomb went off, killing Sanderson instantly.  Also injured severely was a nurse, Emily Lyons, who lost an eye in the explosion.

Clinics across the country went back to red alert status.  Rudolph was quickly identified as the suspect and a manhunt ensued that lasted several years.  There was much evidence that he had escaped into the Appalachian wilderness and over those years, he actually because a folk hero to the yahoos in that part of the country who were so anti-government that they were rooting for Rudolph to elude the authorities.  I even remember seeing a tee shirt for sale that said “Run, Eric, Run.”  It was sick and the authorities became a laughing stock because of their inability to find this man who was living off the earth and eluding them and their sophisticated tracking equipment.

At the same time, on March 7, 1998, Rudolph’s older brother, Daniel, videotaped himself cutting off one of his own hands with a raial arm saw to “send a message to the FBI and the media.” According to Rudolph’s own writings, he survived during his years as a fugitive by camping in the woods, gathering acorns and salamander, pilfering vegetable gardens, stealing grain from a grain silo, and raiding dumpsters in a nearby town.  Finally, Rudolph was arrested in North Carolina on May 31, 2003, by a police officer who saw him rummaging through a garbage disposal behind a convenience store early in the morning.  Years later, Rudolph struck a plea bargain and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms without parole.

With Rudolph in custody, abortion clinics breathed a sigh of relief.

The terror was over for now.  But another terrorist was waiting in the woods behind another doctor’s house.