Doctor Bart Slepian was cooking his soup in his kitchen when a bullet went through his back and punctured his aorta. He died two hours later.
He and his family had just returned from the synagogue where they were attending a memorial service for his father. His two youngest sons were asleep upstairs. Downstairs, the two older boys, 13 and 15, were watching a Buffalo Sabres hockey game in the family room adjacent to the kitchen. At the same time, hidden amongst the trees in the backyard, anti-abortion zealot James Kopp was watching the family with binoculars. At about 10 p.m., he put his SKS rifle on his shoulder, peered through the scope and fired. The bullet crashed through the window and shattered Slepian’s spine. As it exited his body, it barely missed his son’s head in the other room. Later, Slepian’s wife, Lynne, recalled that he had said “I think I’ve been shot,” and then he fell to the floor.
It was October 23, 1998. Earlier that year, Eric Rudolph had planted his bomb in front of a clinic in Alabama, killing the security guard and severely injuring a nurse. And now, once again, the campaign of domestic violence against abortion providers had gone to a new level. Now, you weren’t even safe in your own home.
Doctor Bart Slepian worked at the Buffalo GYN Womenservices providing abortions for members of the local community. He also ran his own private OB-GYN practice in Amherst, New York. Slepian was rather outspoken about his belief in abortion rights and he was very candid about what he was doing. At one point he was quoted as saying “Abortion is undeniably the taking of potential life. It is not pretty. It is not easy. And in a perfect world, it would not be necessary.” I had met Bart when he drove to Washington, D.C. to attend the annual meeting of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers earlier that year. He had called me a few weeks earlier to say how much he appreciated the way I spoke candidly about abortion and, during that conversation, I learned that he did not like to fly. So, he drove all the way from upstate New York to attend our gathering.
Soon after his murder, supporters of legal abortion started taking an interesting approach in the media. They seemed almost anxious to emphasize that Doctor Slepian “also delivered babies!” It was as if they were trying to distance themselves from the fact that he also performed abortions (indeed, that’s why he was killed). During the next few weeks, I got a number of calls from Bart’s colleagues who felt both options were of equal importance but, as had happened many times over the years, it was as if pro-choicers were anxious to distance themselves from the performance of abortions.
At the same time, for good reasons our community became more paranoid than ever. Always security conscience, they were now not safe in their homes. Also, the killer had not been caught. So, abortion providers started closing the blinds in their house. Indeed, I recall my own children being very concerned that a bullet could pierce the evening and hit its target right and they begged me to keep our blinds closed – which I did. They (and I) became particularly observant, looking for strange cars in our heavily wooded neighborhood. I asked my neighbors to be on the alert as well.
James Kopp was eventually caught in France, was extradited to the United States and was tried and convicted of second-degree murder in Buffalo. He is currently serving a 25 years to life term of imprisonment.
And then the murders of abortion doctors stopped for a number of years – until they got George.
- How Romney Would Treat Women (nytimes.com)
- Tamara Mann: Heartbeat: My Involuntary Miscarriage And ‘Voluntary Abortion’ In Ohio (huffingtonpost.com)