Terrorism


Paul Hill Convicted Anti Abortion Pro Life Christian Murderer

Paul Hill Convicted Anti Abortion Pro Life Christian Murderer

It might have come down to a simple question mark.

On July 29, 1994  anti-abortion advocate Paul Hill killed Doctor John Britton and his body guard, James Barrett, as they pulled into the parking lot of the Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida. Hill just calmly walked up to the pick-up truck, took out a shotgun and, aware that the Doctor was wearing a bullet proof vest, shot him in the face. Hill was quickly arrested, tried and convicted. He died by lethal injection on Sept 3, 2003.

Several months before the murders, I was at the White House when President Bill Clinton signed into law the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. That law prohibited the “use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, interfere with …any person who is obtaining reproductive health services or providing…such services.” That law also included language confirming that anti-abortion protestors could exercise their First Amendment rights without fear of prosecution. Of course, how one defined the right to protest was subject to interpretation.

Bill Clinton Abortion Rights Advocate

Bill Clinton Abortion Rights Advocate

Once the law became effective, pro-choice groups started lobbying the Department of Justice to use it against protestors who were considered particularly dangerous. Paul Hill, because he believed that it was “justifiable homicide” to kill an abortion doctor, was very high on the list.

A long-time presence at the Ladies Center, Hill was known for carrying with him a very large sign that read: “EXECUTE MURDERERS ABORTIONISTS ACCESSORIES?” The sign caught the attention of many in the media, it intimidated patients and it terrified the clinic staff. When the National Coalition of Abortion Providers held a memorial service for Doctor David Gunn at the site of his murder in March, 1994, Paul Hill was quietly walking back and forth with that very sign.

Pro Lifer Murder Threat Today!

Pro Lifer Murder Threat Today!

Pro-choice groups were very concerned about Hill (as were some anti-abortion advocates), but the lawyers at the DOJ were not sure what they could do about him. In June, 1994 I had a conversation with one of their attorneys and he said that he had not crossed the Free Speech line because he was not saying out loud “I am going to kill a doctor.” Instead, he was “merely” expressing his views on the issue, i.e., saying that he thought it was “justified” to kill an abortion doctor. When I raised the issue of the sign, the attorney directed me to the question mark at the end of the sentence. I had never noticed it. Paul Hill was “merely” posing the question.

Department of Justice

Department of Justice

Was Paul Hill really that smart? Did he understand how far he could push the First Amendment? We’ll never know. We do know, however, that Hill was being watched very carefully by the authorities but that sign – and his very ugly speech – was not actionable.

I often wonder what the authorities might have done if there was no question mark on his sign.

I wonder if a case could have been made under the FACE law?

I wonder if the lives of two people could have been saved?

I think it’s safe to say that the more reactive and aggressive anti abortion activists are informed by some variation of formal religion. Their parochial focus on ‘thou shalt not murder’ ignores a host of other religious tenets including the purpose of religion.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV said “The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness.” From my vantage point, there are painfully few instances of love and compassion outside abortion clinics. Let me offer a few examples.

When a 2012 New Year’s day fire gutted a family planning clinic in Pensacola FL, was that an act of love and compassion? When the Planned Parenthood office in Grand Chute, Wisconsin was damaged recently by a small homemade explosive device placed on a building windowsill, was that an act driven by tolerance and humility?

It was difficult to identify love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility and forgiveness when the Maryland Coalition for Life determined that protesting at a middle school was the perfect response to a landlord who refused to terminate an abortion clinic’s lease? Anti-abortion activists, trying to shut down an abortion clinic in Maryland, targeted the sixth grade daughter of the man who simply owns the office park where the clinic is located. Where is the love and compassion for children when the protesters stood at the entrance of Robert Frost Middle School with graphic posters of aborted fetuses?

Was it love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility and forgiveness that motivated Scott Roeder to stalk George Tiller, eventually shooting him vigilante-style in church. Informed by the vitriol of Operation Rescue, Roeder compared the lawlessness in the Bible to Tiller’s lawlessness. In fact, he wrote that Tiller is the concentration camp Mengele of our day and needs to be stopped. Where was the humility in Scott Roeder?

In August 2011, where hundreds of clinic defenders gathered in peaceful support of Dr. LeRoy Carhart and in support of the care he provides to women in need of late abortions. One block away, amidst a small group of anti-choicers, Operation Rescue leader Troy Newman emerged, paraded down the street toward the clinic defenders. One of the defenders, a pregnant 20-something woman, sat on the curb in the heat and humidity.  A man darted across the street from her and started taking pictures.  He then darted back across the street toward her to take more.  Finally, he got down in the middle of the street in front of the pregnant woman, taking pictures of her. Startled at his actions, she asked who are you?

He said, “I’m Troy Newman, bitch.” How can this comment be interpreted as anything other that derision?

What drove an anti abortion protester, who recognized a friend entering an Allentown PA abortion clinic, to later drive to her friend’s place of work to publicly intimidate and harass her?

In all the outer trappings of her espoused Catholicism, rosary beads and membership in St. Joseph the Worker church in Orefield PA, where was this protester’s sense of tolerance, humility and love during the public humiliation?


What kind of love and compassion was evident when the Rev. Flip Benham was stalking a Charlotte, North Carolina abortion doctor and passing out hundreds of “wanted” posters with the physician’s name and photo on it, fliers that implicitly urge violence?

Benham knew that doctors in other places had been killed after similar posters were circulated. So how can this action remotely be considered religious or loving?

Where can you find love and compassion amongst the anti abortion terrorists as they scream at women with their bullhorns and use hateful language that diminishes human dignity? In what ways do they show love and compassion when telling a woman that the devil inside the clinic will drink the blood of her child or that the doctor will turn your child into baby road kill or your child will haunt you at night?

How can anyone claim to love both the woman and the fetus when, in truth, they value a woman’s fetus more than the woman? In the mind of the hubristic anti abortion activist, the fetus is a gift from God that they want to force on a woman, regardless of a woman’s wishes or circumstances. Organizations like Operation Rescue, Operation Save America and the Prolife Action League are singularly focused on ending abortion in America with absolutely no regard for the needs of women. There is little tolerance and certainly no humility within the leadership or their minions. Every time I hear an anti choicer invoke the name of Jesus, I cringe. There’s nothing Christ-like in that invocation, particularly because it lacks love and because it’s full of rage and contempt for every woman who enters a clinic.

The Dalai Lama XIV said the whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness. It’s clear to me that many anti abortion terrorists do not operate under loving and compassionate religious principles. They are driven by hate, anger and fear. They act out against strong, moral women who make decisions about when and if to bear children. And it is that female agency and morality that angers and scares the living hell out of these folks, that defies their personal sense of morality, and that drives them to act in heinous, immoral ways.

Stop Bullying Women

For many years, anti-abortion activists have lobbied their state legislatures to pass laws that require abortion clinics to share certain information with their patients.  These so-called “Right to Know” laws take many forms:  giving the patient a brochure that shows the stages of fetal development, taking an ultrasound and showing it to the woman, reciting a script to the patient that is a litany of things that can go wrong with an abortion, etc., etc.

Although the pro-choice movement regularly opposes these laws, I have written in the past about how the affect of these laws on the woman is rather minimal.  For example, most women casually look at the brochures, if at all, then toss them into

the garbage.  I’ve been in the rooms with woman as they observed their ultrasound, asked questions about the fetus then proceeded to have the abortion.  It’s all a rather big waste of time if you ask me, but if the anti-abortion movement wants to spend their time on this kind of stuff, go for it.  And, after all, it’s all well-intentioned, isn’t it?  Sure, they would prefer to make that woman’s act totally illegal, but since they can’t do that they want to make sure that a woman is making an informed choice.  How compassionate of them, huh?

Meanwhile, up in New York City, the City Council has taken a great interest in the activities of a number of “crisis pregnancy centers” that, according to testimony provided in a hearing, are engaging in “deceptive” practices designed to convince the woman that they are actually medical facilities.  It seems that the staff in some of these cpcs a

Ultrasound Before Abortion Procedure

re doing some interesting things.  For some reason, they are collecting personal and insurance information in the waiting room, the consultations are taking place on examination tables with the woman in the stirrups and “scrub suited consultants” are giving free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.   On its face, it sounds a little deceptive to me but I’m sure these reports are not accurate because we’ve been told so many times that cpcs do not engage in this kind of behavior.

Still, this crazy ole City Council is concerned about this alleged behavior so they passed a law requiring the cpcs to post signs saying they have no doctors on site and don’t’ give advice about abortions or birth control.  Sounds kind of like the “Right to Know” laws that are being imposed on abortion clinics.

But, lo and behold, here comes the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian advocacy group, and they challenge the law, saying it would have violated the center’s right to free speech.  And, recently, a local judge agreed with them and slapped an injunction on the new law.

Putting aside all the legal mumbo-jumbo and the current status of the law, what I cannot sort out is why anti-abortion advocates want abortion clinics to inform women of everything but the kitchen sink, but when the NY City Council wants to ask them to give out just a little information about their centers, they balk at the idea?

Somebody help me here, please!

The Wichita Divide

Hyperbole.

I always liked that word, although it was years before I understood its meaning.  And, of course, like most Americans I always mispronounced it by saying “Hyper Bowl.”

Speaking of…yesterday, a friend of mine told me about yet another book on abortion called “The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion” by one Stephen Singular.  I will admit right up front that I have not read the book in its entirety and probably never will.   Immersed in the issue for years, I never read any of the books about abortion except – to be honest – to go to the index to see if I was mentioned.

So, I may be totally misrepresenting Mr. Singular’s thesis but the gist is that the city of Wichita and the state of Kansas are now hotbeds in the battle over abortion rights.  Actually, he refers to these spots as the hosts in a new “war.”  Other authors and columnists also commonly refer to the current state of the battle over abortion rights as a “war.”

Hyperbole.

I will admit that there may have been some semblance of a “war” in the 1980’s and 1990’s when abortion clinics were being bombed and abortion doctors were being stalked, threatened, attacked and killed.  It was domestic terrorism, pure and simple – and I was in the middle of it.  But I put the word “war” in quotes because, to me, a war is when two sides are engaged in the battle.  In that case, the bombs were being planted and the shots were being fired by one side only.  Yes, to be fair, the attacks were coming from a violent fringe of the anti-abortion movement, but it was a one-sided assault nonetheless.   We never shot back.

But, to define today’s situation in Wichita or the nation as a “war” is laughable.  Nationally, although there are some exceptions, the average abortion clinic no longer has to deal with anti-abortion protestors.  If they do, it’s usually a handful of octogenarians who barely have enough energy to yell “Don’t Kill Your Baby!”   After taking their morning medication, these “warriors” will grab their twenty year old sign, take the bus out to the clinic and, depending on the weather, stand out front in a pathetic effort to “save babies.”  Of course, the

y rarely succeed.  It’s actually a sorry scene compared to years ago when anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue could conger up hundreds of people at a moment’s notice to block access to a clinic.  Protestors were regularly arrested and sent to jail.  On the other hand, I’ll bet you that not more than 10 people have been arrested in the last few years for blocking access to an abortion clinic.  At the same time, folks like Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, Joe Scheidler and Pat Mahoney have virtually disappeared.  In fact, here is a question for you:   can you name one national anti-abortion leader?

On the other side of the coin, the abortion clinic escort movement, which helped many women get through the crowds of pro-lifers, has also virtually disappeared.  Of course, that is good news in that there is no great need for these courageous folks who volunteered their time to help women obtain an abortion.

I have no doubt that another doctor will ultimately get killed, a clinic will be vandalized, and some staffer will one night get a death threat.  But – and I don’t mean to sound cavalier about this – this is part of the territory.  When a person signs up to work in an abortion clinic, they understand the risks.  It’s the same for a firefighter or a policeman.

But, despite the occasional incident carried out by some bored pro-lifer, for the life of me I cannot fathom how anyone can suggest that there is some kind of “war” in Wichita or anywhere else over the abortion issue.    It might sell a book or two, but it’s a totally silly suggestion.

Hyperbole.

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