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Abortion protests and violence

Is there a pattern to clinic
assassinations, bombings, etc.?

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An isolated incident or evidence of a pattern:

Dr. George TIller, an abortion provider in Witchita, KS, was assassinated on 2009-MAY-31, in the foyer the Reformation Lutheran Church in the city. A lone terrorist was apparently responsible.

The media has generally been portraying the assassination as an isolated act by an anti-abortion terrorist. However, Cristina Page, 1 author of the book: "How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America" 2 wrote a news item shortly after the assassination that suggests an ominous pattern:

bulletPrior to 1993: There had been no assassinations of abortion providers
bullet1993-JAN: Bill Clinton took office as the country's first pro-choice president.
bulletWithin two months, Dr. David Gunn was assassinated in Pensacola, FL -- the first abortion provider to be murdered.
bulletDuring Clinton's two terms, there was a five-fold increase in violence against abortion providers. Six abortion providers and clinic staff were murdered. There were also 17 attempted murders of abortion providers, and 12 bombings or arson attacks. Some of the most serious incidents were:
bullet1993-AUG: Dr. George Tiller: shot and injured in an attempted murder in Wichita, KS.
bullet1994-JUL: Dr. John Britton and James Barrett were shot and killed in Pensacola, FL.
bullet1994-DEC: Shannon Lownery & Leanne Nichols were killed; five others injured in Brookline MA.
bullet1997-OCT: A physician was shot and injured in Rochester, NY.
bullet1998-JAN: Robert Sanderson was killed and Emily Lyons severely injured by a bomb in Birmingham, AL
bullet1998-OCT: Dr. Barnett Sleipian was shot and killed in Amherst, NY. During an interview with the Buffalo News on 2002-NOV-20, James Kopp confessed to the shooting. Referring to abortion providers generally, he said ominously: "They're still in danger, absolutely. I'm not the first, and I probably won't be the last." 3
bullet2001-JAN: G.W. Bush took office.
bulletDuring Bush's two terms, there were no murders of abortion providers.
bulletThere were no attempted murders of abortion providers.
bulletThere was "only" one clinic bombing.
bulletDuring the final year of his administration, there were "only" 396 harassing calls to American abortion clnics.
bullet2009-JAN: Barack Obama took office -- the country's second pro-choice president.
bulletDuring the first four months of his administration the number of harassing calls jumped to 1,401 -- more than a ten-fold increase.
bulletA few days later, Dr. Tiller was assassinated in Kansas City, KS, 4

Cristina Page comments:

"One can only conclude that like terrorist sleeper cells, these extremists have now been set in motion. Indeed the evidence is already there. The chatter, the threats, the hate-filled rhetoric are abundant. ..."

"When the anti-abortion movement loses power, their most extreme elements appear to move to the fore and take control. The murder of Dr. Tiller suggests that violence against abortion providers may be far more linked to the power, or lack thereof, anti-abortion groups have politically than to laws designed to increase penalties against such acts."

"History has another disturbing lesson for us. The escalation of anti-abortion rhetoric plays a direct role in instigating violence. When anti-abortion groups ratchet up the rhetoric, they know exactly what they're doing and the results it will have. Even if they maintain deniability, as Operation Rescue recently did saying, in effect, we wanted Tiller gone, but didn't want him murdered, they have inflamed the rhetoric. And suddenly people Like Dr. Tiller's murderer become inspired." 1

It would seem that anti-abortion terrorist acts do increase during the terms of pro-choice presidents and decrease while pro-life presidents are in power. We have a hunch that the fluctuation is due to the level of frustration felt by individual terrorists. During a pro-life administration, anti-abortionists may well feel assured that that the government may take action to further restrict abortions. But during a pro-choice administration, they may feel threatened that abortions may increase in number.

President Obama has stated his intent to make access to abortions easier. He also wants to decrease the number of abortions indirectly by decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies through a number of programs. If policies seen in parts of Europe were adopted in the U.S., and proved equally effective, the number of abortions could be reduced to about 30% of their current level. Perhaps if these policies were introduced quickly, anti-abortionist terrorists could become more comfortable with a pro-choice president and keep their guns and explosives in storage.

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Cristina Page, "The Murder of Dr. Tiller, a Foreshadowing," The Huffington Post, 2009-MAY-31, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  2. Cristina Page, "How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex," Basic Books, (2006). Rated 4.5 stars out of 5. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  3. "History of violence/Murders and shootings," National Abortion Federation, at: http://www.prochoice.org/
  4. "Anti-abortion Extremists/James Kopp," National Abortion Federation, at: http://www.prochoice.org/

Site navigation: Home page > Religious conflicts  here

Home page > Christianity > Christian history, beliefs... > Violence > here

Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally posted: 2009-JUN-02 
Latest update: 2009-JUN-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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