Eugenics & Contraception, part 29

This post includes stories of terrorism and murder. 

The lead author of the First Defensive Action Statement was a Presbyterian reverend who adopted the theology of Christian Reconstructionism. This philosophy favors a libertarian approach to economic issues, but a return to Old Testament moral laws and the penal codes of Moses’s day. He was defrocked for his pro murder statements made on television. 

On July 29, 1994 he staked out the Pensacola Ladies Clinic in Florida. When he identified Dr. John Britton, his bodyguard Lt. Col. James Barrett, and the bodyguard’s wife June Barrett, he approached their vehicle. Using a shot gun he fired on them at close range, injuring June and killing the two men. The shooter considered himself a martyr and remained unrepentant through the day of his death by lethal injection in 2003. 

Five months later on December 30th, a Catholic man entered the lobby of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts. He took a semiautomatic rifle from his duffle bag and began wordlessly shooting. He injured clinic assistant Arjana Agrawal and two others, and killed receptionist Shannon Lowney. Then he moved on to the next location in his spree killing. 

He drove to the Pretem Health Services office and killed receptionist Lee Ann Nichols while shouting about praying the rosary. He shot and injured clinic worker Jane Sauer. Security guard Richard Seron covered Sauer’s body with his as he returned fire. Seron was shot five times. Both Sauer and Seron survived. 

The killer was charged with two counts of first degree murder and five counts of assault with intent to murder. His lawyers tried and failed to argue he was incompetent to stand trial by reason of insanity. He was convicted in March of 1996 and found dead in his cell of apparent suicide that November. 

Eugenics & Contraception, part 28 

This post includes stories of terrorism and murder. 

The jury deliberated for only a few hours before finding the gunman guilty of the murder. He was sentenced to life in prison, a sentence he is still serving. The shooter of Dr. Gunn originally stated he was following God’s orders, but his attorneys later argued he had been brainwashed by a Florida anti abortion leader and Assembly of God lay minister. 

That man was an alcoholic vetetan who three separate shooters credited as their “spiritual advisor”. He ran a “safe house” for pregnant teens and unwed mothers. In 2005 he was convicted on charges of lewd and lascivious behavior and child abuse against a 15 year old in his charge. He died serving an 18 year sentence. 

This unprecedented assassination helped galvanize Congress to pass the FACE Act. On the terrorist side, it encouraged a future assassin to issue a statement justifying homicide of abortion providets, the First Defensive Action  Statement. Thirty anti abortion movement leaders signed it. Open warfare was declared. 

One of the signatories was the movement’s first women would-be murderer. She had taken part in anti abortion actvities since 1988. After the Pensacola murder she wrote the imprisoned gunman dozens of letters, praising him. In August 1993 amidst a raucous protest in front of a Wichita, Kansas clinic, she used a semiautomatic pistol to shoot Dr. George Tiller in both arms. She was sentenced to eleven years for attempted murder. 

In 1995 she pled guilty to setting fires and using butyric acid to attack nine clinics. The federal judge presiding over that trial sentenced her well beyond normal sentencing guidelines, to twenty years, not to start until her eleven year sentence for attempted murder was completed. Her projected release date is November of next year. Her adult daughter was convicted of sending a death threat to an abortion provider in Milwaukee, Minnesota in 1997.  

Eugenics & Contraception, part 27

This post includes stories of terrorism and murder. 

Bombs and arson attacks, as well as less potentially lethal forms of vandalism intended to disrupt clinic operations, continued throughout the Reagan and elder Bush presidencies. Congresses supported petty abortion restrictions and penalties, like the 1986 Live Birth Abortion Revision, a tax code change disallowing tax credits for birth or death of a child if an abortion had been attempted. 

1987’s violence began with the January 6th arson attempt at a Rockford, Illinois clinic and ended with the attempted arson of a Montgomery, Alabama clinic on December 23rd. Bombings, arson, violent protests, and destruction continued. By the early 1990s anti abortion movement leaders were advocating direct violence against doctors. 

The 1992 Presidential and Congressional elections took abortion front and center. Extremist rhetoric went mainstream Republican, with GOP candidates calling abortion providers “baby killers”. This public support emboldened Operation Rescue to print Wanted style posters of obstetricians who performed abortions. One of the doctors featured on such a poster was Dr. David Gunn, the first provider murdered. 

In January of 1993 the Supreme Court ruled that federal judges could not prohibit anti abortion protestors from physically barring or blockading clinic entrances under current laws. The Democratic party led Congress contemplated a bill to ban such protests, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances bill. President Clinton promised to sign it. 

Dr. Gunn opened his Pensacola, Florida clinic as a long distance commuter, serving the Florida panhandle as well as rural Alabama. The Pensacola Women’s Medical Services Center was only the second clinic providing abortion care in the city. The first was the oft terrorized Pensacola Ladies Center, which was firebombed twice and violently occupied once. As Gunn got out of his car, the gunman shot him in the back three times. He died in surgery at a nearby hospital. 

Eugenics & Contraception, part 26

This post includes stories of terrorism and murder.

While most of the early attacks on clinics took place in midnight hours when no one was around, by the mid 1980s that was changing. In 1986 three members and of the Pro Life Action Network (PLAN) entered the Summit Women’s Clinic in Middleton, Delaware. The next day after they’d finished “casing the place” they returned to vandalize and destroy medical equipment. 

In March 1986 PLAN staged a violent daylight invasion of  Pensacola Ladies Center in Florida. That clinic was the site of two separate 1984 firebombings. PLAN members attacked the clinic director, and threw her down a staircase. They assaulted a National Organization for Women official who was present as part of a nationwide vigil of clinic defenders, and held clinic staff hostage insidse.

They blockaded the doors, ransacked offices and destroyed equipment, all while PLAN’s president (and author of a domestic terrorism how-to guide) stood outside praising the attackers and claiming credit for the violence. One of the men involved in the assault would assassinate an abortion provider in 1998. (I have made the conscious decision not to bring further glory or notoriety to these terrorists by naming them.) 

That June the National Organization for Women filed a lawsuit against PLAN and its president, under RICO statutes. NOW argued that a criminal conspiracy existed to shutdown legal abortion clinics, and that such a conspiracy violated antitrust laws. They were joined in the suit with three clinics, including Summit and Ladies Center. 

1986 also saw the formation of Operation Rescue, a spin off organization founded by a protégé of PLAN’s president. This group called their full blockades “rescues” and were happy to be arrested en masse for their cause. They wielded large picket signs supposedly depicting fetal remains and hurled invective and abuse at the mostly young and poor women trying to get medical care. Sometimes they used physical force. In 1988 NOW added Operation Rescue to the ongoing lawsuit. 

Eugenics & Contraception, part 24

This post includes stories of terrorism and murder. 

​In June of 1984 two young men from the First Assembly of God congregation used pipe bombs to destroy a clinic in Pensacola, Florida. They were not arrested. On Christmas morning, the two men along with their wife and fiancée carried out simultaneous pipe bomb attacks on two OB/GYN offices and the new location of the clinic they had previously decimated. 

On July 4, Independence Day, a bomb exploded at the DC offices of the National Abortion Federation. Three days later another bomb went off at the Planned Parenthood office in Arlington, Virginia. A Houston, Texas clinic was attacked with a Molotov cocktail in August of 1984, preceding a spate of attacks in September. 

Over three days in early September three additional Houston clinics and one clinic in Webster, Texas were targeted for Molotov cocktail attacks. On September 13th clinics in Atlanta, Georgia and San Diego, California were hit by similar attacks, at roughly the same time. One week later on the 20th an arsonist threw a Molotov cocktail through the front window of a Marietta, Georgia clinic. 

The offices of two Houston obstetricians were ransacked in mid November.  On November 19, 1984 the Planned Parenthood offices in Rockville, Maryland and a women’s clinic in Wheaton, Maryland were bombed. On Christmas Eve two bombs exploded outside a Sutland, Maryland clinic. 

Clinics in Virginia and Washington DC were firebombed that year. A man claiming to represent Army of God contacted members of the media, wanting credit for the acts. “AoG” was written in graffiti on the walls of the Virginia clinic. In December of 1984 the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director William Webster declared that violence and property damage against clinics and staff did not meet the federal definition of terrorism, and was therefore not a federal interest. 

Eugenics & Contraception, part 25

This post includes stories of terrorism and murder.

Two anti abortion manuals were published in 1985. One of these was written by a man so extreme he’d been kicked out of the National Right to Life Committee. It detailed legal and illegal methods of clinic disruption, from blockades to stalking, pickets to pipe bombs. The book became a Bible to the anti choice Christian right. 

The author founded the Pro-Life Action Network, an Orwellian named terrorist group which met in 1985 at a motel to celebrate their successes. Members wore firecrackers with their name tags. They read aloud a letter from an imprisoned arsonist, and celebrated his crime. The kiosk bore the crass joke “Have a blast”. This meeting further radicalized the men in attendance. 

Toward the end of 1984 there were fifteen bombings over four months. The scale of violence forced “pro life” figures to at last condemn it. President Reagan, the archbishop to Chicago and leader of the Pro-Life Committee of the Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke against the bombings, as did Moral Majority leader Rev. Jerry Falwell. Their condemnations disagreed on tactics, not on goals. They all agreed women and others with wombs should not have access to abortion or contraception. 

In February of 1985 twelve members of a fundamentalist church and their pastor pled no contest to violating a court order that allowed them to picket a San Diego, California clinic but forbid them from shouting at patients. The clinic had been firebombed the previous November, with no arrests made. In 1987 eight members of the same group were arrested for a failed firebombing of the same clinic. 

That December an evangelical married father set fire to two Mount Auburn, Massachusetts clinics. He was not arrested and in February of 1987 he attempted to use a pipe bomb to destroy the new location of one of those clinics. That bomb was discovered and removed before it exploded, and he was finally arrested. 

One bomber credited a column written by Pat Robertson as the inspiration for his violence. There were 22 successful bombings and arson attacks on clinics in 1985 (down from 30 in 1984), while Army of God manual disruption tactics from blockades to property damage increased from the year before. 

Eugenics & Contraception, part 23

This post includes stories of terrorism and murder. 

The American anti contraception and abortion movement got organized, and violent, in the 1980s. Attacks on property, violent threats, bombings, kidnapping and even murder were deemed justified by the nearly all male, all Christian terrorist groups that sprang up. One of the most violent of these was (and is) the Army of God. 

In August 1982 three Mormon male members of Army of God kidnapped obstetrician and clinic owner Dr. Hector Zevallos and his wife Rosalee Jean and held them for eight days. One of the kidnappers had attempted to burn down two Florida clinics in May 1982, prior to the Illinois abduction, as well as bombing a third clinic in Virginia. They forced Dr. Zevallos to read an anti abortion statement which they recorded, with a plan of sending the tape to then-President Reagan. 

The first clinic arson (1976 in Oregon) and first clinic bombings (1978 in Ohio) preceded the 1982 formation of Army of God, but the Army was the first organized body to openly endorse these and more violent tactics in the Army of God Manual. In  1983, a Pentecostal man broke into a Virginia clinic, dousing the floor with kerosene before setting it ablaze. He claimed he was inspired by the Army of God. 

A Roman Catholic man who was a frequent picketer outside an Everett, Washington clinic set fire to it three times, and to another clinic once, between December 1983 and April 1984. In January 1984 a Delaware clinic was destroyed after a Molotov cocktail was thrown through a window. In February a clinic in Maryland was the target of another arson attack. 

In May 1984 a Benedictine monk destroyed equipment at a Birmingham, Alabama clinic on Mother’s Day. The next month on Father’s Day he forced his way into a Huntsville, Alabama clinic to splash red paint on everything. He broke a neck vertebra of clinic worker Kathryn Wood.