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a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Spring 1999 Issue
Table of Contents
BC / Canadian News
U.S. /International News:
for Sending Threatening Anti-Abortion Packages
A man was arrested in March in connection with 11 threatening anti-abortion packages that have been delivered over the last couple of years to the Hamilton-Spectator newspaper and other locations. Ronald Wylie, 55, of Hamilton, Ontario, has been charged with four counts of "threatening death." Several of the packages contained specific death threats against Canadian and American doctors who perform abortions, including Dr. Henry Morgentaler.
Police are investigating whether Wylie has any connection to the sniper shootings of five Canadian and New York State doctors over the last four years. In his packages, Wylie claimed to have inside knowledge about the shootings, but police had been skeptical of this claim. In fact, Wylie denies any knowledge of the shootings, or of James Kopp, the suspect in the sniper shootings, saying that he acted alone in delivering the anti-abortion mail. Asked about his reasons for sending the packages, Wylie said "I just decided to send the packages as a form of psychological warfare."
Wylie says he had an abusive childhood and now suffers from clinical depression and panic attacks, but denies that his illness is related to his actions. He has very strong anti-abortion and religious beliefs. In 1992, he travelled through the United States with another Hamilton man, demonstrating outside of abortion clinics. He was arrested three times, once outside a clinic in Amherst, New York, the home city of slain doctor Barnett Slepian. In May of 1992, Wylie was imprisoned in Milwaukee with anti-abortion radicals Matt Trewhella and Joseph Foreman-Lafley.
Hamilton police credited Wylie's arrest to the cooperation and support of the community and widespread media coverage. On March 4, police had released two security films taken when the suspect delivered package #10 to the Sheraton Hotel in Hamilton in February. Also released were samples of his handwriting and a good physical description. Police hired handwriting experts, who determined that the same person was responsible for all of the packages, and had tried to disguise his handwriting in some of them. They also compared the handwriting to that of James Kopp and found that the handwriting did not match, although the differences were not conclusive. At one point, police suspected Kopp may have delivered some of the packages.
Wylie was also connected to a letter left at a Hamilton restaurant after an explosion there on Feb. 3. A group of family doctors---none of them abortion providers---were attending a meeting at the restaurant when the explosion occurred. Three days later, Wylie wrote a note referring to "baby killers" and taped it to the door of the restaurant. However, police say Wylie has no connection to the explosion, and that the bombing is not related to abortion clinic bombings in the United States.
Inspector Dave Bowen of the National Task Force on Abortion Doctor Shootings said that Wylie is an opportunist, and that "he's feeding on the media frenzy. He's a nuisance." The police have indicated that Wylie may be mentally unstable. Although Wylie is married with a young daughter, he is disliked by his neighbours, who called him secretive, unfriendly, and demanding. Wylie lives off a disability pension.
The sinister letters began on December 10, 1997, with a six-page missive that threatened a Hamilton doctor and taunted police. Police interest picked up after the 5th package arrived on October 28, 1998, just days after the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian in Amherst, New York. Slepian was identified by name in that package. In all, nine packages were delivered or mailed to the Hamilton-Spectator, and one was delivered to the president of Vancouver Hospital. One of the Spectator packages was mailed from Vancouver, and it referred to a "tactical meeting" in Vancouver.
The tone of the packages and letters was dominated by virulence, rage, and hate. They contained violent anti-abortion messages, highlighted newspaper clippings, and photo montages that showed things like guns pointing at doctors. Experts who study hate groups say the letters are consistent with urban terrorist tactics, such as those used by the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups. Loretta Ross, an American human rights activist, called the letters an "attempt to scare, to remain anonymous, and to give the impression that the force behind the letters has real power."
Abusive Comic Book Mailed to Canadian Doctors
An offensive anti-abortion comic book was mailed in February to thousands of doctors and medical students across Canada and the U.S., including many in BC. The comic book, called "Quack The Ripper," depicts doctors who perform abortions as zealots, amoral buffoons, and psychotics, and has sparked fears for their safety.
The comic book was published and mailed by Life Dynamics Inc. of Denton, Texas, the radical anti-abortion group that was behind other harassing mailings to BC doctors over the last year. Life Dynamics publishes a variety of brochures, postcards, and stock letters that can be purchased in bulk by anti-choice groups and distributed. The materials are designed to dissuade doctors from performing abortions, but they do so by demonizing and maligning both the profession and those who work in it. Using their 8000 "Spies for Life," Life Dynamics also engages in deception and subterfuge to identify and harass abortion providers, such as sending fake patients into abortion clinics to gather information.
The crudely drawn comic book consists of juvenile, off-colour jokes and anti-abortion propaganda. It features insulting caricatures of doctors (such as associating them with bestiality), dubious stories about "bad" abortion doctors, and out-of-context quotes from abortion providers about the difficulties of the profession. On the cover of the comic book are the words "If you're a doctor, resident or med student, someone's out to get you." Examples of jokes include:
- "What's black and brown and looks great on an abortionist? A Doberman."
- "What jumps out of the cake at an abortionist stag party? A sheep."
- "What's the difference between an abortionist and a catfish? One's an ugly, smelly, garbage-eating bottom feeder, and the other one's a fish."
The comic book was mass-mailed from New York, but some copies received in Canada had Canadian postmarks. It was apparently sent randomly to many doctors, not just abortion providers.
Penny Priddy, BC's Minister of Health, compared the mailing of the comic, which some doctors received at their homes, to a home invasion. Given that three Canadian doctors who do abortions have been shot in sniper attacks since 1994, Priddy said the comic can be interpreted as threatening. "This is simply a different kind of home invasion when material this terrifying comes to your home---a place where you are supposed to be safe," Priddy said. She promised to consult with Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh to see if there is any way of using criminal harassment laws to prosecute those responsible for sending the material.
The pro-choice community is concerned that directories of BC doctors or mailing lists of medical organizations are being made available or sold to anti-abortion extremists.
The Pro-Choice Action Network urges doctors who received this comic book, and who are members of the BC Medical Association, the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons, or the Canadian Medical Association, to please call upon their organization to investigate the possible abuse of its mailing list.
Appeal of Bubble Zone Conviction
An anti-abortion protester convicted in December 1997 for violating the Access to Abortion Services Act has filed an appeal of his conviction. Jim Demers, a Nelson carpenter, is challenging the constitutionality of BC's bubble zone law. Demers was arrested in December 1996 outside Everywoman's Health Centre. He was sentenced to probation and ordered to stay away from Vancouver's abortion clinics.
In January, three days into Demer's appeal trial, BC Supreme Court judge Risa Levine stepped aside. The reason, according to Lloyd McKenzie, information officer for the BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal, was that Levine apparently "felt she didn't have the necessary detachment that she must have in trying a case". McKenzie explained that Levine could not say anything further, so as not to risk compromising the unfinished trial.
However, Demers said that fairness requires the court to provide an explanation or compensate him for the money he spent pursuing the appeal, which he estimated has cost him between $20,000 and $30,000 so far. Also, anti-abortion activist Gordon Watson was reportedly "irate" that Levine won't offer an explanation, and plans to file a complaint against Levine with the Canadian Judicial Council.
More Bubble Zone Arrests
More violations of the Access to Abortion Services Act have occurred over the last few months at Everywoman's Health Centre, resulting in several arrests. The Act prohibits anti-choice protesters within 50 metres of the clinic.
In December, Gordon Watson and Don Spratt (formerly with Operation Rescue) were arrested and charged with violating the bubble zone law. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May, and a trial date for July.
In January, Lane Walker and another man were arrested for blocking the clinic doors. Walker is currently under an injunction not to come near the clinic, because of a previous arrest last year for violating the Act. The two men arrived at the clinic before opening time. When a clinic staff member arrived, she found the men burning pornographic magazines in a large metal trash can. They were protesting the exploitation of women, and felt that abortion was also an exploitation of women.
In February, Mary Wagner, an anti-choice woman, showed up at Everywoman's and violated the bubble zone for a solid week. Finally, when she tried to block a patient from entering the clinic by sitting in front of the door, police came and took her away in a paddy wagon.
Editor's Note: Starting with the next issue, Everywoman's Health Centre will write a semi-regular column.
Appreciation Day for Providers
March 10 was the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, a tradition started by the group Refuse and Resist in the United States. It was started in 1996 to help stop the isolation and create a positive climate for abortion providers. March 10 is the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. David Gunn, the first provider murdered.
The Pro-Choice Action Network sent flyers to all our members asking them to send a card or otherwise show their appreciation to local providers or clinics. In addition, several hundred flyers were distributed at the International Women's Day march and rally held at the Vancouver Public Library on March 6 (which, incidentally, was a great success and coincided with beautiful weather!).
Many of us do our bit to protect a woman's right to abortion, but it's the doctors and clinic staff who actually help women, on a daily basis, to exercise that right. Hats off to all abortion providers for having the courage, commitment, and respect for a woman's right to choose, in spite of being in the direct line of fire from the anti-choice.
Anti-Life, Pro-Hate Conference
Human Life International (HLI), the largest anti-choice organization in the world, held their annual conference in Toronto from April 7 to 11. Up to 1000 people attended the conference.
HLI promotes the message of "justifiable violence" against abortion clinics and providers, incites terrorist acts, and preaches prejudice against lesbians, gays, Moslems, and Jews. It does this through its publications and the speeches and writings of HLI founder, Father Paul Marx. Marx says that Jews are responsible for the greatest holocaust in history---abortion, and that abortion is a Jewish conspiracy to kill Aryan babies. Marx realized this after he checked the Yellow Pages and found that many abortion doctors were Jewish.
HLI also promotes its message of hate through the actions and words of its members and supporters. HLI adherents include:
Paul Cameron, a doctor kicked out of the AMA for faulty research practices, who wants people with AIDS to have 'A' stamped on their foreheads, and whose goal is to segregate gays, exile them, and eventually exterminate them.
Randall Terry, former head of Operation Rescue, who advocates a Christian supremacist nation with "dads as lordly leaders with wives in submission in the home."
Joan Andrews-Bell, who has been arrested over 200 times for protesting at abortion clinics, and was jailed for five years for invading a Pensacola abortion clinic and committing burglary with assault and criminal mischief.
Don Treshman, HLI's press spokesperson, who endorses the terrorist Army of God manual, was a defendant in the Nuremberg Files court trial, and publicly praised the sniper who shot Dr. Garson Romalis in 1994.
Matthew Habiger, President of HLI, who was a featured speaker at the 1995 White Rose banquet, held each year by anti-choice leaders to honour violent anti-choice extremists.
The Canadian Abortion Rights Action League called upon the federal government to prevent Joan Andrews-Bell from entering the country, because of her extensive criminal record. However, Andrews-Bell managed to sneak across the border and was the conference's keynote speaker.
The Ontario Coalition of Abortion Clinics demonstrated peacefully against HLI and its conference on April 7, at the International Plaza Hotel, backed by the Canadian Jewish Congress, unions, academic, student groups, women's groups, and others. A separate demonstration by an anti-racist group, in which eggs and liquid-filled balloons were hurled, resulted in two arrests, allegedly for assaulting police.
"Like many other anti-choice groups, HLI has camouflaged its violent and intolerant message in a plea for freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Those opposed to their tactics and beliefs should exercise their own free speech."
- Rachel Giese, Toronto Star columnist, April 4, 1999
Court Shelves Fetal Rights Case
The Supreme Court of Canada has indicated it does not want to open the issue of fetal rights by allowing a New Brunswick boy to sue his mother for being injured in a car crash while he was still in her womb. Ryan Dobson, now five years old, was born prematurely, when the accident necessitated an emergency cesarean on his mother Cynthia Dobson. Ryan has cerebral palsy, and has difficulty speaking and walking.
The nine judges reserved their decision after hearing the case, which raises tough questions about the rights of the unborn versus the freedom of a pregnant woman to control her own body and lifestyle. Several judges seemed to indicate that they would side with the mother's rights over the fetus's when they pointed to a previous ruling that refused to acknowledge any rights before birth. In Canada, a baby does not become a legal person until it exits completely from the birth canal, alive. Chief Justice Antonio Lamer said the court would be setting an alarming precedent if it ruled in favour of the boy. "Could a pregnant woman be sued if she didn't pick up her other children's toys and then tripped over one and injured her fetus?" Lamer asked. "And what if the fetus was harmed because its pregnant mother smoked?"
Ryan's maternal grandfather, Gerald Price, had filed a lawsuit on Ryan's behalf in 1995 to obtain damages from his mother's insurance company.
Kelowna Clinic Postponed Again
The new abortion clinic planned for the Kelowna Hospital has been postponed again (see our story in the Summer 1998 issue of Pro-Choice Press). The original planned opening date was January, 1999. By last fall, this date had been pushed ahead to June, 1999. Now, the clinic opening has been put off until at least mid-2000, apparently due to problems with space requirements. Another fear is that the clinic may be unable to cope with the anticipated high demand for services, since women will come from all over the Okanagan to get abortions.
The clinic was to operate one day a week inside Kelowna Hospital. The Ministry of Health had been negotiating with the Okanagan-Similkameen regional health board and the Kelowna Pro-Choice Action Committee to open and operate the clinic.
To become a reality, the clinic will need the full support of Penny Priddy, the Minister of Health. We urge the Minister to step up her efforts in Kelowna---women in the Okanagan are depending on her.
Kernel of Wisdom from Tax Man
Although the dreaded income tax deadline is looming over us yet again, we must sing the praises of Revenue Canada on another matter.
Revenue Canada has refused to grant charitable tax status to an abstinence-based sex education organization, and has revoked the tax status of two anti-abortion groups, one of them Human Life International.
The issue came to light when Reform MP Jason Kenney recently protested to Revenue Canada about the decisions. Kenney is a Roman Catholic who holds conservative views on sexuality and abortion. He said, "There are more and more cases like this where bona fide groups are being denied charitable status when, really, Revenue Canada is making political judgements."
Revenue Canada said that the abstinence-based sex-ed group, called The Challenge Team, taught a one-sided approach to sex education. Because of the "perceived bias," Revenue Canada disqualified the group as an educational organization and rejected the application for charity status.
Revenue Canada's Carl Juneau, who is responsible for technical interpretations of charity law, explained that The Challenge Team aims to educate young people about "healthy sexuality" yet offers only a model that doesn't include the 50% of Canadian teenagers who are sexually active. This rates a "perceived bias," according to the department. For teens awash in hormones, Juneau explains, preaching chastity is "sort of like telling people, if you don't want to get into a car accident, don't get into a car."
Kenney failed to convince the government to reverse their decision, and The Challenge Team now plans to take their case to a federal court.
Regarding Revenue Canada's policy on anti-abortion groups, Juneau said that if there is an appearance of bias, it's because anti-abortion groups argue against legal abortion, while pro-choicers often provide education about all possible options, including abortion. "Organizations that go about their job to counsel people about what solutions there are to a crisis pregnancy are okay," said Juneau, "but the organizations that happen to be on the other side of the fence are implicitly lobbying in favour of a change in the law. That's the problem." He explained that groups that provide a balanced view of an issue get the green light for charity status. Those with one-sided opinions risk losing their charity designation.
It's not often enough that we hear such clear and wise thinking from a government bureaucrat. Our hats go off to Mr. Juneau, and to Revenue Canada for their commitment to fairness, and to protecting the rights and health of teenagers and women.
Source: Vancouver Sun, January 26, 1999
CBC Exposes Pro-Violence Anti's
On January 19, 1999, CBC aired a major exposé called "Thou Shalt Not Kill" which showed some connections between a mainstream Canadian anti-abortion group and some of their most dangerous counterparts in the United States. The program featured interviews with Matthew Trewhella and Reverend Michael Bray, radical anti-choice leaders who both stated many times during the show that killing an abortion doctor was not murder.
CBC also interviewed Jim Hughes, national President of Campaign Life Coalition, about his role in bringing Trewhella to Canada last summer for a series of protest marches. Hughes claimed no-one in his organization knew that Trewhella or his group, Missionaries to the Pre-Born, advocated violence. This is almost certainly false, since acceptance of violence by the Pre-Born group is no secret. In fact, Trewhella has said that pro-life groups that condemn violence have either "embraced the heresy of pacifism, or ... wanted to ensure that their coffers stay full of money."
Even if Hughes did not know about Trewhella's pro-violence stance, it was his responsibility to spend two minutes researching the subject, before having any dealings with Trewhella or his Pre-Born cohorts.
Anti-abortion groups have complained in the past that the media does not give them equal coverage. In this program, however, 75% of the air time was devoted to the anti-choice viewpoint. Appropriately enough, they hung themselves with their own rope.
Rifle Found Near Slepian's House
On April 8, a rifle was found 300 feet from the Amherst, New York home of slain abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian. The rifle was buried a foot beneath the ground and was located during a search of a heavily wooded, four-acre area. It has been sent to the FBI in Washington for examination, amidst concern about why it took so long to find such important evidence. Investigators claimed that weather and soil conditions prevented an earlier search, but the weather was mild for days after Slepian's murder. Slepian was killed by a single bullet from a high-powered rifle fired from woods behind his home on October 23. He bled to death in front of his wife and children.
The suspect in Slepian's shooting and in four other doctor shootings in the last four years is still at large, and the Canadian Task Force on Abortion Doctor Shootings seems to have few other clues. James Kopp has been in hiding ever since he was named as a material witness in a police warrant issued in November. Kopp, 44, is wanted for questioning in the murder of Slepian.
Authorities first issued the arrest warrant for Kopp after his car was spotted in Amherst several weeks before Slepian was killed. Police also know that Kopp was working in the New York City and Newark, New Jersey area in the days just before and just after the Slepian shooting. In December, Kopp's car was discovered abandoned at an airport in Newark, New Jersey, with fake licence plates, and the keys still in the ignition. It had been there for about six weeks. Investigators at an FBI forensics lab in New Jersey have rigorously examined the car for clues, but no details have been made public about the findings, if any. Neither the name Kopp, nor any of his known aliases, turned up on a passenger flight list out of Newark. Kopp has used at least six different aliases, including the name Clyde Swenson.
A strand of hair was found near the spot where the sniper stood. Initial DNA tests on the hair done by the FBI established a high probability that it came from the same person as a hair found in a New Jersey home where Kopp lived last year. Further DNA testing will probably have to wait until Kopp is found and arrested.
The bullet that killed Slepian was tested to see if it matched bullets fired at three Canadian doctors who provided abortions, but investigators have been unable to make a positive match between any of the weapons used in the shootings. Many of the bullets and casings taken from the shooting scenes were so damaged that testing was difficult, because a bullet fired from a high-powered rifle can become disfigured and provide few clues.
The search for Kopp has been extended to Mexico. In January, FBI Director Louis Freeh made an official visit to Mexico and asked Mexican authorities to join the hunt for Kopp. FBI officials believe that Kopp was driven to Mexico by a female friend after the shooting, and they have a trail of her credit card receipts leading to Mexico. In addition, a Customs Service videotape from a border crossing point shows the woman's car returning from Mexico. The unidentified woman has denied any involvement.
Slepian's Clinic Struggles
Meanwhile, the Buffalo clinic where Slepian worked has had to scramble to bring in out-of-town doctors to take his place. In the weeks after the murder on October 23, four workers---a fourth of the clinic's staff---quit. Some said their families could no longer endure the threat of violence and others were simply too overwrought.
Demonstrations at Slepian's clinic continue. In April, Operation Rescue plans a reprise of two-week protests it held outside Buffalo clinics in 1992. The rallies, called the Spring of Life, attracted 1000 protesters, led to 600 arrests, and helped radicalize many anti-abortionists. Organizers of the upcoming week-long protest, dubbed "Operation Save America," have invited 60,000 protesters to come and target Slepian's clinic and another Buffalo-area clinic.
Clinic staff are gearing up to defend the clinics and keep them open. Staff and volunteers have been trained in security measures, and police will be on hand to monitor the protest. The clinics have also been granted a temporary 60-foot buffer zone to keep protesters away. Speakers and loud noise will be prohibited within 1000 feet of the clinics.
Nevertheless, Buffalo clinics will have to endure the ominous presence of hordes of would-be terrorists who obviously approve of the brutal killing of Dr. Slepian. No reasonable person who condemns violence against abortion providers would be so viciously cruel as to participate in the same type of protest that occurred seven years ago, an event that pushed Slepian under an anti-abortion spotlight, and probably led to his death.
Bio-Terrorism: Anthrax Scares
Since the fall of 1998, there have been dozens of anthrax scares at abortion clinics and other locations in the United States. Letters arrive in the mail containing a sticky substance or dark powder and an ominous warning, such as: "You've just been exposed to anthrax. Have a nice day!" All have been hoaxes so far, and no-one has been injured.
Anthrax is an infectious disease that produces flu-like symptoms in people who inhale its spores. It is generally not fatal if treated quickly with antibiotics. (Ironically, anthrax would pose a greater danger to the perpetrators who put spores into envelopes than to recipients of the letters.)
The letters have been received in almost every region of the U.S., and the targets have been varied: abortion clinics, Catholic schools, nightclubs, department stores, hospitals, post offices, courthouses, news media offices, congressional offices, and FBI offices. Numerous abortion clinics in four states received fake threats last fall. In February, five abortion clinics and a Planned Parenthood centre received packages with warnings they contained anthrax. In March, nearly 30 letters and cards were sent to women's clinics nationwide. No anthrax scares have been reported in Canada.
"Not a day goes by without us hearing from somewhere in the United States about an anthrax threat," said Neil J. Gallagher in early March. He is the FBI's Assistant Director in charge of the national security division. Another FBI spokesperson, Bill Carter, said that "Anthrax threats have become what bomb threats once were or product tampering threats in the 1980's."
Mailing a threat to injure someone is a federal offence in the U.S., even if it is a hoax. No-one has yet been charged with the anthrax letters. Gallagher said letter threats are difficult to prosecute because they are hard to trace. He speculates that some people sending the letters may just want publicity, or they want to see the response of law enforcement and rescue workers. Officials have been taking the threats very seriously, and many clinics have had to close down for a day for decontamination procedures. Staff members who may have been exposed are rinsed down with bleach, which kills anthrax spores.
If you work in a clinic, or you are a provider, you can protect yourself from anthrax threats, as well as any other harassing mail, by checking your mail for:
unusual words or markings on the outside of the package or envelope
mail marked "confidential" or "personal"
handwritten or poorly-typed addresses
incorrect or misspelled names or titles
no return address
a lopsided, lumpy, or rigid envelope
excessive securing material like masking tape or string
protruding wires or tinfoil
oily stains or discolourations
If in doubt about any piece of mail, don't open it. Depending on how serious you believe the risk is, throw it out, return it to the post office, or call the police.
Hateful Language Found Illegal
Court Says Web Site and Posters Threatening
A federal jury in Oregon ruled on February 2nd that a virulently anti-abortion Web site and "Wanted" posters constituted death threats against doctors who perform abortions. The U.S. District Court jury ordered anti-abortion defendants to pay $107 million in damages to the plaintiffs, who were abortion providers.
The jury considered as evidence:
- a "Dirty Dozen" poster listing doctors "guilty of crimes against humanity" for performing abortions, along with their photographs and personal information
- a "Wanted" poster with the name, address, and photograph of a physician who provides abortions
- a Web site called the Nuremberg Files listing the names of over 500 doctors, nurses, judges, politicians, police officers, their spouses, and other pro-choice supporters
The plaintiffs in the case were a Portland-area Planned Parenthood branch, the Portland Feminist Women's Health Center, and five doctors who have appeared on the Web site or the posters. The anti-abortion defendants in the case were a national umbrella group of anti-abortion organizations, called the American Coalition of Life Activists, as well as the Advocates for Life Ministries (a radical Portland group), and 14 individuals.
The plaintiffs used two American laws: FACE, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which bars people from inciting violence against abortion doctors and patients, and RICO, the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, which prohibits conspiracies and extortion. Plaintiffs' attorneys linked the anti-abortion posters and other materials to the Web site as part of a wider intimidation and killing campaign. In the last 20 years, there have been 7 killings, 15 attempted murders, 99 acid attacks, 154 arson incidents and 39 bombings involving abortion clinics or workers. The plaintiffs claimed that radical anti-abortion groups are clearly using devices like the Web site to incite more violence and deny women access to abortion services.
The jury found that the posters and Web site were, in fact, explicitly threatening in the current climate of anti-abortion violence and murder, and that "reasonable" people would know this. While the defendants' words were not direct threats, the jury found that their speech constituted threats in the current climate of anti-abortion violence. The defendants were declared guilty of violating both the FACE and RICO laws. "The jury saw anti-choice Wanted Posters for what they are---a hit list for terrorists," said Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Here's some of the evidence brought up at the trial: When the "Deadly Dozen" poster was released in 1995, the FBI contacted the doctors on the list and told them to seek protection. Two Florida doctors who were featured on the poster, John Britton and David Gunn, were subsequently murdered, and another was wounded in an assassination attempt. A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Maria Vullo, pointed out in her closing argument that a pattern had been created: "Poster. Murder. Poster. Murder. Poster. Murder." Dr. Robert Crist and Dr. James Newhall, two of the plaintiffs, testified that they felt directly and personally threatened with violence by the words of the defendants. Newhall said the FBI suggested he wear a bulletproof vest and have 24-hour protection, and he wore the vest even while testifying.
Newhall's ex-wife, Dr. Elizabeth Newhall, was also a plaintiff. When her name appeared on the Nuremberg Files, she began wearing a bulletproof vest in public and carrying wigs with her to change her appearance. She also installed steel doors and bulletproof glass at her clinic.
"If I was an abortionist, I would be afraid," testified anti-abortion defendant Andrew Burnett, who is with the Portland-based Advocates for Life Ministries. Videos of Burnett were played for the jury in which he called abortion doctors "paid contract serial killers" and said killing them was justifiable. Burnett and the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) were responsible for creating the "Deadly Dozen" poster, the Wanted poster, and the Nuremberg Files Web site. The ACLA also sells bumper stickers that read "Execute Abortionists" and publishes Life Advocate magazine (edited by Paul deParrie), which vigorously defends the murder of abortion providers.
After Dr. Barnett Slepian was killed in Buffalo last fall, his name was slashed through on the Nuremberg Files Web site, along with the names of other abortion providers who have been murdered. The names of people who have been wounded are shaded in gray. A photograph of Dr. Warren Hern, one of the plaintiffs, was on the Nuremburg Files site under the heading "Third Trimester Butcher," followed by the address and telephone number of his clinic in Boulder, Colorado. Hern testified at the trial that "I felt like a hunted animal, that I would be shot at any time. I felt that these people planned to kill me."
The Web site features simulated blood dripping from fetus parts. It calls doctors "baby butchers" and "Nazis" and calls on readers to collect evidence on abortion providers and supporters to put in their "dossiers", such as photographs, personal history, property, physical appearance, wedding anniversary dates, license plate numbers, fingerprints, and the names and ages of children. The site claims that this evidence will be used for future trials against abortionists, similar to the World War II Nuremberg trials for war criminals. The Web site was taken over in 1997 by Neal Horsley Jr., who works for the Center for Disease Control, a federal agency that collects statistics on abortions, among other things. (Pro-choice supporters fear that through his job, Horsley may have had access to confidential databases containing personal information on physicians.) Horsley was not a defendant in the trial because the suit was filed in 1995.
Throughout the trial, the defendants argued that the Web site and the posters were constitutionally protected political speech, clearly allowed under the First Amendment. They claimed they have not threatened individuals, offered no rewards, and incited no individuals to act against the law. Defendant Michael Bray, a Christian minister and anti-abortion terrorist who spent four years in prison for a series of abortion clinic bombings, noted that the Web site doesn't explicitly call for the execution of doctors. He said that any restriction on speech narrows the outlets for opinion and expression, and can create a motive for action instead of words. "It leaves only one option: the covert use of force---vandalism, blowing up places, and terminating doctors." In his book, A Time to Kill, Bray called the killing of clinic workers and doctors "justifiable homicide".
Michael Simon, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, objected to the court's test for a threat, since it didn't require the defendant to have clearly intended to threaten a person, only that the speaker should have known that the listener could interpret words that way. This, according to Simon, is clearly chilling to speech. In its brief, the ACLU asked the court to apply a stricter standard, requiring "unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific" words that express a "gravity of purpose and imminent prospect" of violence." But in the end, the judge opted to use the looser standard, which some feel may open the way to a successful appeal of the case to a higher court.
Three weeks after the case was won, plaintiffs won a permanent injunction from the court, forcing the defendants to stop publishing the "Deadly Dozen" list, the Wanted poster, and the Nuremberg Files Web site. The Web site had already been removed from the Internet by the service provider two days after the original court decision, for violation of the service provider's "appropriate use policies." Calling this a "temporary setback," Neal Horsley vowed to find another service provider, and indeed, the site has since popped up on about eight mirror sites around the world. However, each time it resurfaced, pro-choice activists and groups successfully pressured the service provider to take the site down. The most recent mirror site remains, however, a site in the United Kingdom that promotes unlimited freedom of expression. They claim that although they find the Nuremberg Files site "repugnant," they must defend it in the interest of free speech, which they say has no link to the commission of violent acts. The site address is: http://www.netfreedom.org/uk/
Horsley also plans to publicly identify women who obtain abortions by displaying live "Webcam" videos of them entering clinics in the United States, Britain, and Japan. An unnamed spokesman for Planned Parenthood replied, "I'll believe it when I see it. If that happens, not only Planned Parenthood, but anyone else who believes in protecting women's patient-doctor confidentiality rights, would seek immediate recourse in the courts."
The defendants in the case will almost certainly file an appeal, forcing this case to continue for many months or even years. In addition, many of the defendants have no financial assets, making collecting on the judgement extremely difficult. In fact, some of the defendants apparently transferred assets out of their names in preparation for a possible judgement against them. In pasts cases, the anti-choice have almost never paid any court judgements against them, since they usually declare bankruptcy to avoid their debts. American lawmakers are now working on amending their Bankruptcy Code to prohibit the criminal abuse of bankruptcy laws by the anti-choice.
Despite the uncertainty of the eventual outcome, this court case is a decisive victory for the pro-choice community. It demonstrates to the public that rational individuals find threats and violence against abortion providers unacceptable and illegal. It also recognized that some forms of speech can be linked to physical acts of violence, even if threats are not explicitly stated. Most people would agree that reasonable limits on free speech are justified to protect people from harm, but that free speech should be protected as far as possible, even when we don't like the views being expressed. The challenge in this case and in any future appeal is to remove violence and the threat of violence from the abortion debate, but not in a way that will compromise legitimate free speech.
Search for Bomber Scaled Back
The FBI may reduce the number of agents assigned to the year-old hunt for a suspected abortion clinic bomber in a remote area of western North Carolina. About 100 investigative officers from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and local sheriffs departments are hunting for fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph in a rugged forested area.
Rudolph has been charged in three Atlanta-area bombings: the 1996 Olympic park bombing, a gay nightclub bombing, and two bombs at an abortion clinic. These bombings killed two people and injured more than 150. Investigators also believe Rudolph was involved in a January 1998 explosion that killed a policeman and maimed a nurse at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.
Anti-abortion sentiment and distrust of the federal government run high in the area of the manhunt, and many locals have said they would help Rudolph if he came to them. To help dispel his "noble outlaw" image, authorities revealed that Rudolph used a remote control to detonate the Birmingham bomb. He waited and watched from a spot nearby the clinic until people drew near, then pressed the button. "Eric Rudolph is not a folk hero. He is a cold-blooded murderer," said Birmingham Police Chief Mike Coppage.
There have been no reported sightings of Rudolph since July 11, when a health food store owner told authorities Rudolph had come to his home and taken six months' worth of food and supplies. However, Rudolph may be the intruder who broke into up to 12 mountain homes from July to January to steal food and toilet paper, or shave and take a shower. The break-ins were very similar and occurred in a defined area.
Emily Lyons, the nurse who was maimed in the Birmingham blast, was painfully shy before the bombing, but has now turned into a tireless advocate for reproductive rights. Last year, she lent her scarred face to a successful campaign against Senator Alfonse D'Amato of New York, who had voted against beefing up protection for women's health clinics. She testified recently before the New York Legislature and last summer before Congress. Of her presence at the clinic on that fateful day, Lyons has said, "It was the right place to be. But it was the wrong time."
Another Clinic Bombed in North Carolina
Another clinic in North Carolina was bombed on March 13. The bomb exploded outside the Femcare Clinic in Asheville shortly before it opened Saturday morning. Luckily, the bomb only partially detonated, so no one was injured and there was little damage. An additional detonating component was found later and disarmed. If it had fully detonated, the bomb would have caused destruction up to 60 feet away and destroyed the clinic.
The bombing does not appear similar to the Rudolph bombings, and investigators say there is no evidence linking Rudolph to this latest bombing, although they have not ruled him out as a suspect.
The typical narrow and inhuman attitude of "pro-lifers" was ably displayed by one of the Femcare Clinic's anti-abortion protesters, who said, "It saddens me when so much energy is poured out by law enforcement and the media to deal with one dud bomb when several thousand babies were horribly aborted all over the country on Saturday, the same day."
U.S. News Bites
Arbitrary Inspection of Abortion Clinics
Health officials in Louisiana tried to declare a "public health emergency" at abortion clinics. A Feb. 5 executive order from anti-choice Louisiana governor Mike Foster authorized the inspection of abortion clinics. Foster said "We can't pretend these places don't exist. As long as they're out there doing this ... they're going to do it properly... And they're not going to run places that look like a place where they're chopping up rabbits." There were no grounds for the inspection order, and Louisiana abortion providers were quickly successful at obtaining a preliminary injunction barring health officials from carrying out the inspections. Providers have filed a lawsuit against Foster and several health officials, and a trial is upcoming.
Catholic Hospitals Snub Rape Victims
A survey of 589 Catholic hospitals in the United States found that 82% turn their backs on rape victims seeking emergency contraception, despite the fact that the Catholic church allows it. Most Catholic hospitals don't offer "morning-after pills" because they consider their use to be a type of abortion, and one in five will not ever refer rape victims to other available services.
But among the 70 "Ethical and Religious Directives" approved in 1994 by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Directive No. 36 says: "A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has already occurred, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization." Unfortunately, some hospitals simply don't know they can provide the treatment.
Catholic hospitals do not provide abortions or many other reproductive health services, which is becoming a serious problem in North America, because of hospital mergers. When a secular hospital and a Catholic hospital merge, Catholic policies against abortion and contraception usually hold sway, leaving women in the community without adequate services. In 91 counties around the U.S., the local Catholic hospital is the only one around.
Internet Companies Sell Information to Anti's
A Florida abortion clinic has filed a federal lawsuit against CompuServe and another online service, charging that antiabortion activists obtained access to private patient information through the Internet companies. The lawsuit alleges that the Internet companies charged for access to databases that allowed the activists to obtain patients' driver licence numbers, home addresses, and phone numbers, and that they then used the information to locate and harass patients.
Heart Patient Sues Hospital
Michelle Lee, the Louisiana heart patient who was denied a life-saving abortion at her local hospital, is suing the Louisiana State University Medical Center (LSU) for refusing to perform her abortion. (See the Autumn/Winter 98 issue of Pro-Choice Press for details). LSU has an abortion policy that turns down women for abortion unless they have a greater than 50 percent chance of dying from the pregnancy. Lee was forced to travel to Texas for her abortion. The lawsuit claims that LSU's policy is a flagrant violation of numerous federal laws, including the Medicaid statute, which requires hospitals to provide abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.
UN Debt Remains Unpaid
The U.S. Congress will not pay America's $1.6 billion debt to the United Nations until President Clinton accepts an anti-abortion policy favoured by the Republican-controlled Congress. The president wants U.N. arrears paid to ensure that Washington won't lose voting rights or influence in the world body. But Clinton has promised to veto any funding package that contains the anti-abortion provision, which would bar U.S. aid to international family planning groups that press foreign countries to liberalize their abortion laws.
Contraception Lowers Abortion Rate
The U.S. abortion rate is at its lowest point in 20 years, according to a recent report released by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, an agency that does international research on reproductive rights and laws. The decline in abortions through the 1990's is a result of a significant decrease in unintended pregnancy across all age groups. This decrease is the fruit of years of work by groups like Planned Parenthood, which have educated people about the need to make responsible choices. Between 1988 and 1995, there was a 20% increase in the number of teens who use contraception at first intercourse. More than 75% of teens now use contraception the first time they have sex. And the level of sexual activity also began to decline during the same time period. This emphasizes the importance of combining the dual messages of abstinence and safer sex, so that all teens can make responsible decisions that work best for them.
Population Control Efforts Sabotaged by Vatican
Delegates from 180 countries met in The Hague, Netherlands in February to assess progress towards slowing population growth. A global resolution adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 called for universal access to affordable reproductive health services by 2015, including family planning, sexual health services, and programs for adolescents.
The Hague conference barely got half of its work done, because delegates spent most of their time fighting a Vatican-led coalition of conservative Catholic and Muslim countries over abortion, contraception, sex education, and women's rights. The conference was unable to discuss money for the Cairo program, raising grave doubts that the world will be able to increase spending levels to the required amounts for effective population control.
In spite of these setbacks, many countries did report positive changes to laws dealing with female reproductive health since Cairo. For example, of the 28 African countries that practice female genital mutilation, 25% have banned it since 1994. And several governments have made abortion safer by easing legal restrictions on the procedure, including Albania, Cambodia, Germany, South Africa, and others. However, adolescents around the world are still being denied full reproductive care. Each year, about two million children between the ages of five and 15, mostly girls, enter the international commercial sex market. Between 1 and 4 million teenaged women obtain illegal, unsafe abortions in the southern hemisphere.
Many people agree that the Vatican holds too much power at the United Nations. Catholics for a Free Choice is leading a coalition of more than 70 voluntary organizations seeking to downgrade the Vatican status from "permanent nonmember state observer" to a more modest "nongovernmental organization." As one of only two such nonmember observer states, along with Switzerland, the Vatican is entitled to take part in U.N. policy-setting conferences and to vote on recommendations just like any member government of the organization. This special status allows the Vatican to derail decisions made at international policymaking meetings, which require consensus to fully approve policies. "By threatening to force a vote they compel opponents to compromise," said Frances Kissling, President of Catholics for a Free Choice.
As well as hampering progress at The Hague and at the 1994 Cairo conference, the Vatican's meddling sabotaged the 1992 UN Conference on the Environment in Rio de Janeiro. The Vatican has also worked tirelessly to negate U.S. population policy. During the 1970's and 1980's, the Vatican succeeded in suppressing high-level American actions to protect world security from the effects of explosive population growth, by derailing the American population/family planning assistance program. Were it not for that Vatican interference, the world population would likely be at least one billion less than it is today.
by Skye Stuart
"Pro-life," "pro-abortion," "anti-life," and "abortionist" are all terms coined by the people we like to think of as: pro-poverty, pro-unwanted-children, pro-subjugation-of-women, and pro-white-male-supremacy.
The use of language is a very powerful weapon; it not only reflects a culture, it can reinforce its beliefs and values. The "war of words" is a major part of the anti-choicers' public relations battle against a woman's right to choose.
When anti-choicers use the term "pro-life," they are trying to imply that to be pro-choice is to be "anti-life." In fact, it's the other way around---to be pro-choice is to be in favour of women having children when they're ready, which is almost a guarantee that the child---and the woman---will have a better quality of life. The reason we call them anti-choice (and not pro-life or anti-abortion), is to emphasize the fact that they do not recognize the full range of legal choices available to women.
Calling anti-choicers "anti-abortion" isn't entirely accurate either, since the word "abortion" can refer both to natural and medically-induced processes. Thus, to be anti-abortion would also imply being anti-miscarriage.
Anti-choicers are constantly trying to assert their moral superiority through the use of emotionally loaded words. By using the term "pro-abortion," they imply that women are being coerced into terminating their pregnancies, without considering all the options. This simply isn't true. Counsellors in clinics have always helped women grapple with the reality of all available options. Reflecting this, counsellors in abortion clinics are not "abortion counsellors," but "pregnancy options counsellors."
The term "abortionist" was coined by anti-choicers to categorize and dehumanize abortion providers. In fact, there is no such thing as an "abortionist." Doctors are not titled by the operations they perform---for instance, there is no such thing as a "tonsilectomist," an "appendectomist," or a "hysterectomist."
The abortion services community is often called the "abortion industry," and clinics are called "abortuaries" and "abortion mills." These terms are designed to make abortion look like a money-grubbing, illicit, and immoral activity, when it is in fact, a compassionate and legal medical procedure.
Anti-choicers often refer to women who have had an abortion as "aborted women." This is bad English, and bad logic. Fetuses can be aborted---but women carrying fetuses cannot be aborted. The word "abortion" refers to the expulsion of the fetus, and by definition, an "aborted woman" would be a woman who was never born.
For women who are genuinely pro-choice, and not savvy to word-politics, commonly used anti-choice terms can actually seem benign upon first impression. But as we become more aware of the words we use, we realize that language is a powerful tool for anti-choicers to colour abortion in the public's eye.
(reprinted from http://www.prochoiceconnection.com)
Thanks for Your Letters!
In Gwyn Dyer's TV series on the Knowledge Network, The Human Race, one solution he suggests to the environmental catastrophe we are causing, global warming, is to end patriarchy---male dominance of the world. This solution must include stopping population growth everywhere because all people, rich and poor, generate greenhouse gases that cause this warming.
Poor nations want our standard of living so will have an increasing environmental impact as they industrialize. Renowned environmentalist Bill Rees of UBC says the planet can barely support sustainably two billion people, if all have our standard of living. Since there are about 50 million abortions annually worldwide, they contribute significantly to slowing population growth. Denying women choice on abortion is a part of the patriarchy that is the problem and burdens them unfairly. Naturally the preferable ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies are contraceptives, sterilization, and abstention from sex. Many Christians oppose abortion and suggest that large families are God's will and that sex must include the possibility of having children.
The problems are so great they rule out conservatism. The bible is a patriarchal and most conservative book. It quotes religious leaders who lived when the earth's population was 1-2 percent of what it is today, before the Industrial Revolution multiplied our ability to destroy the environment. I fear Christianity will be rejected unless Christians ask what Jesus would say today, not what he said when the world was so different. Barrenness, a great problem in the Bible, needn't be so seen today.
- Ken McLean,
Lower Mainland Sustainable Population Society
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