Anti-abortion Violence

Abortion Groups Continue Radical Talk
Published: January 1, 1995

BOSTON, Dec. 31— A New Year’s message on the National Pro-Life Newsline today offered up an image of America’s abortion clinics as a world of death camps, contract killers and mass murder.

Another telephone line, the Pro-Life Action News in Chicago, predicted an end to laws protecting abortion providers in 1995 and the reversal of a series of measures designed to safeguard women’s rights to terminate unwanted pregnancies, even those that resulted from rape or incest.

The Godarchy line in Wichita, Kan., closed with the Biblical warning, “Woe to the bloody city.”

Not one of these telephone lines made any mention of the killings of two receptionists on Friday at abortion clinics in Boston. And though many moderate leaders of the pro-life movement scrambled to disavow violence, some of the movement’s most vocal and radical proponents stepped back from endorsing the murder of clinic doctors and staff, but not too far.

“We’re in a war,” said Don Treshman, the national director of Rescue America, who said his group had a mailing list of more than 30,000 names. “The only thing is that until recently the casualties have only been on one side. There are 30 million dead babies and only five people on the other side, so it’s really nothing to get all excited about.”

Friday’s killings at two clinics here and the shooting in Norfolk, Va., this morning came in the midst of a surge in hot rhetoric by the most extreme abortion opponents. On Nov. 8, in an appearance on National Public Radio, Daniel Ware, a Houston anti-abortion leader, warned that “blood will run in the streets like nobody has ever seen” if Florida executes Paul J. Hill, who was convicted of murdering an abortion doctor and his bodyguard and sentenced to die in the electric chair.

The Rev. David C. Trosch, a Catholic priest from Alabama who has been relieved of his duties by the church for his radical defense of the “justifiable homicide” of abortion providers, mailed a letter to members of Congress last July, predicting “massive killing of abortionists and their staffs.” The letter also outlined a “target list,” including members of the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women, saying they would be “sought out and terminated as vermin are terminated.”

While the suspect in this week’s attacks, John C. Salvi 3d, is not directly identified with any anti-abortion groups, the third attack in Norfolk, Va., struck an abortion clinic that had long been particular focus of vehement anti-abortion protests. Eleanor Smeal of the Fund for the Feminist Majority, said two ministers in Norfolk, whom she identified as Donald Spitz and David Crane, had signed a petition in favor of “justifiable homiicide” of abortion providers.

As Boston reeled from Friday’s attacks today, language, almost as much as gunfire, came under scrutiny here.

“I feel that what we are seeing is a watershed in the anti-abortion movement,” said Nicki Nichols Gamble, the president of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, where one of Friday’s fatalities occurred. “There is no question in my mind that there is a national if not an international network of people who talk to each other, share strategies, share rhetoric and share a perception” that can incite violence.

“When people call those of us who provide a constitutionally protected medical service ‘murderers,’ the outcome is increased violence,” she said, even if such language only inspires already unstable people to act alone.

Some abortion opponents today appeared sobered by the scope of Friday’s violence and said they might be moved to re-evaluate their speech. “I am rethinking my position,” said the Rev. Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition and a former spokesman for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which became nationally known for organizing huge blockades at abortion clinics around the country.

“There may be a link between advocating the use of force and people acting on it,” he said. “It went from a more intellectual debate, and now it seems to be progressing into acting out that philosophy.”

Yet he declined to ascribe responsibility for Friday’s attacks to the anti-abortion mainstream, saying, “You can’t stop something you don’t have a link to.”

Across the country today, abortion-rights supporters blamed the flash-heat rhetoric of recent months for the grim escalation of a street war that once was more theater than threat.

Now the threat is clear. The January issue of Harper’s magazine quotes from a book titled “The Army of God,” a manual for anti-abortion activists that vividly calls for violence.

The article quotes from a chapter called “Ninety-Nine Covert Ways to Stop Abortion”:

“You find out that you have a very short time to live due to a terminal illness. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“Whatever activities are undertaken (torching, bombing, thumb removal etc.) carry on with reckless abandon!

“Say you are given three months to live. You commit to torching two killing chambers every other day in different cities for 11 weeks. That’s 77 destroyed death camps!”