We continue to mourn the loss of our friend and colleague, Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller was a dedicated physician who provided quality abortion care to women, at great personal sacrifice and risk. He is truly a hero to his fellow abortion providers and his patients. Dr. Tiller’s office is filled with letters from women, thanking him for the excellent, compassionate care he provided. Many of these women say Dr. Tiller saved their lives.
Since his tragic death, we have received messages from some of his patients and from people around the world who are saddened and outraged. We feel it is important to share these words and tributes to our beloved colleague and friend. For the first time, we will enable comments on our blog so that all of you can share your condolences or offer memories of Dr. Tiller. We invite you to join us in honoring a true American hero, Dr. George Tiller.
A Dallas man is facing federal charges for threatening NAF member Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas, TX. Erlyndon Joseph Lo, 27, went to the Plano federal courthouse last Friday and filed a court document saying that at noon that day, he was planning to go to the clinic and "use deadly force…," according to court documents. Lo was arrested by the FBI on Saturday and remains in custody.
Several NAF members were interviewed for the report, including members from Pennsylvania who are also featured in this video:
Recommendations made in the report include improving law enforcement response to clinic violence, enacting legislation to protect clinic access and ensure patient safety, expanding training opportunities, and increasing support within the medical community for providers.
According to the court, “Kopp was convicted under a law that only requires that he acted with intent to injure Slepian because he had provided reproductive health services. The statute allows for a life prison sentence if death results.”
New York Times Raises Concerns About Justice Department Nominee
Today, The New York Times published an editorial, which expressed concerns over the nomination of Grace C. Becker to the position of Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Civil Rights Division is responsible for overseeing the enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. This law is vital in protecting abortion providers and women seeking reproductive health care services from violence and threats of violence.
Anti-Abortion Extremist Ordered to Remove Violent Threats from Website
Yesterday, a federal judge ordered an anti-abortion extremist in Pennsylvania to remove threatening content from his website and blog. For years John Dunkle has harassed and threatened abortion providers in person and on the Internet. One posting to his website, which featured an abortion provider’s name, photo, and address, encouraged readers to kill her by shooting her in the head.
Anti-Abortion Extremist James Kopp Sentenced to a Life Term for the Murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian in Violation of the FACE Act
Today anti-abortion extremist and confessed murderer James Kopp was sentenced to a life term without parole for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and 10 years for using a firearm to commit a violent act. This sentence follows the January 2007 federal trial where a jury found him guilty.
Kopp is already serving a 25-year-to-life state sentence for the 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, a Buffalo area abortion provider. Kopp is also a suspect in the non-fatal shootings of three abortion providers in Canada and one abortion provider in the U.S. during the 1990s.
Kopp carefully planned the murder of Dr. Slepian and deserved to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. We cannot allow people to take the law into their own hands in order to advance their own personal, political agendas.
NAF was instrumental in advocating for the passage of the FACE Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. FACE prohibits the use of "force, threat of force or physical obstruction" to prevent someone from providing or receiving reproductive health care services.
Since 1977 NAF has been compiling statistics on violence and disruption against abortion providers. The very visible prosecution and conviction of anti-abortion extremists like Kopp along with the enforcement of the FACE Act have led to a decrease in major acts of violence against abortion providers.
Even though major acts of violence have decreased in recent years, many anti-abortion extremists still believe that it is justifiable to murder doctors because they provide women with safe and legal abortion care. We hope that Kopp’s life sentence without parole sends a clear message that violence against abortion providers will not be tolerated and that perpetrators of such crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Yesterday a jury failed to convict Rev. Norman Weslin of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The FACE Act makes it a federal crime to use force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to prevent individuals from obtaining or providing reproductive health care services. According to clinic staff, Weslin entered the clinic and blocked the door while he harassed patients and clinic workers. Weslin has served time in prison for blockading a clinic, and is a member of the anti-abortion extremist group the Lambs of Christ.
Alabama Man Sentenced to Probation for Clinic Attack
On Thursday, an Alabama man was sentenced for driving his car into a Tuscaloosa abortion clinic in January 2006. Dalton Ray Skinner was ordered to pay $6,100 in damages, serve five years of probation, and live in an in-house substance abuse center until he successfully completes the treatment program. The judge also ordered Skinner to stay at least 200 feet away from the West Alabama Women’s Center.
Skinner was charged in April with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which makes it a federal crime to use force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to prevent individuals from obtaining or providing reproductive health care services. He faced a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. It is disappointing that he only received probation. The enforcement of the FACE Act has had a significant impact on the decline in extreme violence against abortion providers in recent years.
Here is the press release we issued following James Kopp's conviction:
Today a jury in the federal trial of anti-abortion extremist and confessed murderer James Kopp, found him guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and using a firearm to commit a violent act. Already serving a 25-year-to-life state sentence for the 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, this latest conviction could result in Kopp’s sentence being increased to life without parole when he faces sentencing in June.
“Based on the evidence, we were certain that the jury would convict James Kopp,” said Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of National Abortion Federation (NAF). “He carefully planned this murder and deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. He should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.”
Acting as his own attorney, Kopp attempted to convince jurors that he only meant to wound Dr. Slepian to prevent him from performing abortions. This defense strategy proved unsuccessful with the jury. Throughout the trial Kopp repeatedly admitted to purchasing a semiautomatic rifle, practicing with the weapon, and then stalking Dr. Slepian outside his home. Kopp is also a suspect in the non-fatal shootings of four abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada during the 1990s.
“We cannot allow people to take the law into their own hands in order to advance their own personal, political agendas,” Saporta said.
NAF was instrumental in advocating for the passage of the FACE Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. FACE prohibits the use of "force, threat of force or physical obstruction" to prevent someone from providing or receiving reproductive health services.
Since 1977 NAF has been compiling statistics on violence and disruption against abortion providers. The prosecution and conviction of anti-abortion extremists like James Kopp, have led to a decrease in major acts of violence against abortion providers.
“Even though major acts of violence have decreased in recent years, many anti-abortion extremists still believe that it is justifiable to murder doctors because they provide women with safe and legal abortion care,” said Saporta. “We hope this conviction sends a clear message that violence against abortion providers will not be tolerated and perpetrators of such crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Celebrating Reproductive Freedom: Commemorating Roe v. Wade in the Nation’s Capital – Update 2
I wanted to share with you insights from one of our staff members handling violence and security issues:
Anti-abortion protesters from around the country came to Washington, DC to participate in Monday’s “March for Life” as well as numerous other activities that took place over the weekend. The march itself began with a rally on the national mall near the White House where the crowd was addressed by anti-choice legislators. President Bush also addressed the protestors via telephone.
On Saturday, a group of anti-abortion teens and college students protested at abortion clinics in Washington, DC. They held signs, prayed, sang, and attempted to approach patients and staff entering the clinics. Escorts from the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force were on hand to assist women safely into the clinics. On behalf of our members, I went to the clinic protests and the march to monitor the protesters; ensure that no laws were broken; and offer support and assistance. One difference this year at the clinic protests was the noted absence of the older adult male leaders such as Frank Pavone, Pat Mahoney, and Jeff White.
In such an important week for reproductive freedom, another anti-abortion extremist is in federal court. Today the jury found convicted murderer James Kopp guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and using a firearm to commit a violent act. He was previously convicted on state murder charges for the 1998 shooting death of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian, and is serving a 25-year-to-life state sentence. This federal conviction could ensure that he would not be eligible for parole. Such prosecutions and convictions have led to the decline in major acts of violence against abortion providers in recent years.
The federal trial of convicted murderer James Kopp, charged with violating the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, began today in Buffalo. The judge interrupted Kopp several times as he attempted to use his anti-abortion views as justification for the 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian. Representing himself in court, Kopp lost an earlier appeal to use a so-called necessity defense.
Jury selection begins tomorrow in the federal trial against convicted murderer James Kopp. Already serving a 25-year-to-life state sentence for the 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, Kopp faces life without parole if he is found guilty of violating the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Check out the AP story discussing the importance of the enforcement of FACE.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers, Parental Consent, and the FACE Act in the News
Salon.com has an article examining the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers.
A new parental consent law took effect in Utah yesterday. The Salt Lake City Tribune reports on how doctors and judges are struggling to comply with the confusing legislation.
The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from anti-abortion extremists seeking to reduce the damages they owe to the abortion providers they terrorized. The protestors, who put abortion providers’ faces on “wanted” posters, were convicted of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances (FACE) Act.
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Now v. Scheidler, a case that sought to use federal racketeering laws to protect clinics from violent, harassing anti-choice protestors. While the Court ruled against using the Hobbs Act to protect clinics, abortion providers remain protected under the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances (FACE) Act, which Congress passed in 1994. As I said in a news release we issued earlier today, this ruling absolutely should not be interpreted as a victory for anti-choice extremists.
The FACE Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation Congress has ever passed regarding clinic safety. The Scheidler lawsuit was initiated in 1986, before clinics had federal protections from violent protestors. At that time, clinics were under siege from blockades and women were forcibly blocked from clinic entrances by anti-choice protesters. The FACE act made it illegal to use “force or threat of force” to stop women from accessing safe, necessary health care.
In other news, the New York State Legislature is considering a law that would make it easier for women to obtain emergency contraception (EC). The bill would allow pharmacists to write prescriptions for EC, so women could obtain the medication without having to visit their doctor. Because EC is most effective if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it is essential that women can access it as quickly as possible.