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.
Today a judge in Wichita, KS sentenced anti-abortion extremist and convicted murderer Scott Roeder to the maximum sentence allowed by Kansas law for the murder of NAF member Dr. George Tiller.
While this won’t bring Dr. Tiller back, it is important that Roeder spend the rest of his life in prison so that he cannot harm another abortion provider. Anyone thinking of committing a similar crime also needs to understand that there is no justification for murdering an abortion provider, and that if they commit such a crime they will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
In January, a Sedgwick County jury took just 37 minutes to convict Roeder of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. Under Kansas law he faced a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years; however, based on aggravating circumstances, prosecutors requested and received a “Hard 50” sentence, which requires Roeder to serve at least 50 years before he can be considered for parole. Roeder is 52 years old.
We hope this sentence will serve as a deterrent for those who may be considering following in Roeder’s footsteps. In a civilized society, we cannot allow anti-abortion extremists to take the law into their own hands in order to advance their own personal, political agendas.
NAF member Carole Joffe, author of Doctors of Conscience and the recently released Dispatches from the Abortion Wars, has just published an open letter to Congressman Bart Stupak about the violence and harassment abortion providers face every day. Published on the website of Beacon Press, the letter reads in part:
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.”
Blog Examines Potential Rise in Clinic Violence under Pro-Choice Administration
Since the inauguration of President Obama, anti-choice extremists have become increasingly harassing and abusive towards clinics. Yesterday, RH Reality Check examined the potential of increased clinic violence in its blog. Included is commentary from many NAF members, including Claire Keyes, former Director of NAF member Allegheny Reproductive Health Center, Elizabeth Barnes, Executive Director of NAF member Philadelphia Women’s Center, and Tammi Kromenaker, Director of NAF member Red River Women’s Clinic.
We know that political losses often provoke anti-abortion extremists to retaliate, so clinics need to increase their security awareness. Law enforcement is key to keeping the peace. In places where police respond quickly, stopping infractions against patients and staff--whether through locally passed ordinances or by invoking the federal FACE Act--anti-abortion violence does not usually escalate. In contrast, in places where the police do not enforce the law, anti-abortion extremists often push the envelope and engage in criminal activity.
These charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. As part of their plea agreement, one suspect’s sentence will be capped at 44 months and the other’s at 40 months. A sentencing date has not been set.
The National Abortion Federation Honors the Memory of Dr. Barnett Slepian
On this day 10 years ago, NAF member Dr. Barnett Slepian was senselessly murdered in Amherst, NY, and we honor his memory today.
Dr. Slepian was a caring physician who devoted his life to providing quality reproductive health care to women. Tragically, he and his family paid the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of an anti-abortion extremist.
Dr. Slepian was a devoted husband, father, colleague and friend. Today, it is with great respect and sadness that we join our members and his family in remembering Dr. Slepian’s life and his many contributions to women’s reproductive health care.
The striking clinics provide the majority of abortions in the country and the strike is estimated to affect as many as 2,000 women. However, the clinics are still accepting emergency cases during the strike.
NAF Security Measures Highlighted in NonProfit Times Piece
The NonProfit Times published a piece this week examining the security procedures implemented by nonprofit organizations in the wake of violent acts such as the December shootings at two Colorado churches.
Since abortion was legalized in 1973, reproductive health care clinics and workers have unfortunately become the targets of violence and harassment by anti-abortion extremists. For this reason, NAF has been on the forefront of the nonprofit community in creating security protocols and training our members to ensure staff and patient safety. The article discusses the publications and protocols NAF provides to our members as well as our extensive database of violence statistics.
On Friday, we released the following statement in response to the arson of the Office of Curtis Boyd, MD, in Albuquerque, NM on Thursday night:
As the professional association of abortion providers, National Abortion Federation (NAF) is extremely concerned about protecting our members from violence. NAF has been tracking incidents of violence and disruption since 1977. In that time, there have been seven murders, 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings, 100 butyric acid attacks, 656 anthrax threats, and 175 arsons including this most recent incident in New Mexico.
We hope that the suspect(s) responsible for this crime will be swiftly apprehended and convicted. The visible prosecution and conviction of anti-abortion criminals who engage in violence have led to a decrease in major acts of violence against abortion providers in recent years. However, last night’s arson is a reminder that we must remain vigilant in protecting women's access to reproductive health care and the safety of the dedicated health care professionals who provide that care.
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.
"This type of intimidation and scare tactic, regardless of one's beliefs or religious convictions, simply cannot be condoned," U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan said in a statement. "Using a public forum, such as the Internet, to incite and instruct people to kill is tantamount to a form of domestic terrorism."
Anti-abortion extremist James Kopp is serving his life sentence for the 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian in a Pennsylvania high-security prison 170 miles west of Philadelphia.
Kopp was already serving a 25 year-to-life state sentence for the murder when a federal jury found him guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and using a firearm in a violent crime. In June, Kopp was sentenced to a life term without parole. Kopp had asked to serve his sentence in New York State, but U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara rejected his request.
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.
AWHC is a NAF Member and we immediately sent our Security Director to Austin to assist the clinic and law enforcement. Within just two days, authorities apprehended Paul Ross Evans. We are asking our member clinics to remain on heightened security alert. When abortion is featured prominently in the news, there is often an increased risk that abortion providers and clinics will be targeted for violence. In fact, just last week a clinic in Virginia Beach was the victim of arson.
Evans faces five criminal charges including using and carrying a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of a destructive device by a convicted felon. Evans is also charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which is punishable by up to life in prison.
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.
Over the weekend a 21-year-old Florida woman called the police to report she had been raped while leaving a local parade, but during the investigation officers discovered the woman had an outstanding warrant for failure to pay restitution on a juvenile crime and arrested her. Even though she was given emergency contraception by a rape crisis center just before her arrest, she claims she was denied the second dose by a medical worker at the jail because of the worker’s religious beliefs. After the woman’s lawyer alerted the media, she was released from jail on Monday and given the second dose of emergency contraception a day late.
Tuesday the Tampa Police Department changed its policy concerning victims of sexual assault with past records. Under the new policy, shift commanders will have the authority to delay arrests for victims reporting a violent crime.
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.
Maryland Man Sentenced to Prison for Plot to Bomb Clinic
Robert Weiler Jr. was sentenced to five years in prison and three years of supervised release Monday for possessing a pipe bomb, being a felon in possession of a stolen firearm, and attempting to destroy or damage an abortion clinic. Weiler was arrested in June after his parents turned him in to authorities. He pleaded guilty in October and told federal agents that he planned to bomb a Greenbelt abortion clinic and shoot the clinic’s doctor.
Dalton Ray Skinner pleaded guilty Tuesday to a January attack on the West Alabama Women’s Center where he drove his car into the front entrance while the clinic was closed. Skinner was indicted in April on one charge of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances 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 faces a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine at his February sentencing.
An Associated Press article examines how it has become increasingly difficult for abortion clinics in Alabama to find backup physicians to work at their clinics, as providers’ face hostility, harassment, and threats of violence.
The article cites our statistics on violence,which we have been compiling against abortion providers since 1977. Our comprehensive database is an invaluable resource that enables us to detect changes in the patterns and trends in anti-abortion activities.
Woman Pleads Guilty to Attempted Arson at a Louisiana Abortion Clinic
This week Patricia Hughes pleaded guilty to leaving a burning bottle of gasoline outside an abortion clinic in Shreveport, LA. Hughes faces up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced August 2, 2006.
Surveillance video from the clinic and tips led to the arrest of Hughes.
The burning bottle of gasoline did not damage the clinic, as the bottle apparently fell away from the building and burned.
NAF is the pre-eminent source for abortion security information and assistance. NAF has been compiling statistics on incidents of violence and disruption against abortion providers since 1977.
NAF has successfully advocated to improve law enforcement response to abortion clinic violence and assisted clinics in improving their own security measures. These initiatives have resulted in a decrease in extreme violence against providers.
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.