National Clinic Access Project
Attacks on Women's Health Clinics
Women’s reproductive healthcare clinics are the targets of an orchestrated campaign of violence and terror, and since the late 1970s, have suffered massive physical damage from anti-abortion extremist violence, including blockades, invasions, bombings, arson, chemical attacks, gunfire, bomb and arson threats, and death threats. In 1993, the violence turned deadly. Since then, nine abortion providers, staff and volunteers have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists; twenty-one others have been wounded, some critically.
Through our National Clinic Access Project, we have reduced the levels of violence directed against abortion providers from more than 50% of clinics in 1993. Yet severe violence remains unacceptably high, plaguing one in every five – or 20% – of women’s clinics across the country today, according to data from our National Clinic Violence Surveys.
Following their massive losses at the ballot box in November, 2008, anti-abortion extremists are again resorting to violence. In fact, shortly following the election, extremist anti-abortion groups held press conferences and teleconference calls for their supporters calling for a “return to the streets.” Indeed, there has been an escalation of hostile activity and threats around vital women’s health clinics in some 10 states across the country, including Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, California, Kansas among others.
Anti-abortion violence and terrorism
Anti-abortion violence more and more has come to resemble the work of trained terrorists. In the January 1997 clinic bombing in Atlanta, a double bomb was used – the first aimed at destroying the building and the second anti-personnel device aimed at killing or injuring law enforcement and rescue personnel, a classic terrorist tactic.
The January 1998 early morning bombing at a Birmingham, Alabama clinic killed a security guard and critically wounded the clinic’s nurse. Signaling a new level of terror and violence, this was the first bombing of an abortion clinic to result in a fatality.
The Army of God claimed credit for both the Atlanta bombings and the Birmingham bombings.
Army of God
For the past twenty-seven years the Army of God< (AOG) has terrorized abortion clinics and providers. AOG is an underground network of extremists who advocate violence to end abortion, including the murder of doctors and other healthcare professionals, as well as those considered “accessories” or caught in the “war zone” of a clinic, including law enforcement. The Army of God first became known in 1982 when three people claiming to be Army of God members kidnapped a doctor and his wife at gunpoint.
The Army of God has created a manual that is essentially a “how-to” book on abortion clinic violence, detailing methods for blockading clinic entrances, gluing the locks of clinic doors, butyric acid attacks, arson, bomb making, stalking and various other illegal activities. The AOG manual was discovered buried in the backyard of Rachelle Shelley Shannon by law enforcement investigating her attempted murder in 1993 of Dr. George Tiller. (Shannon was also convicted of multiple arsons and attempted arsons at women’s clinics throughout the Northwest.)
Many of the organization’s key members met when they were jailed after Operation Rescue’s siege of Atlanta clinics in 1988 during the Democratic National Convention. Members took on various aliases by which they would be known in extremist circles. Many of these individuals are thanked by these monikers in the prologue of the AOG manual, including “Shaggy West” believed to be Shannon who was arrested in the Atlanta blockades, along with James Kopp, believed to be “Atomic Dog”. Kopp shot and killed Dr. Barnett Slepian in 1998 and is the lead suspect in a string of sniper attacks on doctors in Canada and the U.S.
The Army of God advocates the murder of abortion providers as “justifiable homicide.” The AOG website states: “[w]e, the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all godly action necessary to defend innocent human life including the use of force. We proclaim that whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child.” Paul Hill, who was convicted and eventually executed for the double murders of a doctor and volunteer clinic escort in Pensacola, FL in 1994, was the initiator of the “Justifiable Homicide” petition.
UN-WANTED Posters, Year of Rebuke and No Place to Hide Campaigns
Another tactic of anti-abortion extremists is to publish the names and addresses, home telephone numbers and other information of doctors on “Un-WANTED” posters – an obvious play on the Old West “WANTED Dead or Alive” posters. The tactic has also been widely used on internet sites, most notably the Nuremberg Files.
Operation Rescue’s Year of Rebuke and No Place to Hide Campaigns involve following doctors and clinic workers from the clinic to their homes and trailing them around as they go about their routines, going through their trash at home to find personal information, confronting them at locations other than the clinic and at community events, sending postcards to their neighbors that implore them to register their opposition to their work at the clinic – all part of a campaign to systematically harass clinic workers. Fearing for their safety and lives, some doctors and clinic workers have sought protection from the courts under the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE).