Babies aren’t the only targets of the abortion industry and its supporters. The record shows that pro-aborts in Canada and the U.S. often direct their extremism at pro-life activists, tooBy Tony Gosgnach
Although violence perpetrated against abortion providers and associated personnel has garnered mounds of media coverage in the last few years – reaching a peak with the 1998 murder of Buffalo, N.Y. abortionist Barnett Slepian – less prominent have been acts of violence committed against pro-life activists and sympathizers.
This state of affairs has certainly not been because of a lack of such incidents against pro-lifers, or because such acts have not been serious in nature.
On the Canadian side, one can consider the example of the Paul Neilsen family of Vancouver, B.C. Neilsen was a prominent pro-life activist and Interim columnist.
In October 1993, his family’s home was firebombed twice in the middle of the night by unknown assailants. Police said the attacks could easily have proved fatal if the family (with eight of its 14 members home at the time) had not been able to evacuate their house promptly.
In the second incident, Neilsen’s wife managed to pick up a smoke bomb thrown into the house and toss it back outside, where it burst into flames.
Those attacks followed several incidents in which the windows to the home were broken, and attacks against his campaign office when he ran as a candidate in the 1988 federal election. The attacks followed a physical assault launched against pro-life demonstrators a year earlier during a baby shower outside Vancouver General Hospital.
In that occurrence, about 200 members of University of B.C. Students for Choice and the Coalition United to Fight Oppression – made up of people from B.C. abortuaries, the B.C. Coalition for Abortion Clinics and several socialist movements – attacked pro-lifers during the event. That crew tore up banners, spat on pro-lifers and swore at nuns who were present.
At around the same time, B.C. pro-lifers picketing the home of an abortionist were fired at with a slingshot held by the son of the abortionist, and Life Chain participants had their signs ripped up by members of CUFO.
More recently, as reported in The Interim, Toronto pro-life activist Robert Hinchey said he was assaulted on three separate occasions – twice by the driver of a medical waste disposal truck that calls on a Toronto abortuary, and once by a man acting as an escort for that abortuary. The incidents followed one in which another Toronto pro-life activist, Bill Whatcott, was accosted and had a sign ripped from his hands and destroyed as he demonstrated outside a Toronto abortuary.
Last spring in Toronto, only a massive police presence prevented an unruly crowd at Human Life International’s annual world conference from getting out of hand – and, even then, two pro-abortionists were arrested after they accosted police. In 1998, Show the Truth demonstrators at Toronto’s Queen’s Park were attacked by Anti-Racist Action thugs, several of whom were charged in connection with the incident.
Also in 1998, an Ontario pro-life and pro-family activist was subjected to harassing phone calls and had threats made against her children after writing an article on homosexuality in a community newspaper.
Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes says he recently found the bolts holding his car wheels in place had been loosened when he returned to his vehicle after a meeting in downtown Toronto.
CLC also recently had someone return some of its literature with a note attached vowing to “shove them up your a–” if they were found in public locations again.
In October 1994, pro-abortionist Will Offley, who was also serving as director of security at Vancouver’s Everywoman’s abortuary, wrote an article in Socialist Challenge magazine. The fodder from that was used by Tom Burghardt, of the San Francisco-based Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights, who encouraged hate be directed against pro-lifers on the Internet. “Attack the fascists wherever they are!” he exclaimed. “Reproductive rights by any means necessary!”
Sometimes abuse comes from law enforcement authorities, as Edmonton pro-lifer Christine Laurence found in 1992. The 59-year-old grandmother was teased over the Edmonton Remand Centre’s public address system by guards after she was sentenced to 30 days in jail for protesting outside Henry Morgentaler’s Edmonton abortuary. The guards were said to have asked, “Why don’t you knit some baby clothes?” over the PA.
Alberta’s solicitor-general’s office was to look into the matter. “We take exception to any incident that singles out a particular inmate, especially if they’re ridiculed,” said spokesperson Darlene Dickinson.
A number of pro-lifers have complained over the years about police treatment at Operation Rescue-style events, mostly to no avail.
Incidents in the U.S.
The situation tends to be worse on the American side. Let’s look at a few accounts coming from south of the border, in rough chronological order.
In 1989, eight members of the Coalition to Defend Abortion Rights were arrested for assault and battery after attacking some of 500 pro-life activists who were taking part in an Operation Rescue protest at the Woman Care abortuary in suburban Detroit.
The same year, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission held hearings on police brutality against Operation Rescue participants in Pittsburgh and West Hartford, Conn. Human Life International charged that the protesters had been subjected to tactics including: breaking arms with martial arts weapons; stripping and molesting female protesters; pain-compliance holds; kicking and punching; gouging, trampling by horses, tight handcuffs; verbal abuse; and denial of legal counsel, food, and medication.
The West Hartford situation led 261 pro-life demonstrators to file a complaint of police brutality against the town with the UN Human Rights Commission. In that case, the demonstrators said they suffered unnecessary abuse, such as kicking, dragging and punching. “Those people weren’t just roughed up, they were tortured,” exclaimed lawyer John Broderick, who represented the pro-lifers. “It’s hard to believe it happened in this country.”
In May 1990, Carl Armstrong, an abortionist and owner of the Toledo Medical Services abortuary in Toledo, Oh., was charged with criminal assault after an Operation Rescue protester was injured when Armstrong used the metal rear door of his facility as a battering ram.
In July 1990, the head of the Burlington, Vt. Women’s Council was convicted and fined for punching a man who was praying outside an abortuary. The prosecuting attorney said Frank Hassler was struck while he had his eyes closed.
In November 1990, a man and woman lying in front of a Youngstown, Oh. abortuary were run over by a pickup truck, and a retired Roman Catholic priest was sprayed with Mace, during a pro-life protest at the Mahoning Women’s Centre. Fr. William Witt said he was attacked by an abortuary worker when he attempted to sit in front of the abortuary’s door.
In December 1990, reports out of Valhalla, N.Y. said that Operation Rescue prisoners at Westchester County Correctional Centre were subjected to assaults from prison officials in order to force them to reveal their identities. (A common Operation Rescue tactic used by participants is to refuse to give one’s name, in solidarity with the voiceless unborn.)
The reports say that one prisoner was stomped on the chest while lying on the ground. Other prisoners were said to have been tied to chairs and chained at the feet as groups of prison guards physically attacked them. One 63-year-old protester was told by a guard, “I support abortion, and you’re going to die.”
Videos cameras are said to have been turned off during the assaults. Westchester County Correctional Centre was already under investigation because of previous allegations of the same sort. One prisoner’s hand was swollen and may have been broken, but his requests for medical attention were ignored.
In January 1991, police seized, dropped on her head and – while she was barely conscious – arrested Theresa Reall of Sacramento, Ca., who was protesting at a prayer service honouring pro-abortion governor-elect Pete Wilson.
In March 1991, abortionist Stephen Kaali, assisted by a security guard, assaulted a group of Operation Rescue protesters who were blocking his abortuary’s door in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. Kaali punched one woman in the back, and tossed a bucket of soapy solution over the head of another woman. He then kicked two men.
“It was demonic to see the venom in that man as he went wild,” said Debra Smaloore, who was drenched by the solution. “He spat in my face, too.” The protesters pursued criminal charges against Kaali.
In September 1991, supporters of Buffalo-area abortionist Barnett Slepian, who was slain several years later, pushed and shoved pro-life demonstrators who blocked Slepian’s Porsche as it pulled into the Buffalo Women’s Services abortuary. Pro-lifer Irene Gennuso was knocked to the sidewalk, where she struck the back of her head. An ambulance was called, and Gennuso was transported to hospital to be treated for her injury.
During 1992, abortionist Herbert Remer of Iowa was reported to have assaulted pro-lifers on at least three separate occasions, while his daughter Sarah, who has a black-belt in karate, struck a pro-life picketer. In one incident, Remer turned a water hose on two picketers, while in another, Remer gave a pro-lifer a bloody lip, threatened him with Mace and inflicted $300 damage to his car. In a third incident, Remer is said to have stomped on a pro-lifer’s knee.
In 1993, 51-year-old Jerry Simon, a Huntsville, Ala. pastor and local pro-life leader, was shot and killed by a woman who, during a subsequent six-hour standoff with police, read from Anton LeVay’s Satanic Bible.
During the summer of 1993, four pro-abortion activists were arrested and charged for stalking Operation Rescue’s Cities of Refuge campaign. After the arrests, police found a video camera as well as papers containing the licence plate numbers and physical descriptions of a number of pro-life activists that they had been following.
In September 1993, Livonia, Mich. abortionist Enrique Gerbi was charged with assault and battery after having kicked a woman who was attempting to serve court papers on him. According to the account of Terri Lee Buckshaw, who alleged the incident, Gerbi kicked her after she touched him with the papers and said, “Consider yourself served. See you in court.”
In October 1993, an abortionist was charged with three counts of assault, and one of disorderly conduct, and a complaint was filed against a police lieutenant, following a pro-life demonstration at an Omaha, Neb. abortuary. The pro-lifers had placed themselves inside 55-gallon drums weighted down with tar and concrete at the front and back doors of the abortuary. As police watched passively, abortionist G. William Orr became so enraged at the blockade, he began cursing the demonstrators and attempting to tip over the drums in which they were.
Orr left the scene, to return later with a garden hose, a can of gasoline and rope. He drenched one set of demonstrators with water from the hose, then poured gasoline over one drum, hinting that he would set it afire.
Orr then tied a drum to his car and instructed one of his staff to start driving. A pro-lifer jumped in before this could happen, however, and removed the rope from the drum. Police finally intervened in the events at this point.
Lieutenant Tom Donaghy, the officer in charge, called in a tow truck to remove the drum from the abortuary’s front door. As it was towed away, the drum almost tipping over on several occasions.
In November 1993, a sidewalk counsellor outside a Milwaukee, Wis. abortuary had a gun pulled on him and was threatened with death after offering literature to a man. “Back off or I’ll fix you!” the man is reported to have yelled as he took out the pistol.
Despite the fact that pro-lifers on the scene wrote down the licence plate number of the car in which the gun-toting man drove off, police were unable to apprehend anyone and later said that the investigation was “ongoing.”
Also in 1993, the Clinic Protection Coalition in Milwaukee, Wis. left a message on its “Voice for Choice” phone message line which urged sympathizers to “polish up on your football tactics and come on out and join us.” Earlier that year, one of the Coalition’s members bit a pro-life demonstrator on the arm.
The tense situation reached a climax during a demonstration where a seven-year-old pro-life demonstrator was cursed at and kicked in the head as she prayed outside the Wisconsin Women’s Health Centre. Her father later found nails planted in three of his car’s tires. Milwaukee pro-life leaders received threatening phone calls, and one leader was followed as he left his house one morning. So-called “clinic protectors” were also accused of pushing, shoving and kneeing pro-lifers.
In Hempstead, N.Y. that same year, 71-year-old pro-life demonstrator Pat Erickson was set upon by a young pro-abortionist who punched him in the face many times as he counselled outside an abortion referral service. The assailant escaped before police arrived and was not caught.
During hearings held by the U.S. congressional subcommittee on crime and criminal justice related to the proposed Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances bill in 1993, committee members heard of physical assaults, vandalism, bomb scares and death threats perpetrated against pro-life individuals and groups.
Witnesses included Rev. James McHugh, Roman Catholic bishop of Camden, N.J., Rabbi Yehuda Levin of New York City, and Vic Eliason, vice-president of Channel 40 television in Milwaukee.
Bishop McHugh described the desecration of Catholic churches and the disruption of religious services by pro-abortion sympathizers. Stephen Wood, president of the Florida Life Centre, said he received a call in which someone stated, “We will blow you a——- up.”
Rabbi Levin said he has accounts of pro-lifers being kicked, having urine tossed in their faces , receiving death threats, and having their car tires slashed.
Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defence Coalition said he had to have seven SWAT team members in full riot gear protect him during a church service because pro-abortionists threatened to attack him with AIDS-infected needles.
In March 1994, two men wearing bullet-proof vests and armed with submachine guns, shotguns, Mace and semi-automatic pistols spent several hours photographing and videotaping pro-life protesters outside the Sarasota, Fl. Women’s Health Centre. The weaponry included a fully automatic 9mm machine gun, a Remington 12-gauge pump shotgun, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, a .357 magnum revolver, a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol, a Sphinx .380 semi-automatic pistol and an American Arms 22 magnum revolver.
All the weapons were found with rounds in their chambers and cocked for firing. Two men questioned by police said they were “just doing a favour” for local abortionist W. Phillip Keene. Police released the two men with only a warning against trespassing.
The same month, abortionist Joseph Booker was reported to have pointed a gun at pro-lifers trying to dissuade women from entering his Jackson, Miss. abortuary. Booker “opened up his black pouch, pulled out his gun, and started waving it at the women and children, then pointed it at me,” said pro-life activist Roy McMillan.
Police later charged Booker with simple assault, as well as pointing and aiming a firearm.
Also in March 1994, a group of pro-abortion women broke into the offices of the University of Miami’s student newspaper and destroyed 10,000 copies of the pro-life advertising supplement “She’s a Child, Not a Choice,” that was scheduled to be distributed inside the newspaper’s next issue, by pouring red dye over the copies.
The group later claimed responsibility for the damage in a fax to the newspaper. Undaunted, pro-lifers ordered another 10,000 copies of the supplement and guarded them carefully against destruction or theft. The newspaper’s editor agreed that the vandalism was an attempt at censorship of the pro-life view, but the national office of the National Organization for Women contacted the school and demanded that the newspaper’s editors be reprimanded for including the supplement.
In December 1994, Tom Burghardt of the Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights in San Francisco, wrote an article “analyzing” the shooting of B.C. abortionist Garson Romalis, in which he exhorted readers to “attack the fascists wherever they are” and called for “reproductive rights by any means necessary.” This followed a pro-abortion rally in B.C., which saw literature distributed by the Trotskyist League urging the “sweeping away” of “right-to-life mobs whenever they appear.”
In March 1995, Memphis, Tenn. pro-life activist Kathy Worthy was accosted by local abortionist Gus Giddens as she tried to take his photograph outside an abortuary. “You’re not going to take my picture. Give me that film!” Giddens yelled as he grabbed Worthy and threw her onto the street into oncoming traffic.
Worthy narrowly escaped being hit by a car, but did suffer a sprained back. Police who were called initially refused to take a complaint or file a warrant for Giddens. A detective who contacted Worthy later tried to talk her out of filing a criminal complaint, but eventually, a warrant was issued and a court appearance was scheduled for Giddens.
In October 1995, Milwaukee, Wis. abortionist Gary Prohaska sprayed Mace at pro-life demonstrators outside Milwaukee’s Planned Parenthood abortuary, even though they were 50 feet away from him at the time he charged at them. Although the city attorney’s office reluctantly accepted complaints about the incident, no charges were filed against Prohaska, who had been wooed from a $480,000 estate in Oregon to become Planned Parenthood’s star abortionist in Wisconsin.
The same month, a column in the State University of New York at Buffalo’s student newspaper The Spectrum called for violence to be directed against pro-lifers on campus. “Rant for choice” by Michelle Goldberg exhorted students to “do your part and spit at (pro-lifers). Kick them in the head.” Goldberg also observed that, “Just once, I’d like to see someone blow up one of their churches.” The next day, vandals destroyed parts of a display of 4,400 crosses set up by the campus Students for Life group.
Attempts to have condemned Goldberg’s column were met with indifference by the university’s administration, which noted that her sentiments were protected by the principles of freedom of speech. “I walk in fear of a nameless, faceless enemy spurred on by calls to violence printed in The Spectrum,” responded Laurel Graham, an adviser for Students for Life.
In September 1996, two escorts for a Greenville, S.C. abortuary were charged with assault and battery after a pro-life sidewalk counsellor said they slammed a car door on her legs.
Ruth Trippi, 61 and a grandmother of 12, was speaking to two women in a car outside the Palmetto State Medical Centre when one of the escorts walked up screaming and started pounding on the driver’s side window. The man then moved to the passenger side and tried to remove Trippi from the car. Unsuccessful, the man and another female escort started slamming the car door on Trippi’s legs.
When Trippi tried to stand up, the man grabbed her shoulder and neck and slammed her against the car window. Taken to hospital later, she was found to have a head contusion, injuries to her neck and shoulder and a bruised leg bone. She was treated later for internal bleeding.
Warrants were issued for Michael Deanhardt, a member of the board of the local American Civil Liberties Union, and Elaine Norwood.
During late 1995, pro-lifers in Crestline, Ca. were warned by the sheriff’s department to cease the picketing of local abortionist Michael Morris because they were afraid Morris would shoot a picketer. The department had previously refused to reissue a permit allowing Morris to carry a concealed handgun.
In September 1998, pro-lifers at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan. were the targets of physical attacks. In one incident, a pro-abortionist drove his car into a crowd of demonstrating pro-lifers, narrowly missing one woman. In another, a pro-lifer was punched. The pro-abortionists were objecting to a demonstration that compared the plight of the unborn with the Holocaust and black slavery in America.
In October 1998, Teamsters union official Anthony Michael Mucillio was arrested, but not charged, after a pro-lifer and his sister were beaten to the ground and hospitalized outside Philadelphia’s city hall, where President Bill Clinton was appearing. Mucillio was later taken down in a $4 million drug bust, in which police found 10 kilograms of methamphetamines, 19 firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, military explosives and a book on how to build explosive devices.
The same month, a pro-abortion advocate on the Internet sought retribution against pro-lifers for the shooting of Buffalo abortionist Barnett Slepian. The man, known as “Hick” from Seattle, asked for information on Seattle-area pro-lifers and said, “I am going to avenge this one – an eye for an eye!” In another posting, “Hick” said, “Let’s kill the anti-abortionists! Anyone care to join me?” In a third he declared, “It’s time to hunt you down and make you pay!”In January 1999, on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, four crisis pregnancy centres in California experienced vandalism and one received a bomb threat. The centres were spraypainted with slogans such as “Abortion is a right” and “Lies told here.” They were also plastered with posters supporting abortuaries, and had an epoxy-like substance smeared over their door locks.