On the front cover of the February Catholic World Report is a photograph of a man’s face with the question in large red letters above it: “Is he being framed?” Below the question is an explanation: “America’s most energetic pro-life activists see the legal system tilted against them, and worry that the FBI has found a scapegoat for an abortionist’s murder.” Phillip F. Lawler’s editorial, “Out of the Mainstream,” claims that a vigourous effort is underway to depict all pro-life activists as dangerous extremists.

For 20 years or more, the editorial asserts, proponents of legal abortion have campaigned relentlessly to persuade Americans that the pro-life movement represents only a lunatic fringe. The abortion industry is now surrounded by a unique shell of legal protection; bubble- zones, restraining orders, class-action lawsuits – all built upon the presumption that pro-life violence is widespread. When pro-life researchers compile a detailed report on the criminal activities of abortionists and their allies, the mass media simply ignore the evidence.

Consequently, “There is a danger that (James) Kopp will be tried in the court of public opinion, and found guilty of extremism because his views on abortion are at variance with mainstream opinions.” In the “Dossier” section of the magazine, Lawler points out that Kopp has been compared to Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh, linked to a “domestic Taliban” of pro-life activists, and spent two years on the FBI’s most wanted list, after being indicted for the October 1998 murder of abortionist Barnett Slepian. Yet, he is described by friends as a “total pacificist.” He has been arrested for blocking abortuaries more than 20 times, but has never before been accused of any act of violence. He is a devout Catholic with an active life of piety, who once travelled to Calcutta to work as a volunteer in Mother Teresa’s house for the dying. “If he is a cold-blooded killer,” Lawler writes, “he is a very unusual one.”

When Mark Crutcher, head of Life Dynamics Inc. – a Texas group which has the knack of generating public attention – was asked to take up Kopp’s case, he was extremely reluctant to do so. Eventually, he put lawyer Ed Zielinski on it, and the result was a 108-page booklet rigorously scrutinizing the evidence compiled by government officials seeking Kopp’s extradition from France, where he was being held in jail.

LDI’s report, subtitled, “A Conclusion in Search of the Evidence,” found large gaps in the government’s case. For example, it is known that Slepian was killed by a single bullet, fired from about 150 feet away in back of his house. Kopp is unlikely to have been able to perform such a feat of marksmanship, since he has poor eyesight and never received any training in the use of firearms.

As the dossier says, the most damning bit of evidence against Kopp is that he fled the country when the FBI became interested in speaking to him. So why would an innocent man run away from the law?

Kopp’s own experiences of arrests had shown him that police were capable of brutality. He was convinced that law enforcement officials were in league with the abortion industry – on more than one occasion, he had told friends that “they’re coming to get us.”

Moreover, a Canadian pro-life friend, Maurice Lewis, had been found dead inside the cabin of his truck. Though the police decided that the death was due to “natural causes,” Kopp was convinced that Lewis had been killed, and feared that he too could become a murder victim.

There is very much more to Catholic World Report’s investigation of who killed Slepian. To those who ask who committed the murder, if Kopp did not, the magazine had a suggestion.

One day after the killing, police stopped and questioned two men driving through Slepian’s neighbourhood in a car matching one that had been seen driving slowly down the same street several days earlier. The men were affiliated with the radical group Refuse and Resist, which has an announced policy to do “whatever it takes” to preserve legal access to abortion.

But the police soon released the men, explaining that they were sure Slepian had been killed by a pro-abortion extremist. At the time, federal attorney-general Janet Reno was pursuing a nationwide investigation of pro-life activists in search of a violent conspiracy – and not finding it. The federal authorities wanted to convince the public that the pro-life movement was dangerous.

If the case against Kopp collapses, the FBI may be forced to consider its methods of gathering evidence – and the media may have to examine their own blatant distortions of the truth concerning pro-life activism. Once that happens in the U.S., some of our Canadian newspapers may start saying “mea culpa,” too.

We stand on the truth. The sordid abortion industry cannot.