Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 23:29:37 EST
Subject: Killing In The Name Of Life


Here's an ABC online piece discussing the use of the term terrorist as applied to some recent abortion conflict events.


Killing In The Name Of Life
By Heather J. Maher

Oct. 31, 1998 -- In the cover of night, from the camouflage of a bush, a sniper with a high-powered rifle takes aim at a figure standing inside a house and pulls the trigger. The figure falls to the floor, fatally wounded, as the shooter disappears into the darkness.

Is it the act of a lone, deranged fanatic? Or the carefully planned, methodical work of an operative in a terrorism movement?

That's the question many people are asking this week, even though the killing of gynecologist and abortion-provider Dr. Barnett Slepian, as he stood in the kitchen of his Amherst, N.Y., home on Oct. 23, was a hardly an aberration.

The attack on the father of four was just the latest in a rash of assaults on abortion providers in the United States and Canada since 1993. In just five years, three doctors and four abortion clinic workers have been killed. Bombs, shootings and vandalism at clinics have injured 19.

This week, as Slepian was buried in a private funeral service, the hunt for his killer went public. The FBI, already deep into a manhunt for suspected abortion clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph, stepped in to take a prominent role in the criminal investigation.

Outraged abortion rights groups found a new audience for their long-held belief that these regular attacks are not the work of isolated extremists, but the direct result of an encouraged, applauded and growing form of domestic terrorism.

An Intended Effect

"This reign of terror must be stopped," said National Abortion Rights Action League President Kate Michelman at the memorial service for Slepian.

Michael Barkun, a political science professor at Syracuse University and an expert on domestic radicals, defines a terrorist as someone who uses violence to induce anxiety and fear in a larger audience. The violence is meant not just for the actual target, says this former consultant to the FBI, but as a psychologically manipulative means of coercing some broader set of onlookers.

There can be little doubt that anti-abortion violence and harassment has had such an effect. In more than 80 percent of American counties, women have nowhere to get an abortion. In 45 states, the number of abortion providers has declined for the last five years.

"When someone is going to use violence to accomplish their political ends, we absolutely consider it a form of terrorism," says Susan Dudley, deputy director of the National Abortion Federation, an association of abortion providers.

Rhetoric or Responsibility?

On ProLife Virginia's Website, a large picture of a smiling Paul Hill is displayed with the caption, "American Hero." Hill, an anti-abortion activist and former minister, shot and killed Dr. John Bayard Britton and volunteer clinic escort James Barrett outside a Pensacola, Fla., abortion clinic in July 1994.

ProLife Virginia's Rev. Donald Spitz writes that Hill is "currently awaiting execution ... for saving innocent babies from being murdered by baby-killing abortionist John Britton." Spitz also publicly cheered Slepian's murder.

Does the elevation to hero status for a killer by men who have a large following make them culpable in the violence?

NARAL's Michelman says it does.

"Anti-choice groups and their leaders are using sensationalized rhetoric and incendiary statements to characterize abortion ... and [have] even gone so far as to publicly justify the murder of these men," she said this week.

"These are acts of terrorism, pure and simple," Michelman added. "Their words drive unrestrained factions of their movements to commit these horrific acts."

For Dudley, those who follow Spitz are comparable to the followers of another leader, and an act of terrorism still fresh in America's collective consciousness.

The American people didn't find it strange to hold Sheik Ramen accountable for the behavior of the people who blew up the World Trade Center, she points out.

Like Spitz, the sheik "was a religious man who clearly played no direct physical role in committing the crime," she says. "However, we went after him with the same conviction as we went after the actual perpetrators of the crime. Now we have someone like Spitz, who is spewing this vermin and this encouragement and we allow him to say, 'Well, it wasn't me, I didn't shoot the gun, I didn't lob the bomb.' "

When abortion violence has occurred, mainstream pro-life leaders like Pat Robertson are not far behind, publicly distancing their followers from people like Paul Hill and Rudolph. But the mainstream movement, Barkun says, is not mutually exclusive of the extreme wing.

The Parts Make a Whole

As violence against clinics and doctors has escalated, abortion rights' leaders have criticized what they see as law enforcement's piecemeal approach to investigating each subsequent attack.

Most times, it has been local police who sift through the threatening letters, who clean up the gallons of putrid butyric acid and who sweep up the shards of broken glass after clinic violence. Only recently have the big guns -- the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the U.S. Marshals -- been drafted in the battle.

Ironically, the stepped-up interest of law enforcement may be thanks to the anti-abortion movement's most violent member: Eric Rudolph.

Rudolph is reportedly hiding in the thick North Carolina woods, on the run for crimes that allegedly include several bombings, including Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta's Northside Family Planning Services and the New Woman All Women Health Care clinic in Birmingham, Ala. -- the first fatal bombing of an abortion clinic.

In the book Tabernacle of Hate, Kerry Noble offers insight into the Christian group he used to belong to, The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord.

"The religious belief system of the [American] terrorist right is not to be underestimated any more that the religious beliefs of those in the Middle East," Noble writes. "What individuals believe determines what they do. And those who are in authority in the movement are making sure that the followers feel cornered to force them into action."

If that action -- directed by another, resulting in bloodshed -- is indeed the kind of action that killed Slepian last week, the problem between pro-choice and anti-abortion groups is much larger, and more deadly, than a difference of opinion.

Copyright 1998 ABCNews and Starwave Corporation. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any form.
10/31/98 11:30 AM


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