by Lisa Bennett-Haigney, Publications Manager
Photo by Jennifer Becker
Vigil outside the U.S.Capitol for murdered doctor Barnett Slepian, NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy urged those attending to continue standing up to anti-abortion terrorists and to vote for abortion rights supporters.
On Jan. 22, the 26th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, NOW is urging those who call themselves "pro-life" to show their respect for human life by turning in those who are guilty of anti-abortion violence as well as those sought for questioning by the authorities, and by discontinuing their thinly-veiled "hit lists" of doctors. NOW chapters will also honor those who have lost their lives defending a woman's constitutional right to abortion and show support for the heroic women and men who continue to put their safety at risk to ensure that full reproductive services are available.
"Those who call themselves 'pro-life' must start taking responsibility for the climate of hate and fear that they have helped create in this country. And that includes lawmakers and law enforcement officers who refuse to go after these criminals with the same fervor they would any other kind of terrorist," said NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy.
"If you truly do not want the blood of another dead doctor on your hands, take down the wanted posters and lists of abortion providers. Turn in to the authorities those among you who are guilty of violence."
As the National NOW Times went to press, three named men were still at large. Eric Robert Rudolph is charged with the January 1998 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., clinic that killed a security guard and seriously injured a nurse, as well as bombings at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, at a lesbian bar in Atlanta and another clinic in Georgia. James Charles Kopp, an anti-abortion protestor who has been arrested outside of clinics, is wanted as a material witness in the shooting death of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian. Ronald Stauber and Michael Gingrich were also wanted for questioning in connection with the slaying, and one of the men has already been interviewed and released.
The Oct. 23, 1998, murder of Slepian less than a year after the Birmingham killing-sent a shocking reminder that law-abiding citizens are literally under attack.
"As we mourn Dr. Slepian's death, we also celebrate his life and the example of bravery and commitment he set when he faced down anti-abortion terrorists day-in and day-out - at work and at home," said Gandy.
A sniper shot Slepian in the kitchen of his home just outside Buffalo, N.Y., with his wife and children in the house. Authorities believe that this killing is the latest in a series of shootings in Canada and western New York that have occurred around Nov. 11, Veteran's Day, or Remembrance Day as it is called in Canada. This would be the first to result in death; the other four doctors were all injured, some permanently.
Reproductive rights supporters across the country responded immediately to this latest act of violence. The day after the murder, Buffalo NOW chapter activists and dozens of other supporters participated in a candlelight vigil outside Slepian's office. A news conference was called the following Thursday by New York NOW President Lois Shapiro-Canter, Buffalo NOW President Kathryn Lake Mazierski and the Lt. Gov. of New York, Betsy McCaughey Ross. And on Oct. 31, more than 500 activists attended a rally in downtown Buffalo.
"I have heard people on TV debating the murder of Dr. Slepian. This is no occasion for debate," said Shapiro-Canter. "There was no debate when the federal building was bombed in Oklahoma. There was no debate when the Unabomber killed and maimed corporate executives. Murder is murder. Terrorism is terrorism."
At an Oct. 28 vigil in Washington, D.C., feminist leaders honored the doctor and pledged to stand up to anti-abortion thugs. Speaking at the vigil were D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ann Lewis, White House communications director, who brought statements from President Clinton and Vice President Gore.
Marilynn Buckman, executive director of GYN Womenservices, where Slepian worked, traveled from Buffalo to Washington, D.C., for the vigil. "Doctors must be allowed to practice medicine and not live in fear for their lives. This country cannot allow a fringe element to practice vigilante terrorism. We must not allow a cowardly minority to change the laws of our land through the scope of a sniper's rifle."
Other NOW chapters nationwide memorialized Slepian, from U.C. Davis in California to New York City, from Georgia to New Hampshire.
A common theme emerged from these memorials: the inflammatory rhetoric of anti-abortion leaders in and out of Congress creates an environment in which hate and violence can and does flourish. And NOW leaders reiterated their call for a cooperative and wide-ranging federal investigation into this terrorist conspiracy against women, doctors and clinic workers.
After appeals from feminist and reproductive rights groups, abortion providers and the American Medical Association, and after 10 clinics in the Midwest received threats of anthrax contamination through the mail, the Justice Department announced the formation of a task force to investigate links among various episodes of clinic violence, and to prosecute and prevent such incidents.
One item under review is a web site, the Nuremberg files, which lists over 225 doctors and hundreds of others associated with reproductive services and advocacy. The web site shows a graphic of red, dripping blood and marks the doctors as working, wounded or fatalities. Slepian's name had been on the list and now appears with a line through it to indicate a fatality. Information available on the doctors includes photographs, addresses, their children's names and ages, and other personal data.
The Christian Gallery, Internet home of the Nuremberg Files, is run by anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley and also features the following: Horsley's proposal for an anti-choice "Secession via Nuclear Weapons," a section called "Save the Babies" by a B. Lokey who declares that "Even homicide is justified when it is necessary to protect human life," and a lengthy statement titled "Why I Shot an Abortionist" by Paul J. Hill, who is on death row in Florida for the murder of Dr. John Britton and his escort, James Barrett, a NOW member.
The Internet, while offering a place for anti-abortion fanatics to organize, also presents an opportunity for reproductive rights advocates to research these dangerous forces and expose their true agenda, as NOW is doing this Roe anniversary.
"Abortion rights opponents who do not actually pull the trigger or set the bomb goad the unstable element in their midst to commit the real violence," said Gandy. "But they are all responsible for the deaths that result and the women who are left with no doctors or clinics to turn to for reproductive healthcare."
"If you truly do not want the blood of another dead doctor on your hands, take down the wanted posters and lists of abortion providers. Turn in those among you who are guilty of violence."
— Kim Gandy,
NOW Executive Vice President