Obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot by a sniper in his Amherst, New York, home Friday evening in the presence of his wife and four sons. Slepian, an abortion provider, had been targeted by anti-abortion protesters for some time.
The latest attack is one of five similar attacks on abortion providers that have taken place in upstate New York and Canada within the last four years. Slepian is the first victim to die from his injuries.
All five sniper attacks have taken place in the fall, near the date of November 11, which is Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in Canada. Anti-abortion activists in Canada have deemed the day a time to “remember the unborn children.”
US and Canadian law enforcement officials are working together on the case, but have not yet named a suspect.
Advocates of abortion rights argue that the violent language used by anti-abortion protestors advocates the use of violence against abortion providers. Betsy Kozinn, a registered nurse and employee of Shepin’s, said, “Protesters called him ‘murderer’ and they called him all kinds of other names. When you use that rhetoric, it sort of sets a tone for violence.”
Pro-choice leaders also strongly believe that anti-abortion protests have limited women’s access to abortion providers. “The number of abortion providers has decreased, and we know that is in part due to the violence,” stated Stephanie Mueller, National Abortion Federation spokeswoman, who also noted that 84 percent of U.S. counties do not have abortion clinics.
Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt reported that, over the weekend, Slepian’s name was recorded on a online list of abortion providers marked for death. Just hours after he was killed, Slepian’s name was “crossed-off” the list, Feldt said. “lists of this sort have existed for years, and are taken very, very seriously” by abortion rights groups.
U.S. and Canadian authorities had issued safety warnings to doctors last Tuesday. “They were told to stay away from windows that weren’t covered with curtains or blinds and to be aware of their surroundings and anything suspicious at their clinics,” said Amherst assistant police chief Frank Olesko.
In August of 1994, Slepian wrote a letter in which he shared his experiences with anti-abortion protestors and submitted it to newspaper, The Buffalo News. Slepian stated, “Please don’t feign surprise, dismay, and certainly not innocence when a more volatile and less restrained member of the group [anti-abortion protestors] decides to react…by shooting an abortion provider.”
Recent Attacks on Abortion Providers
October 23, 1998 — A sniper kills Dr. Barnett Slepian in Amherst, New York, by filing a shot through the physician’s window.
January 29, 1998 — A bomb explodes at Birmingham, Alabama, abortion clinic. An off-duty police officer is killed and a nurse critically injured in the first fatal bombing of a U.S. abortion clinic. Suspect Eric Rudolph at large.
November 11, 1997 — Dr. Jack Fainman shot in the shoulder at his Winnipeg, Manitoba home. Bullet came through a window, hitting Fainman within inches of his heart.
October 28, 1997 — Doctor in Perinton, New York, cut by debris from bullet shot into his home through a sliding glass door. Authorities have not identified the doctor.
January 16, 1997 — Two bomb blasts an hour apart at Atlanta building containing abortion clinic. Seven people injured. Rudolph also charged the explosions.
November 10, 1995 — Dr. Hugh Short, a gynecologist in Hamilton, Ontario, shot in the elbow by a bullet fired through a window of his home.
December 30, 1994 — John Salvi opens fire with rifle inside two Boston-area abortion clinics, killing two receptionists and wounding five others. Sentenced to life without parole, he kills himself in prison in 1996.
November 8, 1994 — Dr. Garson Romalis, who performs abortions in Vancouver, Canada, shot in the leg while eating break