U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten refused to grant an order sought by the Department of Justice against an anti-abortion activist for sending a threatening letter to Dr. Mila Means, the Kansas doctor who plans to offer abortion services in Wichita. Dr. Means has been the target of anti-abortion protests and harassment since she began training to provide abortion services in December.
“We are dismayed by the Judge’s decision,” said Katherine Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “However, anti-abortion extremists have been put on notice: every threat against abortion providers will be investigated and challenged,” Spillar continued. “Rigorous prosecution of extremists who are advocating and using violence is the only way to stop this domestic terrorism.”
The Justice Department had accused Angel Dillard of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), a law protecting abortion clinics, and asked that Dillard be prohibited from contacting Means or coming within 250 feet of her home and her office. Dr. Means testified in court that she felt threatened by the letter, and had undertaken numerous security measures in response. Although Judge Marten said that Dillard clearly intended to intimidate Dr. Means, he did not believe the letter constituted a “true threat” prohibited under FACE.
Dillard has been associated with anti-abortion groups in Kansas. In an interview with the Associated Press in July 2009, Dillard revealed she had corresponded with Scott Roeder, then in a Wichita jail awaiting trial for the murder of Dr. Tiller. Dillard told AP “With one move, (Roeder) was able…to accomplish what we had not been able to do…So he followed his convictions and I admire that.”
In her letter to Dr. Means, Dillard wrote among other things: “You will be checking under your car everyday – because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it.” Later in the letter, Dillard added: “We will not let this abomination continue without doing everything we can to stop it.” Abortion services have not been available to women in Wichita since Dr. George Tiller’s murder in May 2009. The Feminist Majority Foundation, which conducts the oldest and largest national clinic defense project in the nation, had worked with Dr. Tiller and is assisting Dr. Means and other besieged clinics in some 14 states.