Violence to Abortion Providers

For nearly four decades reproductive health clinics and abortion providers throughout the United States have been under attack. There have been thousands of violent incidents including blockades, invasions, chemical attacks, arsons, bombings, death threats, shootings, sniper attacks, and cold-blooded murder.

Anti-abortion extremists are waging a war of attrition. This strategy targets one set of clinics and health care workers today … then after these clinics are closed or severely injured, extremists move on to target another set of clinics. While abortion remains legal, the tide of violence jeopardizes access to vital medical services.

GRANITE CITY, IL – August 1982. Dr. Hector Zevallos and his wife were kidnapped at gun-point by members of the ‘Army of God” and held hostage for over a week.

SPRINGFIELD, MO – December 1991. A masked gunman shot and paralyzed a clinic worker A second person was wounded in the attack. No arrests have been made.

HOUSTON, TX – 1991. Dr. Karpen was shot and wounded outside his clinic. Assailant was never apprehended.

PENSACOLA, FL – March 10, 1993. Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed while entering a clinic during an anti-abortion demonstration by Rescue America. Michael Griffin was sentenced to life.

WICHITA, KANSAS – August 19, 1993. Dr. George Tiller was shot in both arms at point-blank range by Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon as he was leaving his clinic. Shannon was sentenced to 11 years. During its investigation of Shannon, law enforcement uncovered the “Army of God” manual buried in her backyard.

MOBILE, AL – August 21, 1993   Dr. George Patterson is shot to death in a parking lot;  police classified his death as the result of a robbery, though nothing was taken from his car or on his body.  Patterson owned the clinic in Pensacola, FL where Dr. Gunn was shot and killed, as well as three other clinics.  

PENSACOLA, FL – July, 1994. Dr. John Bayard Britton and volunteer clinic escort Lt Col. James Barrett were murdered by anti-abortion extremist Paul Hill as they arrived to the clinic. Barrett’s wife and volunteer escort, June Barrett, was also shot and wounded in the attack.  Paul Hill was convicted of the double murders and sentenced to death.  Hill was executed in 1103, becoming a martyr in the Army of God.

VANCOUVER, CANADA – November 8, 1994. Dr. Garson Romalis was shot and severely wounded in the leg by a sniper with a high powered rifle shooting through the window of Romalis’ home. James Charles Kopp, a member of the Army of God, remains a primary suspect in the assassination attempt.

BROOKLINE, MA – December 30, 1994. John Salvi shot and killed Planned Parenthood receptionist Shannon Lowney. Going to a second clinic, he shot and killed receptionist Leanne Nichols. Five others were wounded in the attacks. Salvi then drove to a clinic in Norfolk, VA and was arrested after repeatedly shooting outside the clinic trying to gain entrance. Salvi killed himself while serving a life sentence.

ST. LOUIS, MO – August 16, 1995.  FBI arrests Robert Cook who was threatening to start a war by killing an unnamed abortion doctor on August 22.  Cook is later convicted of an armed car robbery and of using some of the funds from the robbery to buy and store an arsenal of weapons to kill abortion providers.

ANCASTER, ONTARIO – November 10, 1995. Dr. Hugh Short was shot in the elbow by a sniper using a high-powered rifle to shoot through the window of Short’s home. Army of God member James Charles Kopp charged in the assassination attempt.

NEW ORLEANS, LA – December 1996. Dr C. Jackson was brutally stabbed 15 times outside his clinic. The assailant was then arrested at a Baton Rouge clinic as he lay in wait for another doctor.

ATLANTA, GA – January  6, 1997.Two bombs explode at Northside Family Planning. The first bomb destroyed the clinic interior, and the second bomb, an anti-personnel device, went off an hour later injuring seven, including federal law enforcement agents. Three weeks later a similar double bombing occurred at an area lesbian nightclub, injuring five people. The Army of God claimed credit for both bombings in letters to news media. Eric Robert Rudolph was eventually charged in the bombing after he also bombed a clinic in Birmingham, AL in 1998 (see below). 

WINNIPEG, CANADA – November 11, 1997, Dr. Jack Fainman was shot by a sniper with a high powered rifle while in his home. Missing his heart by only inches, the bullet tore through his shoulder. Army of God member James Charles Kopp remains a primary suspect.

ROCHESTER, NY – October 28, 1997. Dr. David Gandell was wounded by flying glass when a sniper with a high powered rifle shot into his home.  Army of God member James Charles Kopp remains a primary suspect.

BIRMINGHAM, AL – January 29, 1998. A bomb packed with nails exploded at the New Woman, All Women clinic killing the security guard and maiming a clinic nurse. Army of God claimed credit in letter to news media. Eric Robert Rudolph was charged; and placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.  He remained a fugitive for 5 years before he was finally captured in May 1103.  Rudolph pled guilty to the Alabama and Atlanta bombings, and was sentenced to four consecutive life terms.

AMHERST, NY – October 23, 1998. Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot and killed by a sniper with a high powered rifle while standing with his wife and children in the kitchen of his home. Army of God member James Charles Kopp was charged in the slaying and placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.  Kopp escaped through Mexico to Ireland and France, remaining a fugitive for three years.  He was arrested in Dinan, France where he had taken refuge in a monastery run by a St. Pius X Catholic sect.

VANCOUVER, CANADA – July 11, 2000. Dr. Garson Romalis was stabbed in the back by an unknown assailant as he entered his clinic. Assailant remains at large.

WICHITA, KS – May 31, 2009.  Dr. George Tiller, a longtime target of anti-abortion extremists, was shot and killed by a single gunshot to his head.  Tiller was killed as he was attending services at his church. Anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder has been convicted of the murder and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.  Roeder reportedly had participated in demonstrations organized by Operation Rescue and had a note in his car with Operation Rescue’s Cheryl Sullenger’s name and phone number when he was arrested.  According to press accounts, Roeder had also met and been in communication with Army of God members Shelley Shannon, David Leach, Michael Bray, and Regina Dinwiddie.

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – November 27, 2015. Robert Lewis Dear killed three and injured nine at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Dear has been formally charged with 179 felony counts, including eight counts of first-degree murder and 131 counts of attempted first-degree murder. Dear’s rampage was one of the worst acts of violence carried out by an anti-abortion extremist in the United States.  Dear used the language “no more baby parts” upon his arrest, leading many to believe that his motivation for attacking the reproductive health clinic may have been tied to the release of several deceptive and highly edited videos created by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress several months prior to the attack.

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