Stalemate

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Reproducing Patriarchy: Reproductive Rights Under Siege
by Pam Chamberlain and Jean Hardisty
The Public Eye Magazine - Vo. 14, No. 1

The 1990s saw a continuation of the anti-abortion violence of the 1980s. After a period of relative quiet at the end of the 1980s, the level of violent incidents escalated, including arson, bombings, butyric acid attacks, shootings, and murder. In the early 1990s, a series of shootings aimed at abortion providers shocked the country. Although the individuals who committed these actions appeared to be acting alone, they were familiar with the inflammatory rhetoric widely circulated among clinic protesters. Pamphlets such as the anonymously authored "Army of God Manual" and activist Michael Bray's 1994 book, Time To Kill, encouraged protesters to respond to the "violence" of abortion with "appropriate" action. For instance, Operation Rescue's motto became, "If you think abortion is murder, act like it."

This apparent pattern of loners choosing violent tactics to express their anti-abortion sentiments reveals a familiar phenomenon in the development of hard right and far right activity. Individual zealots are driven by their beliefs to violence which they justify by direct or indirect reference to, and association with, movement theorists and leaders. But upon closer examination, those who appeared to have acted alone certainly had been involved in thinking, talking and reading with others.26

After the murder of Dr. David Gunn in 1993 by Michael Griffin, Attorney General Janet Reno initiated a federal investigation against what Clinton called "domestic terrorism," and the Justice Department stepped into the fray. This was, however, nine years after the first clinic violence. Despite this investigation, a sniper killed another abortion provider, Dr. Bernard Slepian, in his Buffalo, New York home in October 1998 in what appeared to be part of a wave of anti-abortion violence in or near Canada. In January 1997, Neal Horsley created the infamous Nuremberg Files, an online list of abortion providers and information on their residences and families. Within hours of Slepian's murder, his name had been crossed off Nuremberg Files list. Such clear incitement has not just created a debate about freedom of speech on the Internet; it has highlighted a switch from previous self-images of anti-choice murderers as martyrs to what Mark Crutcher has rightly identified as "guerrillas."27

Other forms of harassment have developed as well. In addition to his focus on the medical community, Mark Crutcher has developed a malpractice lawsuit support program, which offers free help to lawyers and women interested in pursuing malpractice claims against abortion providers. Claiming to involve over 700 attorneys in their network, Life Dynamics actively encourages litigation that intentionally ties up the financial resources and time of abortion providers and provides its service free of charge. Its ultimate goal is to decrease access to abortion services as "the key to pro-life victory."

During this period, the pro-choice women of the Republican Party were consistently silenced by the Party's right wing, which increasingly controlled the content of Republican Party platforms at each Republican convention from the late 1970s on. As a result, uncompromising Republican platforms on abortion rights appeared to reflect the attitudes of all Republicans, but actually reflected the right's agenda.28

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