a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Autumn/Winter 2003 Issue
Table of Contents
U.S. / International News
Inviting Women to Share Their Abortion Stories
Two competing campaigns encouraging women to talk about their abortions have been launched in Canada, one pro-choice and one anti-choice.
We are proud to announce Clarification.ca, a creative campaign to help counter a similar anti-choice initiative (described below).
In December, Lefty Lucy, a Halifax public relations firm (www.leftylucy.ca), launched www.clarification.ca. This wonderful new website, co-sponsored by the Pro-Choice Action Network, offers various pro-choice information and resources in a fun, creative way. For example, you can download an assortment of clever button and sticker designs, and print them out on label paper. Pro-choice posters can be downloaded as well. Please check it out!
The website asks pro-choice women who have had abortions to complete legal affidavits attesting to the importance of being able to access a safe, legal abortion, or how having an abortion made a positive difference in their lives. The affidavits will be used by the Pro-Choice Action Network in two main ways: to help publicize the fact that most women don't regret their abortions and are grateful they had the choice; and to counter any frivolous lawsuits or court cases brought by anti-choice plaintiffs on the alleged "dangers" of abortion.
If you're pro-choice and have had an abortion, please go to www.clarification.ca/share.html to fill out an affidavit.
Tell all your friends!
Detailed instructions are on the website.
"Silent No More" Anti-Choice Campaign
In October, anti-choice activist Denise Mountenay of Edmonton Alberta, founded "Canada Silent No More", to reach out to the "thousands" of Canadian women she believes to be victims of "post-abortive syndrome," an alleged traumatic stress disorder. Mountenay says she wants to make the public aware that abortion is "harmful emotionally, physically, and spiritually to women and others." The campaign's website address is: www.togetherforlife.ca/Silent
Please come out and March for Women's Lives on Sunday, April 25, 2004!
To demonstrate overwhelming majority support for a woman’s right to choose safe, legal abortion and birth control, the largest pro-choice majority in history will march in Washington DC on April 25, 2004. The time is right for a public demonstration of historic size in support of abortion rights and reproductive freedom for all women. Women's rights are under attack in America as they haven't been in over a decade, and the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. in 1973 now hangs by a thread in the Supreme Court. The March for Women's Lives will address the assaults on women's rights and lives, both nationally and globally, that restrict women's access to reproductive health services and limit women's ability to have a child or to end a pregnancy.
Please sign up now! For details and full information on the march, go to www.marchforchoice.org
Originally called the "March for Choice," march organizers recently announced a new name for the national march: The March for Women's Lives. The name change reflects the urgency of the issue and the huge diversity of the groups co-sponsoring the march. Already over 600 organizations have signed on to co-sponsor the March for Women's Lives, and the list grows daily. The groups represent a wide range of women's, civil rights, labour, lesbian and gay, disability, people of colour, campus and religious groups, as well as health clinics and service providers.
For the first time ever, this pro-choice march will be a collaborative effort. Four leading national women’s rights groups have come together to organize this momentous event. The Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Organization for Women, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America are the principal organizers of the march and have pooled efforts and resources to lay the groundwork. Other progressive organizations have signed on as co-sponsors—offering everything from member participation to help spreading the word and help defraying costs.
The march will begin at noon from the Lincoln Memorial, although participants may begin assembling as early as 10 am. After marching on Washington, a rally will be held from 1-4 pm on the National Mall. Special seating will be available for people with disabilities. The rally program will be signed for the hearing impaired. The route is wheelchair accessible and transportation will be provided for those who cannot negotiate the route.
Some Canadian pro-choice individuals and groups are planning to attend the March For Women's Lives in Washington DC—including representatives from the Pro-Choice Action Network. You are welcome to join us! (Travel and accommodation costs and arrangements are the responsibility of individuals.)
However, Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada has plans to organize local events and marches in several cities across Canada, with help from the Pro-Choice Action Network. These events will not only give Canadians the opportunity to provide solidarity and support to our American sisters, they will help spread the word in Canada that the promise of abortion rights has not yet been fully realized here. We are still in a battle to improve access to abortion services in Canada, including obtaining full funding for clinics and better hospital access, and countering anti-choice politics and interference.
To inquire about or help with possible local events in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes, please contact the national Planned Parenthood office in Ottawa; Tel: 613-241-4474. To join up with events in Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and BC, please contact the Pro-Choice Action Network in Vancouver; Tel: 604-736-2800.The Pro-Choice Clothesline
A successful "Pro-Choice Clothesline" event was held on the northeast corner of Commercial Drive and Broadway in Vancouver on July 26, a hot and sunny Saturday. The event took over the same public space occupied by anti-choice protesters every Friday around noon. (The Everywoman's Health Centre abortion clinic is across the street).
The organizers hung up clotheslines between poles and trees, provided pieces of torn sheets and markers to passing women, and asked them to answer the question: “As a woman I am pro-choice because…” Many women eagerly participated by penning personal and political messages. Within a couple of hours, the clotheslines were filled to overflowing with heartfelt pro-choice messages.
The event gave women in the community a cathartic opportunity to express their pro-choice support in a positive and public way. Countless women expressed gratitude and relief for the countering presence of pro-choice activists on the "Drive".
The Pro-Choice Clothesline was organized by the Reproductive Rights Coalition (sponsored by Vancouver Women's Health Collective), of which the Pro-Choice Action Network is a part. The group also provided pro-choice literature at an information table.Anti-Choice Motion Defeated in Parliament
On October 2, Canadian Parliament defeated a motion to examine the health risks and benefits of abortion. The vote was 139-66, with Alliance MP's voting in favour and MP's from other parties mostly voting against.
Canadian Alliance MP Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, Sask.) introduced the Private Member's Motion No. M-83 in Parliament last year. The motion called for the justice committee to examine whether abortions are medically necessary as defined by the Canada Health Act, and to compare the health risks of women undergoing abortions compared to women who carry their babies to full term. Over 10,000 anti-choice Canadians signed petitions supporting motion M-83. During his speech in support of the motion, Breitkreuz cried crocodile tears over the "damage" done to women by abortion, despite the overwhelming evidence that legalized abortion is very safe and generally helps to improve the lives of women and their families.
In response to the Alliance motion, NDP-MP Svend Robinson (Burnaby-Douglas, BC) introduced his own motion in Parliament in June, calling on the government to "establish a task force on the integration of abortion into the health delivery system as a medical procedure in accordance with the five principles of the Canada Health Act and ensure Medicare-funded hospital and clinic abortion services exist in all provinces and territories." The motion also called to "increase the proportion of hospitals providing abortions from the current 17% to 33% by 2005" and "ensure that Health Canada adopts a framework on sexual and reproductive health that includes abortion as a safe, legal medical procedure, available to women on demand." The motion has not yet been dealt with.Supreme Court Declines Bubble Zone Appeal
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed in September an application to appeal a BC anti-choice protester's conviction for violating an access zone outside a Vancouver abortion clinic. Jim Demers says he will now take his case to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, which has some authority under the Organization of American States. Although Canada is a member of the organization, it is unlikely Demers will prevail there, and even if he does, the decision would have little relevance under Canadian law.
Demers was arrested in 1996 for violating the Access to Abortion Services Act outside Everywoman's Health Centre in Vancouver. Convicted in 1997, Demers appealed twice and lost twice. In his appeals, Demers argued that the clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that says "everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of the person" applies to fetuses. He said that made BC's law unconstitutional, since its effect was to facilitate murder (by abortion). The courts decided otherwise.
The Access to Abortion Services Act was brought in by BC's previous NDP government in 1995 to protect abortion providers and women seeking abortions. It provides for access zones around clinics of at least 50 metres, within which abortion protesters are not allowed to set foot. The Act has withstood various court challenges over the years.Busy Bill Busted Again
Canada's most colourful anti-choice protester has been busy over the past few months.
Around early June, Bill Whatcott of Regina spent 15 days in the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre for apparently causing a disturbance and resisting arrest at an anti-abortion protest in Moose Jaw. In a June 11 interview with Neal Horsley, operator of the extremist Nuremberg Files website in the U.S. (which lists doctors and their personal information), Whatcott told the story of how the RCMP officer who arrested him and took him in was allegedly a "born again pro-life Christian" who supported him and prayed with him for an hour in the police van before taking him in. Whatcott was out of jail by June 18.
The Pro-Choice Action Network reported the alleged unprofessional conduct of an RCMP officer to the Regina RCMP. After an investigation, the RCMP acknowledged that Whatcott and the officer had prayed together, and also that "the officer and Mr. Whatcott had discussed religion, their common beliefs and concerns in this regard. [The constable] advised that he had informed Mr. Whatcott that his delivery method of expressing his concerns was quite different." The investigator concluded that "The officer's actions did not violate RCMP policy or regulations."
On July 22, Whatcott was found guilty and fined $500 for obstructing police when he refused to stop displaying graphic signs against police orders in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan on July 2.
Planned Parenthood Regina had filed a complaint against Bill Whatcott with the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses' (SALPN). Whatcott is a nurse. Planned Parenthood Regina claims that Whatcott's public campaign denouncing the agency and its work constitutes professional misconduct and he should have his nursing license pulled. Whatcott has demonstrated several times outside the PP-Regina office, holding offensive and slanderous signs, and allegedly harassing clients and staff. The association's discipline committee duly charged him and held a disciplinary hearing in late August. A decision is expected probably in the new year.
In late September, Whatcott handed out 5,000 anti-gay flyers in Edmonton, a city he was considering moving to, but hasn't yet. Over the past few years, Whatcott has staged various public demonstrations, and has distributed inflammatory anti-gay literature to random houses. He has organized "Heterosexual Family Pride" marches in Regina and was arrested and jailed once in North Dakota for sneaking across the border. His wife left him after that.
Whatcott has been arrested numerous times in Saskatchewan, as well as at least once in Toronto, from where he moved in late 1999. He describes himself as a reformed homosexual drug addict who found God. He regularly distributes email missives to his friends and associates, which then find their way onto the Internet, allowing everyone to follow his antics. In his latest email (Nov 30) he says his behaviour has become even too extreme for The Interim, Canada's national anti-choice newspaper. Whatcott complains the paper has refused to continue publicizing his court cases.Saskatchewan Approves Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception
In September, the Saskatchewan government changed the law to allow pharmacists to dispense the emergency contra-ceptive pill directly to women. So far, 245 out of 358 pharmacies in the province offer the pill. Pharmacists who wish to participate must take a comprehensive training program that teaches them how to dispense the drug, such as taking medical histories, dealing with disclosure, filling out consent forms, and providing women with some basic counselling.
Emergency contraception must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, so timely access is important, especially on weekends or evenings when doctors may not be available. The drug is not effective if a woman is already pregnant.
Emergency contraception is not available over-the-counter in Manitoba, where the government has recently refused to provide it free to women who can't afford it. Seven other provinces cover the cost of the drug for women who can't pay. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, along with pharmacists and the Montreal drug manufacturer Paladin Labs, has been lobbying Manitoba to approve coverage for the drug, but Manitoba will not cover any contraceptive. In 2000, the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association endorsed a "protection-of-conscience" policy, which allows Manitoba pharmacists to refuse to fill "morally inappropriate" prescriptions, such as emergency contraception and euthanasia drugs.
BC was the first province to approve over-the-counter dispensing of emergency contraception in 2000, with Quebec following the next year. A pilot study conducted in Ontario over 2001/02 allowed limited over-the-counter dispensing in several cities, but the study has now been discontinued. In March 2002, Paladin Labs, distributors of Plan B emergency contraception applied to Health Canada to change the drug's status from prescription to over-the-counter, which will eventually allow all provinces to do so.Canada News Bytes
Anti-Choice UBC Students Win Damages— In June, the BC Supreme Court awarded $5,000 in damages to three Lifeline students at the University of BC. The students' anti-abortion display was torn down and trashed by three elected student leaders, Erin Kaiser, Lesley Washington, and Jon Chandler, in November 1999. The pro-choice students had previously been suspended, and were ordered to pay the fine. However, the judge ruled that UBC's Alma Mater Society (AMS) was not vicariously responsible for the vandalism, and that AMS was not violating students' academic freedom by forbidding the images to be displayed indoors. The rule was implemented by the AMS for safety reasons. The images consist of grotesquely offensive colour photos comparing abortion to the genocide of the Holocaust, black lynching, and other atrocities. Similar displays have led to riots and violence on several U.S. campuses. The student who initiated the destruction of the display, Erin Kaiser, was a Jew and a woman who had recently had an abortion. She was deeply upset and angered by the display because it likened women who have abortions to Nazis.
Halifax Morgentaler Clinic Closes — On November 27, Dr. Henry Morgentaler announced the closure of his Halifax clinic, 13 years after it opened. He said it's because women in Nova Scotia can now get appropriate and fully-funded care at Halifax's Victoria General Hospital. Dr. Morgentaler reportedly felt quite confident and content that the hospital's service had greatly improved, and was equal to Morgentaler clinic standards. The hospital has adopted Morgentaler's method and is using the doctor he personally trained. Another reason for the closure may have been because the volume of abortions done at the clinic has always been relatively low. The provincial government illegally refused to fund abortions at the clinic, and women were forced to pay for their own abortions, which probably made the clinic unsustainable over the long-term. In a 1999 interview, Dr. Morgentaler acknowledged that his Halifax clinic was not profitable and was supported by income from his other clinics. Campaign Life Coalition Nova Scotia announced they will shift their anti-choice protests to the Victoria General hospital now that the clinic has closed. The hospital responded by saying it will take legal action if necessary to keep protesters off their property.
Altercation at New Brunswick Protest — A female anti-abortion protester was arrested during an anti-choice demonstration outside Oromocto Public Hospital in New Brunswick on December 14. The RCMP said the woman allegedly began shouting at a crowd before rushing over to a man and striking him in the chest. He was not injured. The protest and candlelight vigil was led by Peter Ryan, executive director of New Brunswick Right to Life Association. It was preceded by a motorcade of about 80 cars that wound its way through the town to protest abortions being performed at the hospital. Ryan and his association also sent out a thoughtless press release that named one of the area abortion providers. The Oromocto Hospital criticized the release, citing safety concerns related to anti-abortion violence against doctors. Luckily, local papers refused to print the name.Second-Trimester Abortions Banned in U.S.
Pro-Choice Groups Obtain Immediate Injunctions to Protect Doctors
On November 5, American President George W. Bush enacted the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, a law that bans most 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions throughout the U.S. The ban is the culmination of years of work and propaganda by the anti-choice movement, and is the most sweeping and severe restriction on abortion rights ever passed in the U.S.
Pro-choice groups were prepared, however. Five days before the ban was signed into law, the National Abortion Federation (NAF), represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a lawsuit in federal district court in New York State challenging the constitutionality of the coming ban. NAF represents about half of American abortion providers. The group asked the court to issue an injunction to stop the government from prosecuting NAF members while the case proceeds. On the same day, the Center for Reproductive Rights, as well as Planned Parenthood, filed similar suits in Nebraska and California, respectively.
Only one hour after President Bush signed the ban (flanked by an array of grinning men in suits, with not a woman in sight), a temporary restraining order against the new law was put into effect in Nebraska. The judge questioned the law's constitutionality because it does not include a health exception for the woman. However, this injunction applies only to four Nebraska doctors who brought this particular suit, including Dr. Leroy Carhart, who won the original U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a similar law in June 2000.
Fortunately, on the very next day (Nov 6), the other two injunctions were granted. NAF and the ACLU won theirs based on the fact that it does not include a health exemption for women. The injunction protects all NAF members who perform 2nd and 3rd-trimester abortions across the country. Hours later, Planned Parenthood won their injunction in a California court, where the judge called the ban "an undue burden on a woman's right to choose." The Planned Parenthood injunction protects all doctors who work at 900 Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide.
The three injunctions together will protect most U.S. providers until the pro-choice lawsuits go to court.
The Bush administration then applied to the courts to skip preliminary stages in each of the three lawsuits against the ban. This would allow the government to move directly to separate trials in order to stop the lawsuits and injunctions sooner. The Bush request means that enforcement of the new law is suspended for 120 days until a full court hearing decides whether those abortions are ever necessary for a woman's health. Trials will be held in three separate cities on March 29.
The new law is vaguely worded and does not specify any known abortion technique. The term "partial-birth abortion" has no medical meaning and is a political term invented by the anti-choice movement. The ban could potentially cover all abortions, since it doesn't even specify a gestational limit. However, pro-choice groups believe that the law as currently written, is primarily enforceable against two methods of mid- to late-term abortion: dilatation and evacuation (D&E), the safest and most common method for abortions between 12 and 18 weeks, and intact dilatation and extraction ("intact D&X”). This latter procedure is used in the third trimester for serious fetal abnormalities or in the late second trimester for women whose abortions have been delayed for whatever reason. (For more information on these abortion methods, see the Spring 2003 issue of Pro-Choice Press, "Return of Criminal Abortion to U.S.")
Anti-choice members of Congress assert that intact D&X, in particular, is never necessary to preserve the woman's health, and this is written into the preamble of the Act. When they collected their "evidence" for this, however, they failed to consult any doctor who actually performs the procedure. These doctors know that the technique lowers the risk of perforating the uterus and lacerating the cervix, reduces blood loss and other complications, protects fertility, and is less physically stressful to the patient. Regardless, the law is clearly unconstitutional because it also bans the most common second-trimester procedure, thereby placing a gross "undue burden" on women's right to have an abortion.
As a result of the pending pro-choice lawsuits against the ban, the courts are expected to overturn the new law, based on previous precedent and the clear constitutional issues at stake. However, if President Bush is able to appoint more anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court, and the case eventually makes its way there, the Court could potentially uphold the law and essentially remove women's right to abortion in the U.S. after 12 weeks.Terrorist Trio Put Away
In the last nine months, two prominent anti-abortion terrorists in the U.S. have been convicted of major crimes of violence against abortion providers (James Kopp and Clayton Waagner), and one alleged terrorist has been caught and indicted (Eric Rudolph). All three had been on the FBI's Most Wanted List.
On May 9, convicted killer James Kopp was sentenced to the maximum allowable term, 25 years to life in prison, for the shooting death of Dr. Barnett Slepian of New York in October 1998. Kopp hid in the woods behind Slepian's house and gunned down the doctor in his kitchen, in front of his wife and children. Kopp will not be eligible for parole for 25 years.
Kopp was convicted in March on state charges of intentional second-degree murder in the Slepian killing. He is the main suspect in four other non-fatal sniper shootings of doctors since 1994, including three Canadian doctors. Although Kopp has been charged in one of the Canadian shootings, it is unlikely he will ever stand trial in Canada. He next faces federal charges in the U.S. under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, for using deadly force to prevent Dr. Slepian from performing abortions, and for using a firearm to commit a crime. The federal trial has been delayed until the summer of 2004.
James Kopp's assigned public attorney tried to have the federal case thrown out in June, claiming that it violates Kopp's rights to be protected from "double jeopardy," since Kopp has already faced trial in a state court. Federal prosecutors rejected the argument, because the federal charges differ from the state charges. In addition, prosecutors denied Kopp's claims that he could not get a fair trial in Erie County (Buffalo) because of publicity over his March murder conviction there.
Kopp also requested a tax-funded anti-choice lawyer. He wants to replace his public defender William G. Clauss, citing differences of opinion over defence strategy and over the issue of abortion rights. Kopp has refused to communicate with Clauss since July 3. In December, a judge denied Kopp's request for an anti-choice attorney, but appointed a new public attorney for him, John F. Humann.
In August, Kopp's two accomplices were sentenced to time served (2 years, 5 months) and released from prison. Loretta Marra and Dennis Malvasi, both violent anti-abortion extremists, helped Kopp avoid capture while he was on the lam for over two years. No evidence tied the married couple directly to Dr. Slepian's murder, however. The judge thought the punishment she gave was too lenient, but she felt bound by sentencing guidelines. The two had been facing a sentence of up to five years.
A five-year manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officers came to an end in May when accused abortion clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph was captured in Murphy, North Carolina. A local rookie police officer found him rooting through a garbage bin behind a supermarket. Rudolph was thin, but in good health, and clean-shaven with clean clothes. He claimed to have been living alone in the North Carolina wilderness during his fugitive years.
Rudolph was flown to Birmingham Alabama, and arraigned on charges of bombing the New Woman, All Women Health Care Clinic there in January 1998. An off-duty police officer was killed and a nurse seriously injured in the blast. Rudolph is also the main suspect in several other bombings: the Olympic Games bomb in Atlanta in 1996, which killed one person and injured over 100; an Atlanta abortion clinic that was bombed twice within one hour in January 1997, injuring rescue workers and bystanders; and a February 1997 bombing of a gay and lesbian nightclub in Atlanta, which injured five people.
Because the evidence against Rudolph in the Birmingham clinic bombing appears to be stronger than in the other bombings, prosecutors are focusing on that particular crime. For example, investigators found traces of the same type of explosive used in the Birmingham clinic bombing in Rudolph's mobile home and pickup truck.
Rudolph had already been charged with the Birmingham bombing, but in June, a grand jury re-indicted Rudolph on the same charges, a legal move that allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty. Rudolph pled not guilty and his trial date is currently set for August 2, 2004.
Meanwhile, investigators searched Rudolph's campsites for additional evidence. They believe he had help from locals while on the lam, but Rudolph denies it. Investigators searched the home of Rolf Reinhard Fonda, of Andrews, North Carolina, after a tip that Rudolph may have stayed there before the bombings. Although nothing connecting him to Rudolph was found, Fonda was arrested and charged with violating federal gun laws and possession of various illegal drugs. In July, anti-abortion terrorist Brenda Kay Phillips of Murphy, North Carolina, told the media she expects to be indicted on charges of helping Rudolph evade capture. She is currently in jail awaiting trial on unrelated charges of firing a shotgun into an Asheville NC abortion clinic in February. After her arrest, she told FBI agents she had helped Rudolph elude capture. However, authorities have not found her claims to be credible.
In August, a judge awarded $115 million in damages in a civil lawsuit brought against Rudolph by Emily Lyons, the nurse injured in the Birmingham clinic bombing. Lyons does not expect to receive any money from Rudolph; her purpose in launching the suit was to keep Rudolph from profiting from his crimes.
"He wanted to kill me. He did the complete opposite. He made me stronger."
Anti-abortion extremist Clayton Lee Waagner was convicted in December for mailing threatening letters containing fake anthrax to over 700 abortion clinics in 24 states in the fall of 2001. The jury deliberated for only 2½ hours. He was found guilty on 51 of 53 counts, including the most serious charge: threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Waagner is already serving a 30-year jail term for weapons violations, and other charges are pending in several states. He escaped from prison in early 2001 and engaged in a crime spree, including stalking abortion clinic staff, robbing banks, stealing vehicles, and kidnapping the owner of one of his stolen cars.
Waagner acted as his own lawyer during the November trial. His main defence was his claims that there was no hard proof he actually sent the letters, that he was not capable of doing it, and that he only confessed to the crime to "take the pressure" off other anti-abortion activists. Initially, he tried to use the defence of "necessity," claiming he had to carry out the anthrax threats in order to protect unborn babies, but the judge rejected that. In response, Waagner filed a motion for the judge to recuse herself from his case because of "prejudice". This request was also dismissed.
In emotional testimony, clinic workers told the jury of the fear and trauma that the anthrax threats caused them. Some women were forced to disrobe in front of strangers and undergo invasive and terrifying decontamination procedures. In many cases, all their clothes and belongings were also taken away for decontamination, including their wallets and car keys.
Sentencing will take place in about six months and Waagner faces life in prison.Doctor Killer Executed
Threats of Violence Escalate
A convicted anti-choice murderer who was on death row for nine years was put to death by lethal injection in Starke, Florida on September 3. Paul Hill fatally shot Dr. John Britton and James Barrett, and injured Barrett’s wife June, as the three arrived at the Ladies Center in Pensacola Florida, on July 29, 1994.
About 50 extremist supporters of Hill, many connected to the shadowy Army of God movement, converged at the prison on the day of the execution to protest and to call for more doctor murders. Hill, who remained unrepentant to the end, held a press conference the day before his death, and the mainstream media gave him a national platform on which to spout his views of “justifiable homicide” of doctors. Hill’s last words as he lay strapped to a gurney were: "If you believe abortion is a lethal force, you should oppose the force and do what you have to do to stop it. May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected."
Pro-choice groups warned clinics of a possible escalation in violence because of the incitement. On the day of the execution, at least one clinic in Florida received a fake bomb threat, and a clinic arson was committed in Indianapolis three days later. Also, two weeks before the execution, four top officials in Florida received threatening anti-abortion letters with bullets inside, demanding that the Hill execution be stopped. The officials were Florida's Attorney General, the Department of Corrections Secretary, the Florida State Prison Warden, and the Pensacola Circuit Judge who sentenced Paul Hill. Governor Jeb Bush, who was also threatened in the letters, said the execution would go ahead as scheduled.
Then in November, a major clinic bombing attack was narrowly averted when the FBI arrested Stephen John Jordi of Coconut Creek, Florida. Jordi was planning to firebomb clinics in South Florida, as well as gay clubs and churches that were not sufficiently anti-abortion. Jordi's brother and pastor had turned him in after Jordi talked to them about his plans. He had reportedly asked his pastor whether it was "Biblical" to bomb abortion clinics. An FBI informant had also befriended him in the weeks leading up to the planned bombing. Jordi was ready to carry out his plans in the next day or two when he was caught with bomb materials on November 11. The FBI informant had helped him buy the supplies that very day. He was caught after he tried to escape by jumping off a pier into the ocean. Jordi was a fan of Paul Hill and had attended the demonstration against the execution in September. He has been jailed and indicted on charges of attempted arson, distribution of information on explosives, and possession of an unregistered firearm (a silencer). He pled not guilty.
Early on New Years' Day, 2004, the same clinic where Hill committed the murders suffered an arson attack. Luckily, damage was minimal because a passerby spotted the fire before it got out of control.
"It takes a strong commitment from law enforcement in order to capture these criminals. We thank all the officers whose hard work helps to prevent violence against abortion providers."
Tragedy of the Missing Drug
Africa has the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and most of these deaths are completely preventable with basic obstetrical care. In all African countries except South Africa, abortion is also illegal and therefore unsafe, contributing significantly to the maternal death rate.
The estimated number of maternal deaths in 1995 for the world was 515,000, a figure which is probably underreported. (The figure for 1996 was almost 600,000.) Just over half of these deaths occurred in Africa, with about 42% in Asia, 4% in Latin America and the Caribbean, and less than 1% in developed countries. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth on average take the lives of one out of very 48 women in the developing world. Plus, for every woman who died in 1996, about 30 more suffered debilitating injuries, infections, and disabilities, many of them permanent.
The causes of global maternal deaths are:
Tens of thousands of deaths in Africa could be prevented every year by the introduction of a safe and commonly used drug: misoprostol. This is a synthetic prostaglandin that causes uterine contractions. It is a basic and essential drug in obstetric practice around the world, with uses raging from labour induction, softening the cervix, stopping postpartum hemorrhage, and uterine evacuation, e.g., for missed and incomplete abortions. The drug is life-saving for common problems like pre-eclampsia and postpartum hemorrhage. In most cases, alternatives to misoprostol are ineffective or far too expensive for most African nations.
Unbelievably, misoprostol is still not registered or available in Africa, except for South Africa, Ghana, and Uganda. In contrast, Viagra has been introduced throughout Africa without delay, even though it has serious side-effects and no medically important indication. The World Health Organization's (WHO) list of essential drugs does not even contain misoprostol or any other prostaglandin.
The main reasons that misoprostol is not generally available in Africa are: It is not profitable to the U.S. pharmaceutical firm that manufactures it; and governments and decision-making bodies do not care enough about African women's lives and health to force the issue. The unavailability of misoprostol in Africa is a tragic example of how economic and discriminatory priorities worsen gender inequality—in this case, by actually killing and maiming women.
The unnecessary withholding of misoprostol from Africa's women is a terrible and immoral violation of women's fundamental human rights and right to life. To urge the WHO to license and approve misoprostol throughout Africa without delay, please send an email to:
Hans Hogerzeil, Secretary of the WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Drugs, email@example.com and
Paul van Look, director of the department for reproductive health and research, firstname.lastname@example.org Endnotes
In June, the Dutch ship "Langenort," operated by Women on Waves, arrived in Poland to provide off-shore abortions to Polish women. Abortion is illegal in Poland.
The ship, run by an all-female crew including a nurse, an abortion doctor, and a gynecologist, is licensed by the Dutch government to perform medical abortions using mifepristone (RU-486). Staff also dispense contraception and advice, and offer counselling and sexual workshops.
The floating clinic was the brainchild of Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts, who wanted to help women in countries where abortion is illegal, and also publicize their plight. The ship is designed to pick up women on shore and take them out to international waters where Dutch law then applies. The ship sailed to Ireland in 2001, but was unable to provide any abortions because of legal glitches, which have since been ironed out.
The ship was denied entry into Poland, but after an off-shore wait of two days, sailed into the port anyway. It was greeted by a hail of insults, eggs, and red paint thrown by angry demonstrators. A media uproar ensued, with the Polish government and anti-abortion groups protesting heavily against the ship's purpose, and one Catholic bishop calling it "pure piracy." Polish authorities boarded the ship and sealed off the medicine cabinet, but did not confiscate any drugs. Harbour officials also levied a $3,150 fine on the ship for failing to identify itself as it entered the port. Women on Waves paid the fine, but said they would appeal its imposition, since they were unfairly denied access to the port.
So many Polish women requested services that the ship extended its stay in Poland to two weeks. Three boatloads of women were sailed out to international waters where the medicine cabinet was legally opened and drugs dispensed. The Polish government launched an investigation into possible illegal activities, but because mifepristone was never dispensed on Polish soil, the government had to drop the investigation due to lack of evidence.U.S/International News Bytes
Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception Recommended Across U.S. — An advisory panel voted in mid-December to recommend allowing Plan B emergency contraception to be sold without a prescription, nation-wide. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will make a final decision in the next few weeks, but the FDA usually follows the advice of its advisory panels. Anti-abortion groups protested, saying that emergency contraception is a form of abortion. If taken within about 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, emergency contraception prevents pregnancy in most cases.
"Jane Roe" Plaintiff Tries to Overturn Ruling that Legalized Abortion — In June, Norma McCorvey filed a motion in federal district court in Dallas, Texas, asking for a hearing to reopen her 1973 Roe v. Wade court case. McCorvey was the original plaintiff—"Roe"—in the historic Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. She has since turned anti-choice. McCorvey wanted the court to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into scientific and anecdotal evidence (in the form of affidavits from 1,000 women) that shows abortion hurts women. Her goal is to eventually reach the Supreme Court and have the Roe v. Wade ruling overturned. The court quickly dismissed her request because it wasn't made within a "reasonable time" after the 1973 judgment. The following month, McCorvey appealed that dismissal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas.
Supreme Court Denies Appeal by Anti-Choice Extremists — The U.S. Supreme Court rejected without comment in June, an appeal from anti-choice protesters who were ordered to pay a $107 million judgment for targeting clinic doctors with "Wanted" posters and the Internet website Nuremberg Files. The court had been asked to give free-speech protection to the activists, who included the American Coalition of Life Activists, Advocates for Life Ministries, and 14 individuals. However, even the Bush administration asked the court to let the 1999 lower court ruling stand, which said that the posters constituted illegal threats against providers. The anti-abortion defendants appealed, and in May 2002, the appeals court upheld the Oregon ruling, saying that the website and posters were not free speech and constituted a "true threat" of violence. The defendants then appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. The Nuremberg Files website, operated by extremist Neal Horsley, has been shut down numerous times over the last five years by various Internet Service Providers (ISP's) because of its threatening nature. It features dripping blood and lists the names and personal information of abortion providers and supporters. In November 2003, the site, along with Horsley's other sites, including www.abortioncams.com (featuring pictures of staff and patients entering abortion clinics), were shut down again by an ISP for "violation by way of threats, harassment, and collection of personal data."
Australia Clinic Heroes Honoured — In December, two men who disarmed a gunman in an abortion clinic waiting room were awarded medals for bravery. Sandro De Maria received a silver medal and Timothy Anderson got a bronze one. In July 2001, anti-abortion fanatic Peter Knight burst into a Melbourne, Australia abortion clinic and shot a security guard dead. When he turned his gun on a woman patient, the woman's partner, De Maria, grabbed the rifle and wrestled with the gunman. After a shot was fired into the ceiling, the gunman was disarmed with the help of Anderson. Knight, who had planned to kill everyone in the clinic and burn it down, was sentenced to life in prison in November 2002. Said a proud De Maria after getting his medal, "I think a million and one things could have happened that day, so we are pretty fortunate to have walked away from it.
California Teen Dies After Taking Mifepristone — In September, 18-year old Holly Patterson of East Bay California, died after taking the abortion pill mifepristone (RU-486). The drug was administered by a Planned Parenthood clinic to end her seven-week pregnancy. The woman's father, Monty Patterson, believed she did not have adequate information and supervision to do the abortion on her own and demanded an investigation. Anti-choice groups filed arguments in October with the Food and Drug Administration to review mifepristone and pull it from the market. In November, a California senator introduced legislation to suspend the FDA's approval of mifepristone until a drug review is carried out. Patterson died of septic shock, a severe bacterial infection that allegedly arose from fetal fragments left in her uterus. Septic shock is a rare complication that can occur as a result of any medical intervention involving the uterus or vagina, including childbirth. In 2001, a Canadian woman also died of a bacterial infection after she took mifepristone as part of a drug trial. The death led to the suspension of the Canadian study, which has still not resumed. In spite of such rare and tragic deaths, however, mifepristone is a well-tested and extremely safe drug. Tens of millions of medical abortions have been performed around the world since the late 1980's.
English Clergywoman Leads Fight Against Genetic Terminations — Joanna Jepson, a clergywoman in England, is waging a legal battle over the abortion of a third-trimester fetus with cleft lip and palate, which was performed on an unidentified woman under unknown circumstances. The case has provoked a huge media furore in England. Jepson, who was born with a facial disfigurement herself, says she wants to fight a "culture of perfection" and eugenic-style human selection. She claims a cleft palate is not a good enough reason to carry out a late termination, since facial deformities can be corrected by surgery. In early December, she took her case to England's High Court, where she hopes to persuade judges the abortion was unlawful. England's 1967 Abortion Act allows termination after 24 weeks only in cases where the fetus may have a serious handicap. Pro-choice groups say the law is deliberately vague to allow for medical discretion, and they are angry that Jepson has intervened in a private matter between a woman and her doctors. However, the antiquated law says that even an early abortion can only be performed when two doctors agree it is necessary for health reasons. The law excludes women from the decision-making process and does not treat abortion as a fundamental right of women.
Portugal Pardons Jailed Abortion Provider, While Prosecuting Others — Portugal's president has granted a Christmas pardon to a hospital nurse serving an 8½ year jail term for performing illegal abortions. The nurse, Mario do Ceu Ribeiro, has been in jail since February 2002, when she was convicted in a mass trial under the Catholic country's tough abortion laws. Abortion is banned in Portugal except in cases involving rape or serious health issues. The nurse's pardon came just weeks after another abortion trial got underway in central Portugal, re-igniting the abortion debate in the staunchly Catholic country. A total of 19 people—seven patients, their support persons, a doctor, and two nurses stand accused of participating in illegal abortions. The trial is being heavily covered by European news media, which showed images of humiliated low-income women forced to stand before the judge and the cameras. If convicted, the seven women face sentences of up to three years in jail. Besides the doctor and two nurses, other "accomplices" charged include the parents of one young woman who accompanied their daughter on the day of her abortion and a taxi driver who drove another woman to the clandestine clinic. The trial has led to angry calls for changes to Portugal's highly restrictive legislation. "It makes no sense that in the 21st century, women who carry out a difficult act are subjected to a public humiliation of this sort," said a pro-choice politician.