(Free Inquiry, spring 1998)

How to Stop `Pro-Life' Killings

By James A. Haught

Twenty-five years after abortion became safe and legal in the United States, women's ability to make personal, well-informed decisions about the procedure has been hampered by opponents' campaign of misinformation and intimidation. Sometimes the tactics used are deadly.

In January 1998, America's sixth "pro-life" murder occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, when an abortion clinic was bombed. A few days before, in Canada, a news conference was held to protest three recent sniper shootings of Canadian clinic doctors. In each case, "pro-life" assassins followed a doctor to his home and then shot through a window, wounding him. At the news conference, Canadian abortion rights activist Dr. Henry Morgentaler said:

"That is the kind of terror that has a chilling effect. Doctors do not know whether they will be the next target."

Polls show that 80 percent of Canadians support a woman's right to choose, but a tiny fringe of murderous protesters are using guns to overturn the majority's wishes.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Birmingham murder is part of a wide array of violence. A report from the National Organization for Women says clinic attacks in the United States average about seven per month, and the grand total has risen past 1,700.

NOW says the zealots use methods designed to kill: "sniper attacks against doctors, both at home and at clinics; and arson and firebombing of clinics, including the use of anti-personnel devices timed to go off upon the arrival of either clinic staff or rescue workers or law enforcement officers....

"In the most well-known recent clinic attack, two bombs were set off in Atlanta, Georgia, last January. The second bomb appeared designed to kill rescue workers and police officers, as well as staff forced out of the building by the first bomb. The Army of God, a group long known to us, took responsibility for the clinic bombing and a later bombing at an Atlanta lesbian nightclub."

Clinic workers now use metal detectors, wear bulletproof vests, and take other security precautions, but no one can be completely protected from an assassin in the bushes.

The best cure for this menace is to alter America's method of terminating pregnancy. When RU-486, the "missed period" drug, becomes available, women and girls may obtain shots at thousands of doctors' offices, where they will be invisible among other patients. They won't need to visit special clinics - thus there will be fewer visible targets for fanatics to hit.