May 2011, Week 4


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Mon, 23 May 2011 21:41:48 -0400
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'Pro-lifers' choose their next target

by Kaili Joy Gray for Daily Kos


A sign at one of the many vigils honoring Dr.
Tiller after he was murdered (Photo: Priya
Deonarain/Creative Commons)

Sun May 22, 2011 at 10:00 AM PD

Two years ago, Dr. George Tiller was gunned down in his
church in Wichita, Kansas. He had been threatened and
harassed for years. His clinic was routinely
vandalized, including by his murderer. He had already
survived one assassination attempt in 1993. Operation
Rescue, the anti-choice organization that claims to
oppose violence and yet is frequently linked to violent
acts against clinics and doctors, relocated its
headquarters to Wichita for the explicit purpose of
trying to shut down Dr. Tiller's clinic. Still, Dr.
Tiller refused to be intimidated. Every day, he put his
life on the line to provide health care to women.

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act might
have saved his life. The law clearly states:

This statute prohibits (1) the use of force or threat
of force or physical obstruction, to intentionally
injure, intimidate or interfere with or attempt to
injure, intimidate or interfere with any person or any
class of persons from obtaining or providing
reproductive health services ...

Enacted in 1994 under President Clinton, FACE was
designed as a tool for law enforcement to be able to
protect patients and doctors from "pro-life"
terrorists. Under President Bush, however, the law was
all but ignored. By the time President Obama took
office and started once again to enforce the law, it
was too late. Harassment and vandalism, including by
Dr. Tiller's assassin, were reported to the
authorities. And yet, the authorities did nothing. Dr.
Tiller died on May 31, 2009, and his clinic closed
shortly thereafter. Operation Rescue, which had
provided critical information to Dr. Tiller's assassin
through its senior policy adviser, convicted terrorist
Cheryl Sullenger, had at last succeeded.

But the death of Dr. Tiller was not enough for the
movement that calls itself "pro-life." And now it has
set its sights on its next target: Dr. Mila Means.

Means would be the first doctor to perform abortions in
Wichita since the murder. But before she even could
start, Operation Rescue made her a target, posting her
photo and address online. [...]

Another anti-abortion outfit, Kansans for Life, has
been sending out emails warning that a "grave evil
threatens our community" and assailing Means for
attempting to set up "a killing center" in Wichita.

Despite claims from the most prominent anti-choice
organizations, like Operation Rescue, that they do not
condone violence, Dr. Means has already had her life
threatened. Fortunately, this time, the Department of
Justice took action:

[O]n or about Jan. 15, 2011, [Angel] Dillard mailed a
threatening letter to a doctor training to perform
abortions in Wichita, Kan. The letter, among other
threatening language, referenced explosives placed
under the doctor's car. The FACE Act prohibits threats
of force against any person providing or obtaining
reproductive health services, with the intent to
intimidate or interfere with that person.

Among other things, Dillard wrote: "Thousands of people
are already looking into your background, not just in
Wichita, but from all over the U.S. They will know your
habits and routines. They will know where you shop, who
your friends are, what you drive, where you live. You
will be checking under your car everyday-because maybe
today is the day someone places an explosive under it."
Later Dillard added: "We will not let this abomination
continue without doing everything we can to stop it."

Angel Dillard isn't just a "pro-life" activist. She is
also, as she told the Associated Press in 2009, a
friend and fan of Dr. Tiller's assassin:

"With one move, (Roeder) was able... to accomplish what
we had not been able to do," Dillard said. "So he
followed his convictions, and I admire that."

Dillard's threats against Dr. Means clearly violate
FACE. She is part of a movement that has stated,
unequivocally, its intent to prevent Dr. Means from
providing abortions. But the judge doesn't see it that

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled last month
that while Dillard's letter was clearly meant to
intimidate Means, it wasn't a threat. The judge denied
the government's request for a preliminary injunction
at that time, calling the First Amendment the "absolute
bedrock of this country's freedom" and ruling the
letter was not a true threat.

This is, of course, bullshit. The forced birth movement
has already demonstrated, through 6,143 acts of
violence and another 156,961 acts of "non-violent"
terrorism, its willingness and ability to threaten,
harm, terrorize, and even murder those whom it deems
enemies. Right there in Wichita. And while the judge
has thus far found Dillard's letter to be merely
"intimidating" and not "threatening," intimidating an
abortion provider is still, under FACE, unlawful.

Worse still, Dillard is now suing the Department of

WICHITA, Kan. -- An anti-abortion activist accused of
sending a threatening letter to a Kansas doctor filed a
counterclaim Tuesday against the Justice Department,
contending that the government's lawsuit against her
has had "an unlawful chilling effect" on her free
speech and religious rights.

Truth is, it should have a chilling affect on the kind
of "free speech" that leads to dead doctors. The First
Amendment is not a cover from behind which those who
claim to cherish life can issue threats, especially
when they have demonstrated, again and again, how
deadly their threats can be.

The Department of Justice is right. The judge is wrong.
Dead wrong. To ignore the seriousness of Dillard's
letter, or the extreme lengths to which the anti-choice
movement will go--including the current legislative
trend of attempting to legalize murdering abortion
providers in Iowa and Nebraska and South Dakota--is to
repeat the mistakes made by law enforcement when Dr.
Tiller was still alive. FACE exists specifically to
protect those doctors, like George Tiller and Mila
Means, who are willing to endanger their own lives to
provide care to women. But FACE only works to the
extent that it is enforced. In Dr. Tiller's case, it
wasn't. For Dr. Means, it is not yet too late.

And it's about damn time those with the power to
enforce the law actually do so, before the "pro-life"
movement claims yet another victim.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun May 22, 2011 at
10:00 AM PDT.


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