FEATURE | Spring 2015
Courage in the Face of Terror
Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism
LIVING IN THE CROSSHAIRS
exposes the harrowing
reality facing abortion
providers in the U.S. To
the uninitiated, that reality
is shocking: a life of
constant harassment and
stalking, of hate mail and
cyber-bullying and criminal trespass at their homes, of
needing to don a disguise and bulletproof vest and do evasive
maneuvers on the drive to work. Providing legal, safe
abortions—or even working as a security guard or volunteer
in a clinic that does so—means being the target of
relentless and terrifying criminal acts.
Since 1993, eight doctors and clinic workers have been
murdered; many others have been assaulted and maimed.
Clinics have been burned down, providers’ children have
been intimidated at school and doctors’ photos and names
have appeared on WANTED posters distributed in their
neighborhoods. It’s impossible to read this book without
marveling at the courage and stamina these people exhibit
in continuing to offer abortion care.
Law professor David Cohen and attorney Krysten
Connon vividly illustrate the impact of this nationwide
campaign of terror on its victims. A physician who helps
women needing abortions in the mid-Atlantic and one
South Atlantic state remembers hearing of the 1998 murder
of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian, shot by a
sniper through the window of his kitchen in Buffalo, New
York: “I’m on the phone, and I’m probably starting to
shake a little bit. Because we all have windows in our
home…at that point I got on my belly and crawled
around my home…Someone was out there, and we didn’t
know who it was.”
Kitchen, workplace—to extremists, no place is sacred.
Providers’ elderly parents have been tormented in their
nursing homes. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller, a prominent
provider who had long been a target of the extremists, was
shot in the head on a Sunday morning inside his Wichita
church’s foyer, where he had just finished his duties as an
usher. Even children trick-or-treating at a provider’s
home on Halloween have been harassed.
Even the everyday picketing of abortion clinics takes a
toll, the authors point out. It has “serious effects on
women seeking abortion, people providing abortion, the
clinics and offices where abortion occurs, and the national
debate on the issue.”
Cohen and Connon examine the
many inadequacies of law enforcement’s
current response to harassment
of abortion providers, calling
for additional responses from local
law enforcement and extensively
discussing the federal Freedom of
Access to Clinic Entrances Act. But
they should also have added the importance
of federal anti-terrorism,
stalking and cyber-terrorism laws.
The reality is that when providers must cross state lines to
work, and when they and their families are menaced in
multiple states by a nationally coordinated network of
criminals, a concerted federal effort is essential.
Until targeted harassment of women’s health-care professionals
is redefined as domestic terrorism rather than
“protest,” and until it is prosecuted as such, neither abortion
providers nor women’s constitutionally protected
right to abortion will be safe.
VANESSA C. ADRIANCE is a litigation attorney in Los Angeles and on the board of governors of the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles.
Reprinted from the Spring issue of Ms. To have this issue delivered straight to your door, Apple, or Android device, join the Ms. Community.
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