Clinic Violence Update: A Federal Grand Jury Investigates the Larger Agenda

Scott Roeder has been sentenced to life in prison for killing abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 2009, but a federal grand jury is investigating the murder’s possible connection to a larger plan, as reported by the National Partnership for Women & Families.

An anonymous federal law enforcement official recently commented on the matter: “Yes, there is a grand jury investigation. I can tell you that there are several attorneys from Washington, D.C., looking into this matter and are looking into the broader case than just the actual incident that occurred in Wichita.”

Dr. Tiller’s murder is indeed part of a larger faction of anti-choice activism in the U.S. As we discussed last year, Dr. Warren Hern, director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, has received numerous death threats and is followed to and from work by federal marshals.

There are varying degrees of severity when it comes to direct anti-abortion action – bullying and insulting women outside of clinics under the guise of “sidewalk counseling” and holding gruesome signs are among the most common and least violent – but threats against the lives of abortion providers have become a widespread tactic that not only frightens and intimidates doctors, but all too often leads to their murders.

Since 1993, when Dr. David Gunn was killed outside a clinic in Pensacola, Florida, there have been several major acts of violence against clinics and abortion providers, five of which resulted in the deaths of one or more people. Another doctor was killed in the same Florida city in 1994. Clinics in Austin, Amherst, NY, Birmingham, and the Boston area have been targets of severe violence, with bombs or guns characterizing each event.

As evidenced by a number of extremist attempts to harm clinics over the course of the past 17 years, it’s clear that these are not isolated incidents that have no effect on the anti-choice movement. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act has helped curb the blockades and clinic invasions that were all too common prior to 1994 (when it was passed), but has not completely prevented extremists from setting off bombs or tracking down providers outside of their clinics and shooting them. A life prison sentence doesn’t seem to deter some abortion opponents’ desires to kill doctors and others involved at clinics, either.

In Pennsylvania, reproductive health care facilities have been firebombed, blockaded, and severely vandalized. They have been threatened with death, targets of fake anthrax attacks, bomb scares, and harassment at their homes, neighborhoods, and churches. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice brought a FACE Act case against anti-abortion protester John Dunkle, who posted on the Internet the names, addresses, and photos of PA abortion providers, complete with detailed instructions on how to kill them. Although he has been complying with the injunction that removed all of the information from the Internet, Dunkle continues to picket PA abortion providers at clinics and their homes.

The reported grand jury investigation follows U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s crackdown on clinic violence that we wrote about this past August.

If you’re interested in more information about clinic violence, you can watch “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller,” a documentary narrated by Rachel Maddow that will air on MSNBC on October 25th at 9 PM.


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