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Are Abortion-Linked Killings Start Of New Terrorism?

Analysis By Farhan Haq

about the War on Abortion
(IPS) NEW YORK -- The increase in abortion-linked violence in the United States has led to the question of whether the anti-abortion movement is involved with the growing terrorist fringe.

Recent events -- from a federal manhunt for Eric Robert Rudolph, suspected of bombing abortion clinics as well as planning the 1996 bombing at the Atlanta Olympic Games, to the search for the killer of Doctor Barnett Slepian -- have spurred worries about the violence of some anti-abortion activists.

Those worries came to a head last week, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said it wants to question James Charles Kopp, a Vermont anti-abortion activist, in last month's murder of Slepian, a doctor based in Rochester, New York, who was gunned down in front of his family.

Signs of a link between the radical militias and the violent fringe of the anti-abortion movement
Slepian was just the latest doctor to perform abortions who has been shot at or killed in the period preceding Veteran's Day, a U.S. holiday commemorating the world wars which has also become an annual occasion for "pro-lifers" to mourn what they consider the deaths of the "unborn" -- that is, aborted fetuses.

Meanwhile, the difficulty in catching Rudolph became apparent when an FBI agent at the North Carolina headquarters of the manhunt was shot at and slightly wounded November 12.

Rudolph -- whom the FBI suspects of carrying out a Jan. 29 abortion clinic bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed one security guard, as well as the Olympics blast and two other bombings -- is believed to be at large in North Carolina.

The fact that both Rudolph and Kopp, who are known for their extreme anti-abortion views and fundamentalist Christian beliefs, have repeatedly found shelter and even some support for their political views underscores how strongly even radical right-wing beliefs are accepted in the United States, some analysts argue.

Rudolph's actions "really shows there's been a definite linkage between the militia groups and anti-choice activists," says Chris Freeman, a researcher on militia groups for the Atlanta-based Center for Democratic Renewal. "In North Carolina, Rudolph has a lot of support for his views."

Freeman contends that the small, but violent, right-wing U.S. militia movement has gradually been incorporating anti-abortion beliefs into its other concerns, such as its opposition to taxes, minorities, U.S. government regulations and a "New World Order" of government elites.

Some signs of a link between the radical militias and the violent fringe of the anti-abortion movement have surfaced in the Rudolph and Slepian cases. Rudolph, according to the FBI, is linked to four bombings: the 1996 Olympics attack, in which one person was killed and more than 100 injured; the 1997 bombings of an abortion clinic and lesbian bar in Atlanta; and the Birmingham abortion clinic blast.

In addition, FBI officials have connected him to several letters by the "Army of God" that came out following those attacks, which declared an extreme opposition to abortion and homosexuality.

The Slepian murder, meanwhile, is one of several shootings of doctors who perform abortions that have occurred near the U.S.-Canadian border around Veteran's Day in recent years. As Katha Pollitt, a columnist for The Nation, observed, three of the victims -- including Slepian -- were Jewish, a group particularly targeted by militias.

Slepian's name also appeared, along with those of several other abortion doctors, on an Internet site called The Nuremberg Files, which lists the addresses and names of family members of abortion doctors. Within hours of Slepian's murder, his name appeared on The Nuremberg Files with a line through it, indicating that he was, in the web page's jargon, a "fatality."

Freeman contends that, although the violence of such attacks as the clinic bombings has repelled many mainstream abortion opponents, radicals like Rudolph have had their anti-abortion and other views circulated widely in the local media, and have found many sympathetic ears.

Anti-abortion defeats in last election
Some anti-abortion activists, while opposing violence, have also been tainted by their association with others linked to the violent fringe. Kopp, for example, has been a strong anti-abortion protestor for a decade now, and reportedly was often a house guest of members of the Lamb of Christ, a New York anti-abortion group which has blocked access to abortion clinics.

Although Lamb of Christ members deny any links with violence like the Slepian killing, women's rights groups claim that their other actions, like the blockading of clinics and harassment of women seeking abortions, can be blamed equally for the current hostile climate surrounding abortion.

"It's just not credible to say that they aren't part of the extremist activity that is taking place at these clinics," Ann Glazier, director of clinic defense for the Planned Parenthood Foundation, told The New York Times. "They are still guilty of interfering with women's access."

The recent violence surrounding the abortion issue has done the mainstream anti-abortion movement little good. In recent elections, for example, ballot initiatives rejecting late-term abortion procedures were defeated in several states, while key "pro-life" candidates like Republican Senator Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina lost their seats.

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Albion Monitor November 16, 1998 (

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