Posted June 21, 2009
By Cyril Mychalejko
The assassination of Dr. George Tiller last month by anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder set off a fiery debate about the potential culpability of the anti-choice movement and whether this heinous act could have been prevented.
This is an uncomfortable conversation to have. It’s a conversation that will offend some people. But it is one we must continue to have in order to ensure that we create the conditions that will inhibit similar violent acts from happening in the future.
In March 2005 the The Congressional Quarterly (CQ) published an article about how the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush refused to list right-wing domestic terrorist groups, such as the anti-abortion group Army of God, on a list of threats to our nation’s security. Back in 1993 Army of God member Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon shot Dr. Tiller twice in an unsuccessful assassination attempt. The group’s website currently has statements approving of the recent murder on its George Tiller “Baby Killer” link page.
“If for some reason the government no longer considers them a threat, I think they will regret that,” Mike German, a 16-year undercover agent for the FBI who spent most of his career infiltrating radical right-wing groups told CQ.
We now know that German’s words were prophetic. Rather than using federal and state law enforcement agencies to spy on or infiltrate anti-war Quakers in Florida and anti-death penalty activists in Baltimore, President Bush should have committed his resources on domestic terrorists committed to violence – not pacifists. Hopefully Republicans and conservatives who didn’t learn the lesson then, and who just a few months ago scoffed at and criticized the recent Homeland Security report “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” will finally face the facts and put the public’s interests over narrow ideological ones.
Now one might accuse me of using an extremist organization or individual to tar an entire movement. But more “mainstream” anti-abortion advocates such as Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, who repeatedly told viewers that Tiller is running a “death mill” and compared him to a Nazi, and former Senator Rick Santorum, who writing in The Philadelphia Inquirer accused President Obama of “infanticide” and of “justifying the killing of newborn babies,” use the same imagery and demagoguery as The Army of God terrorists.
While reigning in irresponsible and incendiary hate speech is one step that the “Pro-Life” movement needs to take, and calling for and supporting the monitoring and investigation of right-wing terrorists and terrorist groups, the government needs to enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act.
Returning to ideologically driven policy, according to journalist Daphne Eviatar writing in The Washington Independent, “under the Bush administration, criminal enforcement of the federal law designed to protect abortion providers and clinics had declined by more than 75 percent over the last eight years.”
Tiller’s alleged killer, Scott Roeder, was actually videotaped vandalizing a clinic both a week and day before the murder. The FBI was informed, but Roeder was never picked up. This reveals an institutional bias that abortion providers face – something that effects local and national law enforcement agencies.
“Often local police won’t enforce the local laws against trespassing,” Cathleen Mahoney, the former federal prosecutor, told Eviatar. “It’s politically charged and local police want to stay out of it.”
I hope that Philadelphia Mayor Michale Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey will make our city the gold standard when it comes to enforcing the FACE Act. They should both read these words that President Bill Clinton spoke when he signed the FACE Act into law in 1994:
“No person seeking medical care, no physician providing that care should have to endure harassments or threats or obstruction or intimidation or even murder from vigilantes who take the law into their own hands because they think they know what the law ought to be.”