A Victory in the Anti-Abortion Terror Campaign

| Tue Jun. 9, 2009 1:04 PM EDT

Scott Roeder and his fellow supporters of "justifiable homicide" in the service of the anti-choice cause are doubtlessly celebrating this morning's news, reported by the AP:

The family of slain abortion provider George Tiller said Tuesday that his Wichita clinic will be "permanently closed," effective immediately.

In a statement released by Tiller's attorneys, his family said it is ceasing operation of Women's Health Care Services Inc. and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic.

The fact that the family made clear that it would not be involved "in any other similar clinic" suggests that they are traumatized and fearful--in a word, terrorized. And no wonder, since Roeder, as I detailed yesterday, has issued warnings from his jail cell of further attacks on abortion providers--an act which, coming from just about any other comparable source, would certainly be deemed terrorism, and treated accordingly.

If that wasn't enough to intimidate the family (or other prospective abortion providers), local anti-abortion groups had also promised to step-up their longstanding protests at the clinic, as Mark S. Gietzen, president of the Kansas Coalition for Life, told the New York Times:

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Mr. Gietzen spent his time last week juggling calls from volunteers who wondered what would come of their regular shifts outside Dr. Tiller’s clinic, where they planted rows of crosses each day and tried to talk to women going in.

Despite the family announcement about the clinic’s uncertain future, some here seem convinced that it will secretly reopen on Monday. On Sunday, Mr. Gietzen said some of his more than 600 trained volunteers already were organized in shifts for a new week, in case visiting doctors were flown in.

“If it happened,” he said, “we’re going to act like the Minutemen and be there.”

The Times article also described what Dr. Tiller's clinic has endured over the past two decades, especially after Wichita became a national target for anti-abortion activists during Operation Rescue's 1991 “Summer of Mercy,” when thousands of protestors blocked the clinic entrance for weeks:  

More than 2,000 people were arrested, and the efforts culminated with a rally of tens of thousands in the Wichita State stadium.

Afterward, abortion opponents flocked to Wichita. Over the years, tactics shifted. When blocking clinic entrances became a federal crime in 1994, some tried pointing out Dr. Tiller’s employees outside their favorite restaurants and churches. They also searched his workers’ trash for information, and appeared at his home and church.

Later, they turned to the courts, gathering citizen petitions (allowed by an obscure, century-old Kansas law) that led to two grand jury investigations against Dr. Tiller, filing technical complaints against the clinic with state regulators and regularly pressing prosecutors to charge him with crimes.

(A sobering account of the Wichita abortion wars can be found in this 2004 Rolling Stone article--recommended today on Feministe.)

Finally, the Times notes this grim fact: Before Wichita first became a target of anti-choice groups in the 1980s, the city had four clinics providing abortions, including Dr. Tiller's. Now it has none.

Here is the definition of domestic terrorism from the U.S. criminal code, 8 U.S.C. §2331:

(5) the term "domestic terrorism" means activities that -
          (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation
        of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
          (B) appear to be intended -
            (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
            (ii) to influence the policy of a government by
          intimidation or coercion; or
            (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass
          destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
          (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of
        the United States.

As noted yesterday by Secrecy News, "The Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence mission is to collect, analyze and disseminate intelligence to reduce the threat of domestic terrorism." But to date, there is no evidence that DHS is involved in investigating the Tiller murder. On Friday, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas on Friday did announce a meeting of the National Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers, "an interagency law enforcement working group that includes attorneys from the [DOJ's] Civil Rights Division and the Criminal Division, and law enforcement officials from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service"--but no representative of DHS. 

So what is the Department of Homeland Security spending its time on instead? Here's one clue, reported by Secrecy News:

Though it is far from the most urgent or important question facing homeland security intelligence, Congress is pulling out all the stops to investigate the origin of a controversial, inartfully worded DHS intelligence memo on “Rightwing Extremism” (pdf). Last week, the House Homeland Security Committee approved a formal resolution of inquiry to demand documents related to the preparation of that memo.

One of the reasons for conservatives' furious attacks on this report was its statement that those deemed "right-wing extremists" might "include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."

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