This month, Planned Parenthood will celebrate it's 100th birthday. It's astonishing, isn't it? To realize that Planned Parenthood has existed for an entire century, and yet widespread access to abortion procedures for women across the country still feels like a fantasy. In fact, pro-choice issues are somehow still being debated by presidential candidates, despite the fact that Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortions, came into existence 43 years ago. After 43 years, abortion doctors still face terrible acts of violence for performing their jobs. After 43 years, women are still having to travel great distances to find abortion clinics in some states. After 43 years, not enough has changed.
Abortion doctors have been facing threats, violence, and in some cases the possibility of murder in order to perform their jobs. The first abortion doctor killed by anti-abortion protesters was Dr. David Gunn in 1993. Dr. Gunn had opened the Pensacola Women's Medical Services clinic earlier that year, and was shot several time by a demonstrator, 31-year-old Michael Griffin, as he tried to enter the rear of the clinic. He died in hospital two hours after he was shot. According to The New York Times, many anti-abortion protesters said they would "not mourn" the abortion provider's death.
Only one year later in Pensacola, famed Pastor Paul J. Hill shot and killed Dr. John Bayard Britton and a clinic volunteer, James H. Barrett. He was later convicted to first degree murder and sentenced to die. Before his sentence was carried out in 2003, Hill remained utterly unrepentent about killing two men.
I believe in the short and long term, more and more people will act on the principles for which I stand. I’m willing and I feel very honored that they are most likely going to kill me for what I did.
Since those two violent acts of aggression against abortion providers in Florida, more abortion doctors were targeted; in 2009, late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was killed in church after having been shot once before in 1993. Dr. Barnett Slepian was killed by Canadian James Kopp in his home in 1998 when Kopp hid in the woods outside his Buffalo-area home with a high-powered rifle. Dr. Slepian was shot in the kitchen near his family. He had just returned from a memorial service for his father.
The horrific murders of doctors notwithstanding, abortion providers must face regular harrassment from anti-abortion protesters, frequent cases of arson, vandalism and physical attacks, according to statistics compiled by the National Abortion Federation. The most recent attack in 2015 saw Officer Garrett Swasey, Ke'Arre Stewart, and Jennifer Markovsky killed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Robert Lewis Dear was charged with the murders and attempted murder and is in custody awaiting trial.
100 years of Planned Parenthood is certainly something to celebrate; 43 years of violence against abortion providers is not.