From: New Liberation News Service 
Subject: Racist Terror vs. Abortion Rights

/* Written  5:17 pm  Aug 25, 1993 by nlns@igc.apc.org in igc:nlns.news */
/* ---------- "Racist Terror vs. Abortion Rights" ---------- */

Racist Terror vs. Abortion Rights:
Former Klansmen in Vanguard of Anti-Woman Violence
from People Against Racist Terror (PART)

(NLNS)--The cold-blooded murder of Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida by an
anti-abortionist has catapulted the issue of terrorism against women's rights
onto the front pages around the country. But while the media and the
government looked the other way, the groundwork was laid for this murderous
attack over the previous decade. Since the mid-1980s, the so-called
"right-to-life" movement has used harassment of clinic staff and patients,
arson and even bombings, to deny women the right to choose abortion. After the
open violence and destruction diminished briefly from their peak levels in
1985-87, the issue disappeared from the mass media. But the fire-bombings,
death threats and and other attacks on clinics and their personnel never
ceased. In fact 1992, even during the course of an election year with an
anti-abortion president still in office, registered the highest number ever of
acts of violence against women's clinics and abortion providers.

    In the context of aggressive direct action by Operation Rescue and other
groups to shut down clinics in particular cities, bombings have continued,
ranging from the discovery of a hand grenade after a clinic confrontation in
New York, to the repeated arson of a woman's clinic in Redding, CA over the
past two years. In 1992, a clinic in Reno, NV was firebombed, as were two
California clinics, including the Pregnancy Control Center in Sacramento in
November, which has been the target of Operation Rescue blockades and
"minuteman" hits. In February, 1993, a clinic in Corpus Christi, TX was
fire-bombed and burned to the ground, doing over a million dollars in damage.
Dozens of clinics were the targets of butyric acid attacks. The day before the
killing of Dr. Gunn, eight clinics in San Diego and Riverside counties were
the targets of such attacks, resulting in the hospitalization of four health
care workers. As the pro-choice movement regains the political initiative in
defense of women's rights, we can expect renewed violence, not merely out of
frustration on the part of anti-abortionists, but as part of their overall

    The killing of Dr. Gunn must be seen for what it is, a naked act of
terrorism, directed at all women and at all health care practitioners who
would defend women's rights and meet their needs. The assassin was no fringe
fanatic, but a conscious adherent of the strategy expressed by Randall Terry
that "the doctor is the weak link." Doctor Gunn had appeared on a "wanted
poster" at an Operation Rescue rally in Montgomery, AL which gave his home
phone number. Leaders of Rescue America and other anti-choice groups quickly
issued a moral justification for the execution of Dr. Gunn by labeling him a
mass murderer. John Burt, the "former" Ku Klux Klan leader who as regional
director of Rescue America led the protest at which Dr. Gunn was killed, drove
the point home on national TV, that the "godless" doctors who perform
abortions should fear for their lives. Burt referred to the killer, Griffin,
and the doctor, Gunn, as equally "victims of the abortion system."

    We need to analyze who is responisble for this campaign of terror, where
it's leading, and what can be done about it. By draping itself in the mantle
of overwhelming moral commitment on a single issue-opposition to abortion--
hard core rightist forces have disguised their true agenda and won open
support from the governent and favorable treatment in the media, despite their
use of violence and intimidation to achieve their political ends. The
"anti-abortion" movement is serving as a radical right united front, in which
open racists are winning legitimacy and the use of reactionary political
violence is winning adherents. The killing of Dr. Gunn illustrates this well.
More than seven years ago, PART had identified Pensacola anti-choice
"preacher" John Burt as a Florida Ku Klux Klan leader. Yet he was never
repudiated by the so-called "pro lifers."

    In the 1980s, three Florida clinics were bombed by two young white couples
who were followers of Burt, in some of the earliest acts of such violence,
helping to initiate a national trend of terrorism. Burt had shortly before
changed his title from grand dragon to "lay preacher," claiming that he was
"born again" and no longer a racist. In the public anti-abortion campaign in
1986 that continued after those bombings failed to shut the clinics down, Burt
knocked down the manager of the Pensacola Ladies' Center and a volunteer when
he led six protesters in invading the medical facility, which had already been
bombed twice before. Burt and his followers injured two women, one seriously,
and damaged equipment in the invasion.

    Yet despite this history of racism and violence, in which Burt carried
over his Klan tactics to his new "calling" as an anti-abortionist, the
mainstream movement at the time did not isolate or repudiate him. Its embrace
of him then eased the path to this new and more fatal violence.

    Jerry Falwell, then of the "Moral Majority," offered to defend and provide
financial aid to the four clinic bombers in Pensacola, who came out of
families involved in Burt's public picketing, in a pattern similar to most of
those who have been caught for such bombings. Although he didn't condone
violence, Falwell said, the four were "probably sincere people," and the
blasts had forced national attention on abortions. He compared the clinic
bombings with the civil rights movement, and noted that there had been
"lootings, burnings all over America" after Martin Luther King was killed. In
attempting to equate the clinic bombers with the Black liberation struggle,
Falwell chose to ignore the "irony" that the Pensacola bombers were brought
into the anti-abortion movement by the former head of the local KKK.

    Undaunted and unapposed by "mainstream" anti-choice groups, Burt continued
his organizing, becoming the leader of forces allied with Rescue Americaa, a
radical national anti-choice group. Although Michael Griffin, Dr. Gunn's
assassin, had asked Burt's congregation to pray for Gunn to come to Jesus, and
had publicly stated that he would "bring Gunn to Jesus," Burt and his fellows
did not report Griffin's threatening remarks or do anything to stop him from
carrying out his murder.

    Only a few press reports of the killing acknowledged Burt's documented
history of Klan activity and of anti-women violence, accepting him at his word
as a "lay preacher," and allowing him to claim moral high ground for his
cause. A few reports also noted that Griffin's wife had sought an injunction
against him to prevent him from further battering her. Will these failures
lead to further killings, as the Pensacola bombings led to further arsons and

    Despite this documented record of racism and violence, the right has
mobilized and radicalized a mass base of thousands on the basis of the
abortion issue, for door to door canvassing, direct action against clinics,
and electoral activity directed against women's right to control their own
bodies. It's out of this mass movement that the bomber's stalkers, and killers
have come, the Army of God and other groupings whose extra-legal and
para-military actions have become legitimized and justified by the rest of the
anti-choice movement. The government, unprepared to use open repression itself
to completely outlaw abortion, de facto accepted the use of illegal political
violence to reach the same goal. One reason anti-abortion violence reached a
new crescendo in 1992 was a series of favorable court rulings for Operation
Rescue and its cohorts, opening the door to more militant intimidation, and
stripping the clinics of the protection they had enjoyed under the
Reconstruction era anti-Ku Klux Klan civil rights act.

    The attack on abortion rights, as serious as it is in itself, also serves
as the spearhead for a broader right-wing offensive. Using anti abortion
fervor and the hysteria around AIDS, the right is attempting to reverse the
gains achieved in decades of struggle for women's liberation through attacks
on women, lesbians and gay men. It's more than coincidental that both David
Duke and Randall Terry, on almost the same day, declared their opposition of
open gay men and lesbians into the military, signalling that anti-gay
organizing would become an important new focus for both of them. Duke's
followers, in alliance with Fundamentalist Christian rightists, took over
virtual control of the Louisiana state Republican party in November 1992.
Jerry Falwell is attempting to resurrect his morally and economically bankrupt
Moral Majority through a new homophobic campaign. Like the anti-abortion
campaign, the anti-gay mobilizing is an invitation to violence, such as the
nazi skinhead killing of a gay man and a lesbian of color during the campaing
for Ballot Measure 9 in Oregon. Randall Terry's effort to follow Duke into the
political arena with a run for Congress may be derailed by his prosecution for
assault growing out of a two-man "minuteman" hit he carried out last year
against a clinic in L.A.

    Raising the banner of god, mother and country, the right is attacking
women's liberation in a step towards mobilizing people to defend the American
empire at home and around the world. With the end of the Cold War as a
defining issue for the establishment right, more nakedly racist, anti-woman
and anti-gay politics are coming to the fore. The Republican Convention which
renominated George Bush gave stark evidence of the extent of the power which
has fallen into the hands of these forces, under the slogans of "family
values" and "cultural war." Although the rejection by most people of these
fascist rallying cries forced Bush and Quale to back away from them, much of
the Republican Party apparatus on the national, state and local level remains
in the hands of these Christian rightists. And despite the defeat of Bush, the
radical and racist right will only further step up its campaign of anti woman
violence, as PART predicted last year. The killing of Dr. Gunn is only an
opening salvo.

PART has just completely revised and updated our full-length research report,
"Women's Rights: Target for Racist Terror," which examines neo nazi
involvement in the anti-abortion movement nationwide. The full report is
available for $2.00 post-paid from PART, P.O. Box 1990, Burbank, CA 91507.

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