Playing Hide the Doctor

Magazine: the Body Politic
Issue: December, 1994
Title: Playing Hide the Doctor
Author: Roberta Sampere

The Aware Woman Center for Choice has a new doctor. For the first time since Dr. David Gunn was murdered in Pensacola, our one exceptionally brave doctor, Randall Whitney, has some relief. He has been carrying the load alone since our other two doctors quit.

It isn't that they are not brave men. It is just that they need to limit their risks. They believe working at the Aware Woman is simply too dangerous. I understand.

When Dr. Gunn was executed, we were in the middle of twelve weeks of Impact training. Our clinic was under siege daily. The streets were filled with threatening crowds of anti-abortion demonstrators shouting angrily. They prayed for the deaths of these doctors as they preyed on the women who sought their services.

Our driveway was crowded with pro-choice supporters who shouted and chanted back, arms linked to prevent invasion. Mixed in with those groups were a squad of police, watching and waiting (for what I don't know) and a battalion of media people. Print, radio, and television journalists vied for position and the best interviews. Satellite uplinks spiked the skyline, obscene versions of palm trees. The atmosphere was both carnival-like and terrifying.

Who can blame these two men for leaving the dangerous and potentially deadly streets of Melbourne? Especially when they did not leave the service of women. They want somewhere else where it was marginally safer. They went where the police offered protection and enforcement of the laws and ordinances of the state and city. They simply could not risk working in a clinic located where the police were more concerned about getting complaints from the lawbreakers than they were about protecting law-abiding citizens.

When we finally got protection from the courts, the police refused to enforce the injunction while it was under appeal. In June we won in the Supreme Court. The injunction was upheld for the most part. However, the parts that were not upheld are the parts that have been causing us the most trouble.

The Supreme Court ruled that a 300 foot buffer zone in residential areas was too broad and infringed on the rights of the protesters. On the day of the ruling, more than fifty out of town activists surrounded the home of our provider, Patricia Baird-Windle, and spooked her into falling and breaking both feet. They have returned several times since then to continue their harassment and intimidation.

The other part of the injunction that the Supreme Court overturned concerned our back fence. The injunction required the radicals to remain thirty-six feet back from our north property line. The Court ruled that since no patients came through that property to enter our facility, there was no reason to ban anyone from being there.

Which brings me to our new doctor: We have had to figure out how to get the doctor in and out of the clinic without being seen. We can't bring the doctor in the front because the antis have an unobstructed view. We can't bring the doctor in the back because the more terroristic antis have been standing on ladders (our fence is nine feet high) with cameras and camcorders in an attempt to identify the doctor. We have no way of knowing when they will start bringing guns.

So we have been playing hide the doctor. We arrange to pick the doctor up at different locations every time. We have several cars go through the delivering-the-doctor-drill so the antis will not know when we are really delivering the doctor. We have several cars go through the leaving-with-the-doctor drill so that the antis won't know which car to follow. Lately, we have had to completely wrap cars in tarps and build tarp tunnels to the driveways to protect the doctor from the view of the antis. We are determined to protect our doctor even at the risk of our own lives.

There is no other medical specialty in this country where the doctor must lie on the back seat or floor of a vehicle under a blanket and sneak into work. There is no other legitimate business in this country that is systematically targeted by violent extremists without relief from law enforcement authorities.

If we cannot get help from the government agencies whose job it is to protect us, then we must learn to protect ourselves. If the system will not build a case of conspiracy, terrorism, and racketeering, then we must build the case ourselves. We must begin creating a network of defenders who share information and tactics. We must create an organization of defenders who are well trained and well disciplined. We must not continue to fight their unified forces with disjointed individual efforts. We must become unified, if we are to win.

Join with us, and together we can win this war.

Go Back to Shy David's Abortion Page.