WASHINGTON (CNS) The killing of a Florida abortion doctor and a clinic escort
was decried by Church leaders and other opponents of abortion.
As the Justice Department announced U.S. marshals would be assigned to
protect some abortion clinics, mainstream organizations opposed to abortion said
violence has no place in the movement and denounced the killings of Dr. John
Bayard Britton and James Herman Barrett in Pensacola, Fla., July 29. Barrett's
wife, June, who worked as a volunteer escort at the Ladies' Center abortion
clinic, was wounded.
Paul Hill, an outspoken advocate of using violence to stop abortion, was
arrested and charged with the shootings.
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee
for Pro-Life Activities, said violence in the name of the prolife movement
"makes a mockery of everything we stand for."
"We are deeply saddened by the killings," McCarron, assistant executive
director of the Florida Catholic Conference. "We condemn these killings in no
uncertain terms. Such violence shows no understanding of the pro-life movement
and serves no purpose in stemming the tide of abortion.
"The commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill,' the basis of the pro-life movement,
has been violated," he said. "We call on all people in the pro-life movement to
condemn these violent acts."
Bishop John M. Smith of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee said it "defies
logic and flies in the face of divine law" for anyone to take a human life in
the name of the pro-life movement. "No one has the right to take the life of
another human being as a solution to the issues surrounding abortion."
A statement from Father Frank A. Pavone, national director of Priests for
Life, said consistency demands denunciation of both the killing of abortion
providers and the killing of babies.
"The response to today's tragedy should not be to further protect the
abortion industry, but to stop all violence, including abortion itself," he
American Life League president Judie Brown said killing suspect Hill "is a
creation of the tabloid talkshow media. He is not a leader in the pro-life
The death of anyone diminishes each person's sacred role in life, said Mrs.
Brown in a statement. "I pray for all those who have been affected by this
tragic loss of life. We are called to convert abortionists and their
accomplices, not kill them."
Beverly LaHaye, president and founder of Concerned Women for America, called
the killings "barbaric vigilantism" and said "we cannot allow Paul Hill to
become a symbol for the pro-life movement."
"The urgency of the pro-life message can only be advanced through prayer,
education and peaceful protest," said Benedictine Father Matthew Habinger,
president of Human Life International. "We cannot trade evil for evil. Just as
those people had no right to kill any of the millions of unborn children who are
executed in their mother's wombs every year, the person who shot them had no
right to take their lives away. Adding to the body count won't make it go away."
A spokeswoman for Americans United for Life said anyone who fails the
criteria of compassion and nonviolence is not prolife.
At a Washington press conference, Myrna Gutierrez said the "real face of the
pro-life movement" is found among those providing care for women, working the
legislatures, lobbying Congress and battling in the courts to make abortion less
a part of American life.
At the same conference, Serrin M. Foster, executive director of Feminists for
Life, said life-affirming solutions to the problems facing women need to be
"Out of frustration, there are people who are targeting the messenger, so to
speak, when it's the message that needs to be changed; the message that abortion
liberates women has been wrong from the start," she said. "Just as abortion is
an inequitable action taken in response to a crisis pregnancy, the shootings
that have taken place cannot be justified."
The National Right to Life Committee issued a statement which said, "It is
offensive to suggest, as some pro-abortion groups have done, that speaking in
favor of the right to life somehow causes violence. Such a suggestion is like
blaming the civil rights movement and all those who courageously spoke in favor
of the rights of African-Americans for the riots or deaths that were a part of
In Chicago, Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin issued a statement saying the use of
violence in the name of fighting abortion "not only defies logic, but the law of
God and the teachings of the church."
The co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, Rep. Christopher H. Smith,
R-N.J., called the shooting "a sickening tragedy." He also objected to news
reports describing Hill as a "pro-life activist."
"No one who destroys innocent human life through abortion or any other means
can be called pro-life. It is a contradiction in terms," Smith said.
On Aug. 1, Justice Department spokesman Carl Stem said U.S. marshals had been
assigned to some abortion clinics after a shooting and a fire at a Falls Church,
Va. abortion clinic the same night. The Commonwealth Women's Clinic was burned
at its rear entrance by a fire late the night of July 29.
Fire inspectors said Aug. 1 the cause was still under investigation but that
a device had been found to have started the blaze. The Falls Church clinic
reopened the next day.
In March 1993, Dr. David Gunn was shot to death outside Pensacola's only
other abortion clinic. Anti-abortion activist Michael F. Griffin was convicted
of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.
In August 1993 Dr. George Tiller was injured outside his Wichita, Kan.
abortion clinic. His assailant, Rachelle Shannon, was sentenced to just under 11
years in prison.