Book Club: Sniper – The True Story of Anti-Abortion Killer James Kopp

Nineteen years ago today, at his home in Amherst, New York, returning from synagogue after a memorial service for his father, gynecologist Barnett Slepian, his wife, and their sons were preparing a late supper. He started heating soup in his microwave oven, then left the room. Seconds after his return, he stood, silhouetted by the blue light of the microwave, as a soft-tipped bullet left a high-powered SKS rifle from a wooded area 36 yards away, traveled through a sunroom window, and ripped through the doctor’s back, spinal cord, ribs, aorta, and lungs. He bled out within seconds. One son barely missed injury from the single ricocheting bullet.

The shooter escaped.


“… no civilized society can tolerate or excuse excesses that are tantamount to anarchy or to terrorism.” –Judge Michael D’Amico at sentencing of sniper James Kopp


In this true-crime book, Sniper: The True Story of Anti-Abortion Killer James Kopp, journalist and author Jon Wells takes the reader through the ensuing 29-month international effort to identify and capture James Kopp in France, extradite him, and try him for murder. Today, Kopp is incarcerated for life, was convicted of additional federal charges, and is suspected of shooting four other abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada, wounding them severely.

What can we learn from this book? I’ve selected passages from the book to highlight the important messages.

Why Kopp selected Dr. Slepian as his (allegedly) fifth target, among numerous obstetricians who provided abortion care in New York and Canada.
Continue reading

2016 in Review: Our Bloggers Boost Their Favorite Posts

How can we put it? 2016 was a doozy. When we rang in the New Year on January 1, the Supreme Court was gearing up for one of the most important abortion-rights cases in years. When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, President Obama named a replacement — and Congressional Republicans refused to hold hearings for the nominee, disregarding their job description. Both the Democratic and Republican parties were running exciting primaries — but, as we swept away the New Year’s confetti, Donald Trump was still considered by many to be an unfathomable joke.

While we did bask in a summertime victory, when the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ draconian anti-abortion laws, we were blindsided by Donald Trump’s Electoral College win — especially given that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of nearly 3 million. As we say goodbye to 2016, we are unsure of what the future holds for reproductive rights, with a president-elect and Congress that are hostile to our cause, and the next Supreme Court nomination in unfriendly hands.

Throughout it all, our amazing volunteers stood by our side, never afraid to speak against current injustices or share important lessons from the past. As we enter 2017, we’ll need our volunteers more than ever! Our blogging team is made up of Planned Parenthood volunteers, who will be standing at the ready to document the events that unfold over the coming year — and to demand justice. But for now, our bloggers are looking back on their favorite posts from 2016. Please check them out!

rosa-parks-arrestMatt had no problem picking his favorite post of 2016: his piece on the long history of African-American women bringing sexual harassment to light. As Matt says, “the background reading for that one was really fascinating. Hopefully my synthesis did all of the source material justice!” It was only 30 short years ago that the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in sexual harassment law. Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson was just one chapter in a long history of black women spearheading the fight against sexual harassment — from Rosa Parks to Anita Hill. Read Matt’s post to learn more about these brave women.

Tex-Supremes thumbnailAnne spent much of 2016 following the Supreme Court — including the deliberations and final ruling in this year’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. When laws that purport to protect women’s health don’t actually do so, something has gone terribly wrong. Luckily, in June, the Supreme Court stood up for facts, logic, and the scientific method when they overturned Texas’ HB2, which wrote obstacles to abortion into law — under the guise of “protecting women’s health.” Anne’s pieces on the Supreme Court underscore how very important it is to have a president who will appoint justices who will uphold our constitutional right to control our own bodies.

shout-your-abortion-thumbnailGene had a clear candidate in mind when asked to share his favorite post of 2016: “That’s easy,” he told us, “Shouting My Abortion.” Gene, who has never had a uterus, ponders what it would be like if he could get pregnant — and have an abortion. Would abortion stigma start to fade away if cisgender men could get pregnant? Or would their bodies become heavily politicized battlefields as well? Regardless of your ability to become pregnant, statistics show that someone you love has had an abortion. Yet stigma keeps us silent. Read Gene’s thoughts on destigmatizing this common, legal, and important medical procedure.

Crosshairs thumbnailRachel kicked off 2016 by helping us fulfill our New Year’s resolution to read more when she reviewed “Living in the Crosshairs,” an enlightening, shocking, and enraging book that documents anti-abortion terrorism in the United States. The violence and threats routinely leveled at abortion providers not only heavily influences their lives, it also impacts all of us by making the full spectrum of reproductive health care more difficult to access. Now that November’s presidential election has put the United States on the brink of further dwindling access to safe abortion, this book will be — unfortunately — more relevant than ever. Understanding the obstacles abortion providers face, and the sacrifices they make, is important, making “Living in the Crosshairs” required reading.

Anna usually writes about the single-celled organisms that torment our nether regions in the form of sexually transmitted infections, but this year, her favorite post was about the history of contraception. When it comes to contraception, we’ve come a long way — from fish bladders to latex condoms, from womb veils to diaphragms, and from stem pessaries to IUDs. We can also use the morning-after pill rather than resorting to dangerous methods like douching with harsh chemicals to attempt to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Even better, we don’t have to buy our condoms and other contraceptives on the black market! Read Anna’s post to learn some fun facts about the history of birth control.

pride flagsKelley is a PPAA employee who moonlights as a blogger. This summer, they wrote about the 47th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which set the modern LGBTQ rights movement into motion. When the cops busted Stonewall Inn in June of 1969, it wasn’t a typical police raid — this time, the LGBTQ folks they were harassing fought back. While the riots themselves only lasted three days, the fight for equality continues into the present. Whether patronizing Stonewall in 1969 or Pulse in 2016, the LGBTQ community deserves safe spaces free of violence. Read Kelley’s favorite piece of 2016 to learn about this important chapter in the enduring struggle for human dignity.

Book Club: Living in the Crosshairs

CrosshairsLiving in the Crosshairs is an important and terrifying book that was published last year by Oxford University Press. Its authors are David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University who also sits on the boards of the Women’s Law Project and the Abortion Care Network, and Krysten Connon, who graduated from Drexel Law School in 2012, and is now an attorney in Philadelphia. In it, they look at targeted harassment of abortion providers. This is different from the protests we may think of outside abortion clinics, which are aimed at the clinic, or the women seeking abortions, or the issue in general. Targeted threats and attacks are aimed at individuals who work in the clinics. They are personal.

The title comes from a story of one provider’s dealings with the legal authorities. He describes one protest at the clinic where he works, where:

… a new sign displayed Paul’s picture in crosshairs. “I was just shocked that that was legal. I just can’t see how that’s fair.” Paul contacted the FBI about the targeted protest, particularly in light of the sign with the crosshairs. “They said it’s perfectly legal. The protesters could do that, and they could do worse.”

This incident shows the way abortion providers are targeted, literally and figuratively, by anti-abortion activists, and is a representative example of the stories told by the people interviewed for this report. In all, 87 providers were contacted, and 82 of them agreed to be interviewed at length. The authors included doctors, administrators, and other medical and non-medical staff who work where abortions are performed. Non-medical staff are also targets; as the authors point out, of eight providers murdered by anti-abortion killers, four were doctors; the others included two receptionists, a security guard, and a volunteer escort. And more recently, we’ve seen in Colorado Springs that people unrelated to a clinic can also be killed in anti-abortion violence. The danger is great; almost all of those interviewed chose to use false names, and to have details that could identify them changed as well. Continue reading

Movie Night: After Tiller

After Tiller is an award-winning documentary film that takes us inside the lives of the remaining four doctors who were openly providing third-trimester abortions in the United States after the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller, a staunch defender and provider of those abortions. The 88-minute film, released in 2013, seeks to shed light, rather than more heat, and move beyond the national shouting match about abortion later in pregnancy.

You can see the trailer here:

Is this film for you? Probably, if you ponder the following:

  1. Why would a pregnant woman wait so late into a pregnancy to decide to have an abortion?
  2. Why would a woman who loves her unborn baby have a late abortion?
  3. After 24 weeks’ gestation, should abortion (always, sometimes, never) be illegal?
  4. What kind of people provide third-trimester abortions?
  5. Do third-trimester abortions differ much from premature, natural childbirth?

Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

More woman-shaming from the abstinence-only crowd.

More woman-shaming from the abstinence-only crowd.

  • Abstinence-only education: Showing kids every day how filthy and disgusting they automatically become if they have sex. Which symbol of filth are you, fellow non-abstinent people? A used piece of tape? Chewed-up gum? It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” of how gross they can make you feel for doing something human beings are mostly naturally inclined to do. Anyway, I’m a black woman so I think the most fitting choice for me would be “dirty chocolate.” (Think Progress)
  • Here are all the states committing egregious sex education blunders. It’s pretty much sad all over, folks. (Huff Po)
  • Maybe that’s why 80 percent of teens have sex without first being educated about it. (Daily Beast)
  • Pro-choice Arizonans, we have successfully gained an extended injunction against the new and terrible legislation that would cut off women’s access to medication abortion in the early stages of pregnancy and instead force them to undergo a surgical abortion — assuming they can access it. (Phoenix New Times)
  • The teen birth rate may be at record lows, but the CDC says (and we agree) it’s still too high in the grand scheme of things! (NBC News)
  • You know how the Arizona Department of Health Services focuses so much on stuff like disease prevention and control, vaccinations, environmental health, maintaining vital records, and all of that unimportant junk? Well, the sinister, diabolical forces at the Center for Arizona Policy want them to take time away from all that crap to start doing surprise inspections at abortion clinics. Did something seriously dangerous or illegal happen at an Arizona abortion clinic to spur this on? Nope! (East Valley Tribune)
  • There are 30 states that require pregnant women to remain on life support no matter what. THIRTY STATES! Living will or not. Do we need any more proof that women are largely seen as incubators and not people? Repeating this again: THIRTY STATES!!! (RH Reality Check)
  • Sometimes when I hear Republicans speaking, I feel as if I’m drowning in a tsunami of stupidity. Missouri state Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger says that buying a car and selecting carpet are decisions just as major as considering abortion. These are things he personally has to think about a lot before just plunging right in, you know?! That is actually the logic this clown is using to try to mandate a 72-hour waiting period for women considering an abortion. It’s as if he and the rest of the forced birth advocates don’t understand that most women have already thought about what they’d do in the event of an unintended pregnancy. It’s something almost all sexually active, heterosexual women have contemplated. These “waiting periods” have been shown to have virtually no effect on a woman’s final decision whether or not to have an abortion. Please, Rep. Gatschenberger, get out of the legislature and go pick out some flooring. (Salon)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

Blaming women for the spread of STDs is an age-old tradition.

Blaming women for the spread of STDs is an age-old tradition.

  • If you love food and birth control, and wanna get ’em both at the same place, you should eat here. (LA Times)
  • Millions of women now pay nothing for birth control. It feels so good to type those words. (Mother Jones)
  • Taking woman-hating to a new level: An anti-Obamacare cartoon posted on the website Comically Incorrect claims that men will get more sexually transmitted diseases from “women who now get free birth control” thanks to the health care reform law. This is one of the dumbest, most misogynistic things I’ve seen in a long time. If STDs spread, it’s women’s fault! Not the men who gave them the disease! Yeah. OK. ’Cause men have no responsibility in protecting themselves from STDs. Evil women put them at risk and they’re simply helpless!! (Time)
  • Paid FMLA for pregnant women and those of us with chronic illnesses? YES. PLEASE. (RH Reality Check)
  • So far, there are nine states where you might need “abortion insurance.” Luckily, AZ isn’t one of them. Yet. (ABC News)
  • Not that we aren’t fighting our own uphill battles here. (Arizona Daily Star)
  • Abortion providers make huge sacrifices to care for women. And we are so thankful. (NY Mag)
  • Even after having women (their peers!) stand in front of them telling their emotional stories of rape and miscarriage, Republicans weren’t moved to keep women from having to further endure these atrocities. (USA Today)
  • Congressional dufus Steve Stockman (R-Texas, naturally) is so pro-life that he wishes “babies had guns” to kill their mothers who are considering abortion. Is this real life? I mean, he does know that a fetus can’t survive if the carrier of the fetus is dead, right? (MSNBC)
  • I’m not a scientist or anything, but if birth control is less effective for women over 176 pounds, why don’t they do something to make it more effective? (Jezebel)

National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Brittany Sevek, our communications and marketing intern, who is a fourth-year journalism student at Arizona State University.

We are currently in the midst of “40 Days for Life.” Spanning from February 13 through March 24, “40 Days for Life” is a campaign that coincides with the 40 days of Lent. Participants in the campaign protest against abortion, seek to discourage women from having abortions, and even hope to shut down health centers that provide abortion care entirely. At a time like this, when people are openly rallying against the very things Planned Parenthood works to protect, it is important to take a minute to reflect upon and appreciate those who have labored so hard to support women’s rights and maintain access to health care.


We should be able to get health care without fear of violence, harassment, or intimidation.


Another important date in regards to abortion falls within these 40 days: March 10. Many are probably unaware that March 10 is designated as National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. Established in 1996, National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers was founded to commemorate the life of Dr. David Gunn. Unfortunately, March 10 marks the anniversary of Dr. David Gunn’s 1993 assassination — 20 years ago this Sunday.

Dr. David Gunn was a physician and abortion provider in rural Alabama, and was assassinated in Pensacola, Florida, at an anti-abortion rally. Shot three times in the back, Dr. Gunn was killed by an anti-abortion extremist. Gunn’s death is noted as the first assassination of an abortion provider. Since then, there has been a total of nine murders of abortion providers and other clinic personnel, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Even those who support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions do not generally consider the risks and dangers to which abortion providers are subjected in order to continue providing their services. The National Abortion Federation tracks statistics of acts of violence and disruption against abortion providers. These acts range from murder, attempted murder, death threats, hate mail, stalking, bombing, arson, vandalism, and even acid attacks. In 2001, a record total of 795 acts of violence were committed against abortion providers. These numbers dropped for several years, but spiked again in 2005 when 761 incidents of violence occurred. Thankfully, in recent years this number has dropped dramatically: 2011 saw 113 violent acts committed.

However, this number is still 113 violent acts too many. It is therefore crucial to honor those who put themselves at risk every day. By taking the time on March 10, and every day, to commemorate and recognize these abortion providers for supporting women’s rights, we can raise awareness about this otherwise unspoken issue. In turn, we can continue to diminish these numbers, and hopefully stop such terrible acts of violence from occurring in the future.