Abortion

Kansas City Star: Extremists, Militants Frequently Contact Roeder in Jail

Jodi Jacobson

The list of those visiting and communicating with the man accused of killing Wichita abortion provider George Tiller reads like a who's who of anti-abortion militants, reports Judy L. Thomas of the Kansas City Star.

The list of those visiting and communicating with the man accused of
killing Wichita abortion provider George Tiller reads like a who’s who
of anti-abortion militants, reports Judy L. Thomas of the Kansas City Star.

Rewire broke the story last weekend of the removal of federal marshal protection from Nebraska Dr. Leroy Carhart, and is reporting on efforts by advocates, led by Kansas NOW, in Nebraska, Kansas, and surrounding states to counter expected protests and disruptions of the delivery of reproductive health services at Carhart’s Bellevue, Nebraska clinic by Operation Rescue and other organizations planned for late August.

According to Thomas, recent visitors have included two
convicted clinic bombers, the man behind the Army of God Web site and several activists who once signed a declaration that defended the
killing of abortion providers. “And federal agents have now talked to many of them.”

Advocates have been calling on the Department of Justice to more aggressively investigate the connections between Roeder and the network of extremist anti-choice advocates like the Army of God, which celebrates clinic bombers and the assassins of reproductive health doctors as “American heroes.”

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As part of this effort, Kansas NOW and the Feminist Majority Foundation have been working with other pro-choice groups to press the DOJ on the investigation, as well as to urge restoration of the federal marhsal protection removed two weeks ago from Dr. Leroy Carhart, a colleague of the murdered Dr. George Tiller.

The investigation and the issue of domestic terrorism “is definitely a concern,” Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist
Majority Foundation told the Star. “This guy has been in the hard-core anti-abortion
circle for a long time, and there has been a pattern of communication
and encouragement among these people.”

But, reports Thomas, “those supporting Roeder say there is no conspiracy, no matter who contacts him.”

“The
only way they’re going to prove that is if they make one up,” said
Jennifer McCoy, who served time in prison for trying to burn down
abortion clinics in Virginia in the 1990s and now lives in Wichita.

McCoy, who has visited Roeder several times in jail, said she called the FBI and told agents that she planned to see Roeder.

“I
told them that they better have a dang good reason if they come ask me
any questions, and that I had every intention of going to visit him and
talk to him,” said McCoy, who also attended Roeder’s preliminary
hearing on July 28. “I didn’t know him before, but now I have no
problem visiting him.”

FBI and U.S. Justice Department officials declined to provide comment to the Star on the investigation.  However, Thomas notes:

The
federal investigation into the possible existence of a conspiracy began
after Tiller — one of a handful of doctors in the country who performed
late-term abortions — was shot in the foyer of his Wichita church on
May 31 while serving as an usher.

Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, was
charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty, and a
trial is scheduled for Sept. 21.

Roeder’s bond was
originally set at $5 million, but a judge raised it to $20 million
after Roeder called the Associated Press on June 7 and warned that
there were “many other similar events planned around the country as
long as abortion remains legal.”

The FBI has, however, been asking questions:

Several
Kansas City-area anti-abortion activists told the Kansas City Star that
they have been contacted by the FBI. Among them are Anthony Leake and
Eugene Frye, who have made regular trips to Wichita to visit Roeder.

Frye said he was contacted within a few
days of Tiller’s murder because he and another activist had said in
interviews that they had seen Roeder two weeks before the shooting.

“The
FBI came around and wanted to know what we knew about his activity and
whether he said anything,” Frye said. “I knew Scott for 15 years. Never
one time did he ever give any indication that he was going to do
anything violent.”

Frye said the idea of a conspiracy “is
just ludicrous” and amounts to “nothing more than a witch hunt.” He
said he is visiting Roeder in jail because he wants to help Roeder talk
through using a justifiable homicide defense if that is his wish.

“He’s
entitled to publicly tell his reason why he did what he did,” Frye
said. “Whether he gets found guilty, that’s up to the courts.”

Many of Roeder’s “new-found” friends, such as Leake, have been vocal about their support of force against abortion
providers.  Leake told Thomas he has forwarded FBI inquiries to his attorney.

He said he didn’t think anyone persuaded Roeder to go after Tiller.

“I
don’t believe anyone in good conscience could encourage someone to take
a step like that,” Leake said. “That’s something they’d have to do on
their own.”

He added, however, that “I support the shooting
of George Tiller as justifiable homicide. I only wish that it would
have happened in 1973, before he was able to murder his first child.”

Frye and several other abortion foes have been placed on the prosecution’s witness list in the case.

Among
those being asked questions is Shelley Shannon, the woman who shot and wounded Tiller in 1993.

“Investigators won’t say why she is on the list,” writes Thomas, “but the Rev. Donald
Spitz, the director of Pro-Life Virginia, who calls Roeder an “American
hero,” said Shannon has been writing letters from prison encouraging
people to support Roeder.”

And
in an interview last month, Roeder told the Star that he had visited
Shannon when she was serving time in prison in Topeka for shooting
Tiller. Shannon is now serving a 20-year sentence for a series of
clinic bombings and arsons in the Pacific Northwest.

Also on the witness list is McCoy,

who
was sentenced in 1997 to 2 1/2 years in prison for two Virginia clinic
arsons and is now living in Wichita. She told the Star she had been
“sidewalk counseling” outside Tiller’s clinic at least once a week for
years.

McCoy, who used to go by the name Jennifer
Patterson Sperle, said she had visited Roeder several times “and I
intend on going back, because while he’s here, he just needs to know
that people care about what happens to him.”

Roeder is also recieving mail from supporters in the extremist anti-choice movement.

Among
the writers are Spitz, who operates the Army of God Web site, which
advocates killing abortion providers; Dave Leach of Iowa, who once
published the Army of God manual, a “how to” book on clinic violence;
and Michael Bray of Ohio, who spent four years in prison for the
firebombings of abortion-related facilities on the East Coast in the
1980s. Bray also wrote the book “A Time to Kill,” which offers
religious arguments for using force to stop abortion.

“All
three, who confirmed they’ve written to Roeder,” writes Thomas:

signed a 1993
declaration advocating the use of force against abortion providers. The
petition was circulated by Paul Hill, who shot an abortion provider and
his escort to death in Pensacola, Fla., in 1994.

Spitz said he also talks to Roeder by telephone every week.

“We
talk about defending the unborn with the use of force, but we don’t
talk about his particular case,” Spitz said. “I sent him some Paul Hill
pamphlets, and recently he requested Mike Bray’s book.”

The web of communication among these advocates is clear.

Spitz said he mailed the book to Roeder’s lawyers, but Roeder said they would not give it to him until he went to prison.

Spitz said he had not been contacted recently by any authorities. If they do come calling, he said, he won’t talk to them.

He said there is no conspiracy to commit violence.

“I think people now know not to discuss anything with anybody because they don’t want to implicate others,” he said.

Spitz
said he communicates with Shannon frequently and added that she was
upset to learn she was on the prosecution’s witness list.

Bray,
whose name also appears on the prosecution’s witness list, told the
Star that he’d been trading letters with Roeder since Roeder’s arrest.

And, Bray told Thomas,

“I
always tell the FBI when they come around, if you want me to help you
find something on such-and-such, I’ll do that,” he said. “But if you
want to find someone who’s trying to save babies, I’ve got nothing to
say to you. So they don’t ever bother coming around anymore.”

The Star reports that many are sending money and pamphlets to Roeder, including those by Paul Hill, who killed a reproductive health doctor and his volunteer escort and was executed for the murders in 2003.

In turn:

Roeder
has sent the Paul Hill pamphlets to numerous people, including his
ex-wife, Lindsey Roeder. In a June 12 letter, Roeder included the Hill
brochure and an article about Tiller’s death called “The Just End to a
Violent, Wicked Man.”

The article, written by Dan Holman
of Missionaries to the Pre-Born Iowa, defended Tiller’s murder and
criticized abortion opponents who have condemned the killing.

Also
included was a handwritten note to Roeder from Holman. The note said:
“Hang in there, Scott. Don’t deny the truth or the humanity of the
pre-born.”

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care. Her district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquires from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

Commentary Contraception

Hillary Clinton Played a Critical Role in Making Emergency Contraception More Accessible

Susan Wood

Today, women are able to access emergency contraception, a safe, second-chance option for preventing unintended pregnancy in a timely manner without a prescription. Clinton helped make this happen, and I can tell the story from having watched it unfold.

In the midst of election-year talk and debates about political controversies, we often forget examples of candidates’ past leadership. But we must not overlook the ways in which Hillary Clinton demonstrated her commitment to women’s health before she became the Democratic presidential nominee. In early 2008, I wrote the following article for Rewirewhich has been lightly edited—from my perspective as a former official at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the critical role that Clinton, then a senator, had played in making the emergency contraception method Plan B available over the counter. She demanded that reproductive health benefits and the best available science drive decisions at the FDA, not politics. She challenged the Bush administration and pushed the Democratic-controlled Senate to protect the FDA’s decision making from political interference in order to help women get access to EC.

Since that time, Plan B and other emergency contraception pills have become fully over the counter with no age or ID requirements. Despite all the controversy, women at risk of unintended pregnancy finally can get timely access to another method of contraception if they need it—such as in cases of condom failure or sexual assault. By 2010, according to National Center for Health Statistics data, 11 percent of all sexually experienced women ages 15 to 44 had ever used EC, compared with only 4 percent in 2002. Indeed, nearly one-quarter of all women ages 20 to 24 had used emergency contraception by 2010.

As I stated in 2008, “All those who benefited from this decision should know it may not have happened were it not for Hillary Clinton.”

Now, there are new emergency contraceptive pills (Ella) available by prescription, women have access to insurance coverage of contraception without cost-sharing, and there is progress in making some regular contraceptive pills available over the counter, without prescription. Yet extreme calls for defunding Planned Parenthood, the costs and lack of coverage of over-the-counter EC, and refusals by some pharmacies to stock emergency contraception clearly demonstrate that politicization of science and limits to our access to contraception remain a serious problem.

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Today, women are able to access emergency contraception, a safe, second chance option for preventing unintended pregnancy in a timely manner without a prescription. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) helped make this happen, and I can tell the story from having watched it unfold.

Although stories about reproductive health and politicization of science have made headlines recently, stories of how these problems are solved are less often told. On August 31, 2005 I resigned my position as assistant commissioner for women’s health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because the agency was not allowed to make its decisions based on the science or in the best interests of the public’s health. While my resignation was widely covered by the media, it would have been a hollow gesture were there not leaders in Congress who stepped in and demanded more accountability from the FDA.

I have been working to improve health care for women and families in the United States for nearly 20 years. In 2000, I became the director of women’s health for the FDA. I was rather quietly doing my job when the debate began in 2003 over whether or not emergency contraception should be provided over the counter (OTC). As a scientist, I knew the facts showed that this medication, which can be used after a rape or other emergency situations, prevents an unwanted pregnancy. It does not cause an abortion, but can help prevent the need for one. But it only works if used within 72 hours, and sooner is even better. Since it is completely safe, and many women find it impossible to get a doctor’s appointment within two to three days, making emergency contraception available to women without a prescription was simply the right thing to do. As an FDA employee, I knew it should have been a routine approval within the agency.

Plan B emergency contraception is just like birth control pills—it is not the “abortion pill,” RU-486, and most people in the United States don’t think access to safe and effective contraception is controversial. Sadly, in Congress and in the White House, there are many people who do oppose birth control. And although this may surprise you, this false “controversy” not only has affected emergency contraception, but also caused the recent dramatic increase in the cost of birth control pills on college campuses, and limited family planning services across the country.  The reality is that having more options for contraception helps each of us make our own decisions in planning our families and preventing unwanted pregnancies. This is something we can all agree on.

Meanwhile, inside the walls of the FDA in 2003 and 2004, the Bush administration continued to throw roadblocks at efforts to approve emergency contraception over the counter. When this struggle became public, I was struck by the leadership that Hillary Clinton displayed. She used the tools of a U.S. senator and fought ardently to preserve the FDA’s independent scientific decision-making authority. Many other senators and congressmen agreed, but she was the one who took the lead, saying she simply wanted the FDA to be able to make decisions based on its public health mission and on the medical evidence.

When it became clear that FDA scientists would continue to be overruled for non-scientific reasons, I resigned in protest in late 2005. I was interviewed by news media for months and traveled around the country hoping that many would stand up and demand that FDA do its job properly. But, although it can help, all the media in the world can’t make Congress or a president do the right thing.

Sen. Clinton made the difference. The FDA suddenly announced it would approve emergency contraception for use without a prescription for women ages 18 and older—one day before FDA officials were to face a determined Sen. Clinton and her colleague Sen. Murray (D-WA) at a Senate hearing in 2006. No one was more surprised than I was. All those who benefited from this decision should know it may not have happened were it not for Hillary Clinton.

Sometimes these success stories get lost in the “horse-race stories” about political campaigns and the exposes of taxpayer-funded bridges to nowhere, and who said what to whom. This story of emergency contraception at the FDA is just one story of many. Sen. Clinton saw a problem that affected people’s lives. She then stood up to the challenge and worked to solve it.

The challenges we face in health care, our economy, global climate change, and issues of war and peace, need to be tackled with experience, skills and the commitment to using the best available science and evidence to make the best possible policy.  This will benefit us all.

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