Roundup: Motives Remain Unclear in Michigan Killings While Terry Plans to Push “Martyrdom” of Pouillon

Jodi Jacobson

While the full range of motives for two killings and one additional intended murder thwarted by police in Owosso, Michigan last week remain unclear, Randall Terry, who now leads a group he is calling Operation Rescue Insurrecta Nex (see Right-Wing Watch), is planning a press conference to declare James Pouillon a "martyr," and several newspapers and blogs are shaping the story as a "pro-" versus "anti-" choice murder case, without much attention to the other man killed or his intended third victim.

Motives Remain Unclear in Michigan Killings While Terry Plans to Push "Martyrdom" of Pouillon

While the full range of motives for two killings and one additional intended murder thwarted by police in Owosso, Michigan last week remain unclear, Randall Terry, who now leads a group he is calling Operation Rescue Insurrecta Nex (see Right-Wing Watch), is planning a press conference to declare James Pouillon a "martyr." 

According to the Ponca City News, Drake was arraigned Friday without an attorney on first-degree murder
charges and ordered held without bond.

Police said little about what might have led Drake – a truck driver who
mostly lived on the road in his cab and had family in the area – to
kill, other than that he had a grudge against Fuoss and Howe [the realtor who apparently was Drake’s third intended target] and didn’t
like Pouillon’s graphic anti-abortion signs.

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"Pouillon, 63, was a polarizing figure in Owosso, a town of 15,000" says the news article.

While inhaling oxygen from a small tank, he could usually
be seen with his anti-abortion signs outside schools, the library, city
hall, even football games.
On Friday morning, Pouillon was in his usual place across the street
from the high school, holding a sign that pictured a chubby-cheeked
baby with the word "LIFE" on one side and an image of an aborted fetus
with the word "ABORTION" on the other. Authorities allege Drake pulled
up to him in a truck and opened fire.

Flowers marked the spot Saturday where Pouillon was shot. A note said,
"May you rest now."
Chief assistant prosecutor Sara Edwards said there didn’t appear to be
a "triggering event" but Pouillon’s presence outside the school seemed
to aggravate Drake.

It was "the fact that he was outside the high
school with his signs in front of children going to school," she said.

After shooting Pouillon, Drake drove seven miles and down a dead-end country road to Fuoss
Gravel Co. and killed Fuoss, 61, who owned the business, said
Shiawassee County Sheriff George Braidwood. 

While the two men knew each
other, "authorities didn’t detail what may have led to his slaying."

Someone wrote down Drake’s license plate number after Pouillon’s
shooting and called police, who said they arrested him before he could
fulfill a plan to kill Howe.

Drake’s stepmother, Susan Drake, said his family was in disbelief.
"I don’t know what to say. He was a big, gentle giant," she told The
Flint Journal on Saturday. "He has a heart as big as gold."
She said she’s known her stepson for half his life. He didn’t use drugs
or alcohol and never showed signs of an emotional breakdown, she said.
"I’ve called his mother and his wife, and they’re nauseated," she said.
"Nobody knows why this happened." 

A real estate agent told he was the third target of a shooting spree that left an abortion protester and a business owner dead said Saturday he fled his home after the violence that claimed two lives in their small Michigan city.
The man charged with the killings, meanwhile, was taken from jail to a hospital to undergo surgery for a self-inflicted wound to his arm, according to a county prosecutor.

There is as yet no evidence that Drake acted against Pouillon for his graphic anti-choice protests any more than if he were holding graphic signs near children of heart surgery or amputations.  Yet, notwithstanding lack of clear motives or the intentions or mental state of the killer, some media outlets and groups are treating the killing as a "pro-choice v. anti-choice" debate.

The Flint, Michigan news site,, for example, writes:

Pro-life and pro-choice are noble names for the two sides of the
abortion debate — but an appalling amount of blood has been shed over
the decades since Roe V Wade supposedly settled the issue in the U.S.
Supreme Court in 1973.
Pro-life activist James L. Pouillon, 63, of Owosso Township, appears to
be the latest victim in that ongoing holy war — and the first
anti-abortion activist to be killed for publicly demonstrating his
beliefs, according to Reuters and other news reports.

Police say Harlan J. Drake, 33, of Owosso was angered by Pouillon’s
pro-life sign when he allegedly shot him several times from a passing
car in front of Owosso High School on Friday morning.
Residents said it was a familar spot to see the impassioned pro-life
activist, who used a walker and portable oxygen tank while out
demonstrating for his cause. He had been ticketed and arrested several
times over the years for his anti-abortion demonstrations.
Pouillon’s neighbors and friends said they’d often worried whether his
style of confrontational politics would someday endanger his life.

Planned Parenthood East Central Michigan president Lori Lamerand, quoted by, expressed worry that Pouillon’s death could spark further violence.

"If this is related to his pro-life views, we find that tragic and do
not endorse such actions in any way, shape or form," said Lamerand.
"Unfortunately we also have to worry now whether this will cause folks
who are not very reasonable people to decide it’s time to retaliate." continues:

Indeed, websites and bloggers all over the nation are picking up the
story and running with it, some as a call to arms and others as a plea
against more violence.
The last violent death attributed to the debate occurred in May, when
Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation’s few providers of late-term
abortions, was shot and killed in a Wichita church. A 51-year old man
was arrested in Tiller’s death.
It wasn’t the first time Tiller had been attacked. According to news
reports, Tiller was shot in both arms in 1993 and his clinic bombed in
Flint Right to Life president Judy Climer said she also opposes
violence in the debate, but doesn’t believe it can be eliminated.
"I think both sides are pursuing their beliefs passionately. How you
compromise, I have no idea," said Climer. "I don’t think you’re ever
going to get the two sides to come together on it. It’s impossible."

According to the National Abortion Federation, 24 murders or attempted
murders of abortion providers occurred in a 16-year period from
During that same time period, 179 bombings or arsons were attempted or
carried out against abortion providers, along with 3,349 incidents of
assault and battery, vandalism, trespassing, death threats, burglary,
stalking and other crimes of violence and intimidation.

"I have to make the observation there is much less violence on the
pro-choice side and it’s often in reaction," said Lamerand.
"I think that’s because many people who are vehemently anti-abortion
tend to draw their beliefs from their religion, and we have seen
violent acts in the name of religion all over the world for centuries.
If it’s done in the name of religion, people feel as if any
self-rightousness is justified."

Climer said she doesn’t know of any similar statistics for violence
perpetrated against pro-life followers, but said she considers abortion
itself to be murder.

"I don’t agree with the person who went into that church and shot Dr.
Tiller. That was as wrong as Tiller going into the womb and (killing)
babies," said Climer. "Either way, one doesn’t justify the other."

Climer also pointed to a 2004 Flint incident when a Davison woman was
arrested after driving her car up over a curb where a group of
pro-lifers were demonstrating. The yelling match turned into a brawl
after the woman slapped a minister in the face and he punched her in
"I honestly don’t think there’s any way you can guarantee more of this
is not going to happen," said Climer.
At least on that point the leaders of the two sides agree.

"What Planned Parenthood has always felt is the main way to attack this
violence problem is to make abortion less necessary in the first
place," said Lamerand. "We all need to work on common sense solutions
so people can exercise their ability to be sexual…but give them the
tools they need to ensure pregnancies only happen when they want them
Meanwhile, Climer said Pouillon’s death is already sparking an upsurge
among his fellow pro-lifers.
"We who believe there is a plan for every life will keep believing.
We’re not going away. This is energizing us even more," said Climer.

In the midst of all this, Reuters is reporting that Randall Terry plans a press conference at the National Press Club on Tuesday, September 15th:

Terry states:

"I’ve known Jim for nearly 20 years. He was dedicated,
articulate, and courageous. And he gave his life in the service of the babies
he sought to defend. We grieve his death, and we will not stop using ANY of
the tactics that cost him his life. He was known affectionately as ‘Jim the Sign Guy.’ May God grant him a
Martyr’s Crown."


Other news to note…




Analysis Law and Policy

After a Year, What Has the Smear Campaign Against Planned Parenthood Accomplished?

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

One year after David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress released the first of a series of videos targeting Planned Parenthood, there is still no evidence of wrongdoing by the reproductive health-care provider.

See more of our coverage on the anti-choice front group, the Center for Medical Progress here.

One year ago, David Daleiden released the first in a series of videos that he claimed proved Planned Parenthood employees were unlawfully profiting from fetal tissue donation and violating the federal “partial-birth abortion” ban. With the backing and counsel of Operation Rescue President Troy Newman and the help of a woman named Sandra Merritt, among others, Daleiden had created a front group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).

He then disguised CMP as a legitimate biomedical research organization—despite overwhelming evidence, including CMP’s own corporate documents, to the contrary—and used it to gain access to abortion clinics and private meetings. The organization released 11 videos by the end of 2015; in a year’s time, Daleiden and CMP had released a total of 14 videos. All have been debunked as deceptively edited and misleading.

So what have those videos truly accomplished? Here’s a summary of the fallout, one year later.

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Lawmakers Mounted Attacks on Planned Parenthood

In response to CMP’s videos, more than a dozen conservative governors launched investigations into or tried to defund Planned Parenthood affiliates in their states. States like Arkansas, Kansas, and Utah had their attempts to defund the reproductive health-care centers blocked by federal court order. The Obama administration also warned states that continuing to try and strip Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood centers violated federal law, though that did not stop such efforts throughout the country.

Additionally, congressional Republicans began their own investigations and defunding efforts, holding at least five separate hearings and as many defunding votes. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) President Cecile Richards provided hours of congressional testimony on the lawful fetal tissue donation option available to some Planned Parenthood patients. Other affiliates do not offer such donation programs at all.

Not a single investigation at either the state or federal level has produced evidence of any wrongdoing. Still, many continue today. To date, Congress alone has spent almost $790,000 on the matter.

Violence Against Clinics Escalated

Just weeks after CMP released its first video, there was an act of arson at a Planned Parenthood health center in Aurora, Illinois. The following month, and after the release of three more smear videos, a car fire broke out behind a locked gate at Planned Parenthood in New Orleans. Abortion clinic staff and doctors around the country reported a significant uptick in threats of violence as Daleiden and CMP released the videos in a slow drip.

That violence spiked in November 2015, when Robert Lewis Dear Jr. was arrested for opening fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, a siege that left three dead. Dear told investigating officers his violence was “for the babies” because Planned Parenthood was “selling baby parts.” A Colorado court has so far deemed Dear incompetent to stand trial. Dear’s siege was not the last incident of clinic violence apparently inspired by Daleiden and CMP, but it has, to date, been the most lethal.

Dear’s next competency hearing is currently scheduled for Aug. 11.

A Lot of Lawsuits Got Filed

The tissue procurement company StemExpress and the National Abortion Federation (NAF) filed suits in July of last year. In January 2016, Planned Parenthood did the same, alleging that Daleiden and CMP had engaged in conspiracy and racketeering, among other things.

StemExpress Sued Daleiden and CMP

StemExpress, one company to whom Planned Parenthood was supposedly selling tissue, sued CMP, Daleiden, and Merritt in California state court. StemExpress asked the court for an injunction blocking CMP from releasing any more videos that were surreptitiously recorded at meetings the pair of anti-choice activists had with StemExpress staff. The complaint also included allegations of conspiracy, invasion of privacy, and conversion of property (based upon Daleiden’s taking confidential information from a former StemExpress employee, including accessing her StemExpress email account after she was no longer employed at the company).

Although it issued a temporary restraining order (TRO), the court ultimately declined to convert that into an injunction, citing First Amendment concerns that to do so would constitute prior restraint, or pre-publication censorship, on Daleiden and Merritt’s right to free speech. In other words, Daleiden and Merritt are free—at least under this court order—to continue releasing videos involving StemExpress employees while the suit proceeds.

The case is set for trial in January 2017.

National Abortion Federation Sued Daleiden and CMP

About the same time that CMP and Daleiden were battling StemExpress in court, NAF filed suit in federal court in San Francisco, alleging civil conspiracy, racketeering, fraud, and breach of contract, among other claims. Like StemExpress, NAF sought a temporary restraining order blocking any further release of the attack videos. Judge William Orrick issued the TRO and later, after a protracted discovery battle, converted it into a preliminary injunction. Thus, CMP is prohibited from publishing any videos of footage taken at NAF’s annual meetings, which Daleiden and Merritt infiltrated in 2014 and 2015, while the suit proceeds.

As they had in their battle with StemExpress, Daleiden and CMP claimed that prohibiting publication of the videos constituted a prior restraint on speech, in violation of the First Amendment. But unlike StemExpress, which was trying to prohibit the publication of videos detailing conversations that took place in a restaurant, NAF sought to prohibit publication of video footage secretly recorded at meetings. Judge Orrick found that Daleiden had waived his First Amendment rights when he signed a confidentiality agreement at those meetings promising not to disclose any information he gained at them.

And, as in other court battles, one of the preeminent claims Daleiden and his cohorts raised to excuse his tactics—creating a fake tissue procurement company, assuming false identities through the use of false identification cards, getting people drunk in order to elicit damaging statements from them, and signing confidentiality agreements with no intention of following them—was that Daleiden is an investigative journalist.

Judge Orrick condemned this argument in strong terms: “Defendants engaged in repeated instances of fraud, including the manufacture of fake documents, the creation and registration with the state of California of a fake company, and repeated false statements to a numerous NAF representatives and NAF members in order to infiltrate NAF and implement their Human Capital Project. The products of that Project—achieved in large part from the infiltration—thus far have not been pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions (at least with respect to the NAF materials) of criminal misconduct. Defendants did not—as Daleiden repeatedly asserts—use widely accepted investigatory journalism techniques.”

In an amicus brief in the same lawsuit, submitted to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in early June, 18 of the country’s leading journalists and journalism scholars noted that “by calling himself an ‘investigative journalist,’ Appellant David Daleiden does not make it so.”

“We believe that accepting Mr. Daleiden’s claim that he merely engaged in ‘standard undercover journalism techniques’ would be both wrong and damaging to the vital role that journalism serves in our society,” the journalists and scholars continued.

Daleiden and CMP have appealed the preliminary injunction order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case currently sits pending a decision.

Planned Parenthood Sued Daleiden and CMP

Six months after StemExpress and NAF filed their lawsuits against the orchestrators of the smear campaign, PPFA filed a whopping one of its own in California federal court, alleging civil conspiracy, racketeering, fraud, trespass, and breach of contract, among other civil and criminal allegations. PPFA was joined by several affiliates—including Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, where Dear was arrested for opening fire in November.

Daleiden has asked the court to dismiss Planned Parenthood’s claims. The court has so far declined to do so.

David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt Were Indicted on Felony Charges

Daleiden and his allies have not fared well in the civil lawsuits filed against them. But both Daleiden and Merritt also have pending criminal cases. After an investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast sparked by Daleiden’s claims, a Texas grand jury declined to indict the health-care organization for any criminal conduct. The grand jury instead returned an indictment against Daleiden and Merritt on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record, related to their use of false California driver’s licenses in order to gain entrance into the clinic. Daleiden was additionally charged with a misdemeanor count related to the purchase or sale of human organs.

In June, Harris County Criminal Court at Law Judge Diane Bull dismissed the misdemeanor charge. Daleiden and Merritt’s attorneys, who called the dismissal a victory for the anti-choice movement, are still trying to get the felony charged dismissed.

Analysis Law and Policy

Justice Kennedy’s Silence Speaks Volumes About His Apparent Feelings on Women’s Autonomy

Imani Gandy

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

Last week’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was remarkable not just for what it did say—that two provisions in Texas’s omnibus anti-abortion law were unconstitutional—but for what it didn’t say, and who didn’t say it.

In the lead-up to the decision, many court watchers were deeply concerned that Justice Anthony Kennedy would side with the conservative wing of the court, and that his word about targeted restrictions of abortion providers would signal the death knell of reproductive rights. Although Kennedy came down on the winning side, his notable silence on the “dignity” of those affected by the law still speaks volumes about his apparent feelings on women’s autonomy. That’s because Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity, and where along the fault line of that human dignity various rights fall, has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

His opinion on marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, along with his prior opinions striking down sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, assured us that he recognizes the fundamental human rights and dignity of LGBTQ persons.

On the other hand, as my colleague Jessica Mason Pieklo noted, his concern in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action about the dignity of the state, specifically the ballot initiative process, assured us that he is willing to sweep aside the dignity of those affected by Michigan’s affirmative action ban in favor of the “‘dignity’ of a ballot process steeped in racism.”

Meanwhile, in his majority opinion in June’s Fisher v. University of Texas, Kennedy upheld the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ affirmative action program, noting that it remained a challenge to this country’s education system “to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”

It is apparent that where Kennedy is concerned, dignity is the alpha and the omega. But when it came to one of the most important reproductive rights cases in decades, he was silent.

This is not entirely surprising: For Kennedy, the dignity granted to pregnant women, as evidenced by his opinions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart, has been steeped in gender-normative claptrap about abortion being a unique choice that has grave consequences for women, abortion providers’ souls, and the dignity of the fetus. And in Whole Woman’s Health, when Kennedy was given another chance to demonstrate to us that he does recognize the dignity of women as women, he froze.

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He didn’t write the majority opinion. He didn’t write a concurring opinion. He permitted Justice Stephen Breyer to base the most important articulation of abortion rights in decades on data. There was not so much as a callback to Kennedy’s flowery articulation of dignity in Casey, where he wrote that “personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education” are matters “involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.” (While Casey was a plurality opinion, various Court historians have pointed out that Kennedy himself wrote the above-quoted language.)

Of course, that dignity outlined in Casey is grounded in gender paternalism: Abortion, Kennedy continued, “is an act fraught with consequences for others: for the woman who must live with the implications of her decision; for the persons who perform and assist in the procedures for the spouse, family, and society which must confront the knowledge that these procedures exist, procedures some deem nothing short of an act of violence against innocent human life; and, depending on one’s beliefs, for the life or potential life that is aborted.” Later, in Gonzales, Kennedy said that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban “expresses respect for the dignity of human life,” with nothing about the dignity of the women affected by the ban.

And this time around, Kennedy’s silence in Whole Woman’s Health may have had to do with the facts of the case: Texas claimed that the provisions advanced public health and safety, and Whole Woman’s Health’s attorneys set about proving that claim to be false. Whole Woman’s Health was the sort of data-driven decision that did not strictly need excessive language about personal dignity and autonomy. As Breyer wrote, it was a simple matter of Texas advancing a reason for passing the restrictions without offering any proof: “We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law, the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health.”

In Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s two-page concurrence, she succinctly put it, “Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory-surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements.”

“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H.B. 2 that ‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,’ cannot survive judicial inspection,” she continued, hammering the point home.

So by silently signing on to the majority opinion, Kennedy may simply have been expressing that he wasn’t going to fall for the State of Texas’ efforts to undermine Casey’s undue burden standard through a mixture of half-truths about advancing public health and weak evidence supporting that claim.

Still, Kennedy had a perfect opportunity to complete the circle on his dignity jurisprudence and take it to its logical conclusion: that women, like everyone else, are individuals worthy of their own autonomy and rights. But he didn’t—whether due to his Catholic faith, a deep aversion to abortion in general, or because, as David S. Cohen aptly put it, “[i]n Justice Kennedy’s gendered world, a woman needs … state protection because a true mother—an ideal mother—would not kill her child.”

As I wrote last year in the wake of Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell, “according to [Kennedy’s] perverse simulacrum of dignity, abortion rights usurp the dignity of motherhood (which is the only dignity that matters when it comes to women) insofar as it prevents women from fulfilling their rightful roles as mothers and caregivers. Women have an innate need to nurture, so the argument goes, and abortion undermines that right.”

This version of dignity fits neatly into Kennedy’s “gendered world.” But falls short when compared to jurists internationally,  who have pointed out that dignity plays a central role in reproductive rights jurisprudence.

In Casey itself, for example, retired Justice John Paul Stevens—who, perhaps not coincidentally, attended the announcement of the Whole Woman’s Health decision at the Supreme Court—wrote that whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a “matter of conscience,” and that “[t]he authority to make such traumatic and yet empowering decisions is an element of basic human dignity.”

And in a 1988 landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Bertha Wilson indicated in her concurring opinion that “respect for human dignity” was key to the discussion of access to abortion because “the right to make fundamental personal decision without interference from the state” was central to human dignity and any reading of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1982, which is essentially Canada’s Bill of Rights.

The case was R. v. Morgentaler, in which the Supreme Court of Canada found that a provision in the criminal code that required abortions to be performed only at an accredited hospital with the proper certification of approval from the hospital’s therapeutic abortion committee violated the Canadian Constitution. (Therapeutic abortion committees were almost always comprised of men who would decide whether an abortion fit within the exception to the criminal offense of performing an abortion.)

In other countries, too, “human dignity” has been a key component in discussion about abortion rights. The German Federal Constitutional Court explicitly recognized that access to abortion was required by “the human dignity of the pregnant woman, her… right to life and physical integrity, and her right of personality.” The Supreme Court of Brazil relied on the notion of human dignity to explain that requiring a person to carry an anencephalic fetus to term caused “violence to human dignity.” The Colombian Constitutional Court relied upon concerns about human dignity to strike down abortion prohibition in instances where the pregnancy is the result of rape, involves a nonviable fetus, or a threat to the woman’s life or health.

Certainly, abortion rights are still severely restricted in some of the above-mentioned countries, and elsewhere throughout the world. Nevertheless, there is strong national and international precedent for locating abortion rights in the square of human dignity.

And where else would they be located? If dignity is all about permitting people to make decisions of fundamental personal importance, and it turns out, as it did with Texas, that politicians have thrown “women’s health and safety” smoke pellets to obscure the true purpose of laws like HB 2—to ban abortion entirely—where’s the dignity in that?

Perhaps I’m being too grumpy. Perhaps I should just take the win—and it is an important win that will shape abortion rights for a generation—and shut my trap. But I want more from Kennedy. I want him to demonstrate that he’s not a hopelessly patriarchal figure who has icky feelings when it comes to abortion. I want him to recognize that some women have abortions and it’s not the worst decision they’ve ever made or the worst thing that ever happened to him. I want him to recognize that women are people who deserve dignity irrespective of their choices regarding whether and when to become a mother. And, ultimately, I want him to write about a woman’s right to choose using the same flowery language that he uses to discuss LGBTQ rights and the dignity of LGBTQ people.  He could have done so here.

Forcing the closure of clinics based on empty promises of advancing public health is an affront to the basic dignity of women. Not only do such lies—and they are lies, as evidenced by the myriad anti-choice Texan politicians who have come right out and said that passing HB 2 was about closing clinics and making abortion inaccessible—operate to deprive women of the dignity to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term, they also presume that the American public is too stupid to truly grasp what’s going on.

And that is quintessentially undignified.