The fire at the American Family Planning Clinic in Pensacola, Florida, on New Year’s Day, 2012, now seems like a morbidly symbolic start to what became six months of violence against family-planning and reproductive-health-service clinics and practitioners. Starting with the early-morning firebombing in Florida, and culminating in June in a series of arsons in the area around Atlanta, Georgia, the first half of 2012 saw the most acts of aggression against those who support abortion rights since the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) took effect in 1994.
According to the Associated Press, a homeless man, Bobby Joe Rogers, who lived in a parking lot near the clinic and often participated in anti-choice protests with movement activists, has been sentenced to ten years in federal prison for the firebombing. As a result of the bombing, the clinic has been permanently shut down. Rogers originally pled not guilty, but changed his plea in July.
A Wisconsin man, Francis Grady, who allegedly bombed a Planned Parenthood center in April, is scheduled to be sentenced this fall. Grady, who said in court that he “lit the clinic up” because “they kill babies in there,” has since been avidly embraced by Rev. Donald Spitz of the anti-choice terrorist group, Army of God. Spitz has sent e-mails defending Grady’s actions, created videos calling him the movement’s “brother,” and put him on the group’s “prisoners of life” list. Others on the list include Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. George Tiller, and murderer Eric Rudolph, who bombed a Birmingham, Alabama, health center.
Rogers, too, is on Spitz’s list of special friends whom he solicits for funds. At the top of his grim “honor roll” is Paul Jennings Hill, who received the death penalty in 2004 for the murder of Dr. John Britton on the sidewalk of the same Pensacola clinic that Rogers burned down on New Year’s Day.
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In May of 2011, Wisconsin man Richard Lang was arrested after he shot the walls in a Madison hotel. Lang admitted his plans to go to the local Planned Parenthood clinic and murder the doctor who provides abortions there and was arrested on both state and federal charges.
Now, Lang has finally been ruled competent to stand trial.
Ralph W. Lang, 64, had been found incompetent two months ago and was committed to a state mental health facility in Madison for treatment to restore his competency. On Thursday, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan found Lang competent after psychologist Dr. Laurence Trueman presented his mental evaluation and was questioned by Assistant District Attorney Robert Kaiser and Lang’s attorney Eric Schulenburg.
Flanagan concluded that Lang can understand the charge and proceedings against him and is capable of assisting with his defense, the legal threshold for competency in criminal matters.
Lang’s planned murder signaled the beginning of escalating violence against clinics and providers in the state. Francis Grady was found guilty of guilty of federal arson for trying to burn down another Wisconsin Planned Parenthood in April of 2012. Grady will be sentenced in the fall.