Dr. Warren Hern of Boulder Co. sent me his commentary on the recent Buffer Zone ruling of the Supremes. I'm printing it here in it's entirety at his request. Please share widely.
At 8 a.m., a lone woman stands inches away from the street side of the steel gate at the top of the driveway into my office parking lot. She is intently staring down at me as I get into my wife's car. I don't see a weapon, but I am seized with fear and anger. We can't drive out that gate because I know this woman might shoot me. Why else would she be waiting there? Is it Shelly Shannon?More below the twisted orange.
In 1993, my friend, Dr. George Tiller, was shot by Shelly Shannon as he drove past her out the driveway of his clinic parking lot in Wichita. Shannon had traveled from Spokane, Washington to Oklahoma City where she bought a gun and then drove to Wichita to shoot Dr. Tiller. She didn't kill him, as she intended, but he was seriously wounded. Shannon was sent to Kansas State Prison. A year later, she wrote a letter to me from her prison cell. Her message to me was: you're next.
Five years ago, Dr. Tiller was assassinated by another anti-abortion fanatic in the lobby of his Lutheran church in Wichita as he was helping his fellow worshipers attend the Sunday service. He was shot in the head and died instantly. His wife was in the choir and heard the shots.
The assassin had visited Shelly Shannon in prison.
After nearly 40 years of harassment of my patients entering the front door of my office on Alpine Avenue including shots fired through the front waiting room windows, I installed a high fence between the street and a new entrance in order to give my patients some privacy. Prior to this, they have experienced endless, mindless harassment from the anti-abortion demonstrators, who routinely ignore the provisions of the Boulder Buffer Zone Ordinance passed by the Boulder City Council in 1986.Dr. Hern and other abortion providers are more in fear for their lives now than ever. Thanks to the Supreme Court. The floor is yours.
In recent months, they have aggressively stepped on the sidewalk in front of the patients and screamed at them. Now, instead of standing in a zone designated by the Boulder police between the curb and the street, the demonstrators move to the side of the fence so they can shout at patients coming in the new entrance. The woman blocking my gate directed her attention to me.
The objective of the demonstrators is clearly not expression of an opinion and the use of free speech; it is harassment and intimidation. It works. My patients suffer as much or more from this psychological rape than they do from the stress of the abortion.
In fact, a large portion of my patients come to me to end a desired pregnancy because of a catastrophic fetal disorder or the woman's medical condition. These women don't want to have an abortion. They want to have a baby. They are in terrible anguish and distress because of these circumstances and the painful decision they have reached. The actions of the anti-abortion fanatics amount to unconscionable mental cruelty.
The Boulder Buffer Zone Ordinance does not protect my patients. It is an important and welcome expression of community sentiment. It rests on two premises: that anti-abortion demonstrators will respect the rights and privacy of others and that they will respect the law. Neither of these premises is true.
For decades, neither I nor my staff have been able to use the front door of my office because of the threats of violence. This concern became most acute with the assassination of Dr. David Gunn by an anti-abortion fanatic in Florida in March, 1993, and that was followed by Shannon's attempted assassination of Dr. Tiller in August of that year. John Salvi assassinated two clinic workers in Boston in December, 1993. In 1994, Paul Hill assassinated Dr. John Britton and his bodyguard, and James Kopp assassinated Dr. Barnett Slepian in 1998. Dr. Tiller was assassinated on May 31, 2009. All of the assassins had been "peaceful" anti-abortion demonstrators.
The Boulder Buffer Zone Ordinance was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 against the opposition of the American Civil Liberties Union. On Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a stronger Massachusetts law that required demonstrators to stay 35 feet from the entrance of an abortion clinic. It should be at least 100 feet, or — my preference — the distance that a rifle bullet can travel.
In a 1928 dissent in Olmstead v. United States, Justice Louis Brandeis made the statement that a fundamental right is "the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men." Brandeis's statement has been cited by numerous Justices. Justice Felix Frankfurter called the right of privacy as "second to none in the Bill of Rights."
We have learned vividly during the past 40 years that anti-abortion demonstrators will not leave anybody alone. We also learned again from the most recent Supreme Court decision that women are second class citizens in this country.
Dr. Warren Hern is Director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic.