Tomorrow, Don Benny Anderson will be released after serving 24 years for the kidnapping of Dr. Hector Zevallos, an OB/GYN and abortion care provider and his wife. The kidnapping occurred in Granite City, Illinois. Anderson is the first purported member of The Army of God to commit violence against an abortion care provider. He would not be the last.
Years of violence are an apt description for abortion care providers during the 1980's and 1990's. Go here to see a map of America's violence against abortion providers and the women they serve.
There were 1,700 acts of violence against abortion providers between 1977 and 1994, with four people killed in 1994 and one in 1993, according to statistics from The National Abortion Federation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has logged 167 attacks against abortion clinics over the past 15 years.
In 1984 alone, there were 18 bombings against abortion clinics. In 1993, there were 78 death threats aimed at clinic employees. And, in 1996, bombings, threats and harassment affected about one-third of U.S. abortion clinics.
After the passage of the federal lawFACE (Freedom to Access of Clinics) overt attacks diminished. Because it now became a federal crime to commit violence against abortion providers this allowed perpetrators to be pursued across state lines, which was critical as often abortion "terrorists" traveled to commit their crimes. And while the overt violence has been reduced in recent years, there is a new, more sophisticated war aimed at reducing abortion care in America. There is a crisis in America occurring when it comes to providing and accessing professional abortion care and it is flying below radar. The "antis" have become increasingly clever in their war on abortion care providers and they are shutting clinics at a record number. Only one clinic, one place in the entire state of Mississippi to receive professional abortion care. Go to PBS Frontline's The Last Abortion Clinic to see a watch on line a chilling look at how women are being denied abortion care in this country today.
Below is a Letter to the Editor that was sent to the St. Louis Post Dispatch today by Allison Hile, Director of Information and Education for the Hope Clinic for Women.
Army of God Leader Released on September 11th, 2007:
Clinic Phones Continued to Ring During Firebombing and Kidnapping
Don Benny Anderson and his nephews, Matthew and Wayne Moore, kidnapped Dr. Hector Zevallos, the Obstetrician Gynecologist I worked for in 1982. Calling themselves the Army of God, they were out to stop abortion. Anderson will be/was released from prison on September 11th, 2007; he will be living an hour and a half away from our clinic.
1982 was a frightening year for The Hope Clinic for Women, where I continue to work. Saturday, January 23rd, the day after the 9th anniversary of legal abortion everywhere in the U.S., I got a late night phone call from our then director asking me to alert our staff the clinic was on fire.
With only one exception (a nurse frightened for her children), our staff came in the next morning to clean smoke damaged areas. A third of our building (counseling offices and lobby) was destroyed by the fire. A wall mounted television dripped down several feet, pictures literally vaporized off the walls, and water damage from our sprinkler system soaked the area. Our determined staff and professional cleaners worked round the clock to ready the other 2/3 of our facility for patients and dozens of women arrived for their abortion appointments three days later. The fire had not even singed our patients’ desperation. They seemed not to care about the crowded waiting area or being counseled in exam rooms. We continued to provide abortion care in our limited areas during the weeks it took to rebuild.
This was before the days when abortion care providers could call the department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and before the days the phrase "domestic terrorist" had been coined.
No one was ever charged with starting the fire.
Only months after moving back into our renovated section, one of our physicians was late for work. This was so unusual, we called his home to check. No answer. We called a neighbor to be sure he and his wife were alright. A grim report came back. Their cars were in the garage, their door was open, the television was on with a bowl of popcorn sitting nearby and his wife’s shoes were next to the couch. No one was home.
For eight days our only source of news inside the clinic was from the media. Throughout this ordeal, women still arrived for care. I went into our waiting room to talk with them and with their loved ones. They would mumble something about having heard it in the news but were so wrapped up in their own crises, their worlds were focused only on their unwanted pregnancies.
For eight days that August, Dr. Zevallos and his wife Jean were held at gunpoint, fearing for their lives – bound, blindfolded, and gagged, on the dirt floor of an abandoned WWII ammunitions bunker between Springfield and Decatur. They were fed ham sandwiches and a pot was placed in the bunker as a toilet. The kidnappers said God had spoken to them and suggested they use kidnapping to stop abortion. With a gun to his head, Dr. Zevallos was forced to make an audio tape urging President Reagan (who already did so) to oppose abortion.
On the last day, the kidnappers were harsher than they had been during the week. When they took Jean outside alone, Hector became concerned they were going to rape or hurt her. One of the younger ones admitted to the doctor he had been up all night praying as he had been told to kill them and he was trying to figure out how. Fortunately, the ringleader said God changed his mind and said to release them.
Neither the burning of our building nor the kidnapping of our doctor did anything to stop the need for abortion care. The phones continued to ring then as they do today.
Regardless of your position on abortion, we must all work together to reduce the need for it through accurate sexuality education and contraception accessible to all. What we must NOT do is reduce the availability of quality abortion care. It must remain safe whether it is us or our daughters or granddaughters who need it.
Allison M. Hile, M.A.
Director of Information and Education
The Hope Clinic for Women, Ltd.
1602 21st ST
Granite City, IL 62040
Please extend your support to Hope Clinic for Women and all abortion care providers as this grim reminder of the potential consequences of providing a safe and legal medical procedure is revisited on this eve of the release of Anderson.
And please, help our policy makers understand that abortion care is being dramatically reduced in America as the result of a well planned and sophisticated attack in the guise of protecting women's health. We need to require that our policy makers discuss SUBSTANTIVELY how to make abortion care in America easier to provide and receive.
Every single one of our daughters deserve professional abortion care when they are in need. Please help turn back the tide before more women and their families are denied health and life saving care.