The fatal shooting of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday was the latest incident in a long history of violent attacks on facilities or doctors providing abortions in the United States and Canada.
At least 11 people have been killed in attacks on abortion clinics in the United States since 1993, including the Colorado attack. The most recent victims were Garrett Swasey, a police officer at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs and a part-time church pastor;Ke’Arre M. Stewart, a former Army specialist who served in Iraq; and Jennifer Markovsky, a woman from Hawaii who was at the clinic with a friend.
Authorities identified the gunman in the attack as Robert L. Dear Jr., saying that he opened fire with an assault-style rifle at the facility, setting off an hourslong standoff and gun battle that also wounded nine people. The police have not described the gunman’s motive, but authorities said that he spoke of “no more baby parts” in a rambling interview after his arrest.
Here is a brief look at the history of deadly violence against abortion clinics, their staff members, patients and their guests in the United States and Canada.
The First Abortion Doctor Killed: David Gunn
Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed by an opponent of abortion during a protest outside his clinic in Pensacola, Fla. His death was the first known killing of an abortion provider in the United States, according to the National Abortion Federation, an advocacy group.
The gunman, Michael F. Griffin, shot Dr. Gunn three times in the back as he approached the rear entrance of the clinic, and Mr. Griffin turned himself over to the police just moments later, telling them, “I’ve just shot Dr. Gunn.”
Mr. Griffin was convicted of the murder in March 1994 and was sentenced to life in prison.
The murder of Dr. Gunn was not the first time that Pensacola had been the site of anti-abortion violence, and it would not be the last. On Christmas Day in 1984, two doctors’ offices and a clinic were bombed by opponents of abortion who were later arrested, convicted and jailed.
Former Pastor Kills a Doctor and Clinic
Volunteer Anti-abortion violence returned to Pensacola one year after the death of Dr. Gunn when Paul J. Hill, a well-known anti-abortion protester, shot and killed Dr. John Bayard Britton and a clinic volunteer, James H. Barrett, outside a women’s health center in July 1994. Mr. Barrett’s wife, June, was also wounded in the shooting.
Mr. Hill, a former minister, was well known for advocating violence against abortion doctors, and he had praised the killing of Dr. Gunn. He was arrested shortly after the shooting as he tried to flee the scene, the police said at the time.
He was convicted in December 1994 of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death.
In the interview before his execution in 2003, Mr. Hill said that the killing of Dr. Gunn in 1993 had inspired him to kill Dr. Britton.
“I believe in the short and long term, more and more people will act on the principles for which I stand,” he said. ” I’m willing and I feel very honored that they are most likely going to kill me for what I did.”
George Tiller, Twice a Target, Is Killed in 2009
Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the United States who provided abortions late in pregnancy, was a frequent target of anti-abortion violence and was killed in 2009 by Scott Roeder as he stood in the foyer of his church.
A witness who was serving as an usher alongside Dr. Tiller at the church that day told the court that Mr. Roeder entered the foyer, put a gun to the doctor’s head and pulled the trigger.
At trial, Mr. Roeder admitted to killing Dr. Tiller and said he did it to protect unborn babies. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. At his sentencing, he told the court that God’s judgment would ”sweep over this land like a prairie wind.”
Dr. Tiller was shot once before, in 1993, by Shelley Shannon, an anti-abortion activist who compared abortion providers to Hitler and said she believed that “justifiable force” was necessary to stop abortions.
Ms. Shannon was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the shooting of Dr. Tiller and later confessed to vandalizing and burning a string of abortion clinics in California, Nevada and Oregon.