Anti-Abortionists and White Supremacists Make Common Cause

Article excerpt

The third shooting of an abortion doctor in less than eighteen months embarrassed many in the anti-abortion movement. The murders of Dr. John Britton and his volunteer clinic escort at the Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida, in July dramatically exposed an underground network of fanatics perversely dedicated to practicing violence in the name of the "sanctity of human life." This violence is fueled, in part, by links between the anti-abortion movement and white-supremacist ideology.

Bigots and terrorists have long hung around the fringes of the anti-abortion movement, but connections that have recently come to light among the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi skinheads, and anti-abortionists now threaten to discredit anti-abortion groups. These connections are more than a fluke. Religious zealotry, nostalgia for a more culturally "pure" America, and a frightening rhetoric that encourages violence in the name of deeply held ideals fuels white supremacists and many anti-abortionists alike. It is not surprising, then, that the membership and leadership of these groups tend to overlap.

Even as some leaders of the anti-abortion movement hurried to distance themselves from the recent vicious attacks on doctors and clinics, the Florida-based Templar Knights of the Ku Klux Klan sponsored a rally on August 21 in support of Paul Hill, the man accused of shooting Dr. Britton and his escort, James Barrett.

White supremacist leaders have seized on abortion as a new rallying point for the White Revolution. Tim Bishop, a representative of the Aryan Nations, bragged about joining the anti-abortion movement in an interview for Reform Judaism magazine: "Lots of our people join in.... It's part of our Holy War for the pure Aryan race."

The American Front, a Portland-based skinhead group that has swollen the ranks of Operation Rescue protesters at Oregon clinics, printed the following declaration: "The 'Great Democracy' enforces your right to Blow Dope, Turn Queer, Marry a Nigger, Kill the Unborn, and do anything else to destroy America. ... We Prefer Revolution to SMASH IT! and replace it with a healthy WHITE MAN'S ORDER!"

In March, John Burt, regional director of the anti-abortion group Rescue America, told a New York Times reporter, "Fundamentalist Christians and those people [the Ku Klux Klan] are pretty close, scary close, fighting for God and country. Some day we may all be in the trenches together in the fight against the slaughter of unborn children."

Burt himself, who concedes he is a former Florida Klansman, is closely involved with people accused of killing abortion doctors. He was a constant figure of support through the trial of the bombers who targeted the Ladies Center and other clinics in December 1984--James and Kathy Simmons, Matthew Goldsby, and Kaye Wiggins. When asked why he supported the bombers, Burt replied, "I would go out and blow up a clinic and have no qualms about it except that I'm scared of being caught."

Michael Griffin, the man who murdered Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida, in March of last year, was a volunteer at Our Father's House, a home for unwed mothers run by Burt. The Sunday before Gunn was murdered, Griffin went to church with Burt and prayed aloud that Gunn would give his life to Jesus Christ.

Burt was also an associate of Paul Hill, the man accused of killing Dr. John Britton. In August 1993, according to Life Advocate, an anti-abortion magazine, Hill and Burt came to the Ladies Center determined to get a picture of Britton so that they could identify the doctor who replaced Gunn. Working with Hill, Burt and other associates were finally able to identify the doctor. They then used the doctor's personal information to develop a WANTED poster "exposing the man for the butcher that he is," according to the magazine.

Both Burt and Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, routinely use WANTED posters against their enemies. …