Two years ago today, Dr. George Tiller was shot to death in his church by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder. Tiller was a Republican, a beloved physician in Wichita, Kansas, and one of the few abortion providers in that part of the country. For decades, Tiller had been threatened and harassed by anti-abortion groups for his work, and even survived an assassination attempt in 1993 after being shot twice. At his trial, Roeder argued that his crime was “morally justified” because he was “protecting the unborn.”
Last Friday, another anti-abortion extremist attempted to murder abortion providers in the name of God. A Wisconsin man, Ralph Lang, was arrested and charged with intent to murder doctors at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Madison. Lang had been arrested once before in 2007 for menacing nurses and doctors at the same facility:
Ralph Lang, 63, of Marshfield, was staying at a Motel 6 when his .38-caliber handgun discharged into an unoccupied room across the hall, according to the federal criminal complaint.[…] Lang, who was arrested for reckless endangerment, told police that he had a gun “to lay out abortionists because they are killing babies,” the complaint said.
Lang told police that he planned to go to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic the following morning to find the doctor who was doing the abortions and shoot him in the head, the complaint said. He was charged with attempting to injure and intimidate in violation of the federal access statute, according to U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil.
A nurse at Planned Parenthood in Madison said she is familiar with Lang, and that she saw him outside the facility last week, according to the complaint. Lang was arrested in 2007 outside Planned Parenthood, telling an officer at the time that the “Bible states that anyone involved in abortion should be executed.”
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, when asked if he planned to shoot just the doctor or nurses as well, Lang replied he wished he “could line them up all in a row, get a machine gun, and mow them all down.” Eerily, in Lang’s hotel room, the police found a map of the U.S. with dots in each state marking abortion clinics and the words “Blessed Virgin Mary says Hell awaits any woman having an abortion.”
As the cases of Lang and Roeder demonstrate, the rise of anti-abortion terrorism threatens the health and safety of all Americans, not just women. Across the country, abortion providers fear for their lives, and as a result, fewer doctors and nurses are learning how to perform abortions. This is exactly what men like Lang and Roeder want. It’s become almost impossible for women in large swaths of the country to have access to safe abortions. In 2000, 87 percent of U.S. counties had no abortion providers and only 3 percent of rural areas had one — and the numbers have gotten even worse since then.
These “pro-life” extremists who are willing to murder for their cause are getting considerable help from their friends in politics. Congress is trying to prevent doctors from learning how to perform life-saving abortion procedures that are often necessary when women have incomplete miscarriages. This year, Republicans in South Carolina, Nebraska, and Iowa have pushed legislation that would essentially legalize the murder of abortion providers. If passed, these bills would protect vigilantes and constitute the first instances of state-sanctioned anti-abortion terrorism. Such radical sentiments have been echoed by prominent conservatives on the national stage like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who said during his 2004 campaign, “I favor the death penalty for abortionists.” When it comes to the modern anti-abortion lobby, it seems no position is too extreme.