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COUPWATCH: Ashcroft and Anti-Abortion Extremism

by Institute for Public Accuracy Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2001 at 10:45 PM
ipa@accuracy.org (202) 347-0020 915 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045

In recent years, the U.S. Justice Department and its Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers have been credited with preventing violence. Although John Ashcroft testified he would protect abortion providers, many doubters, citing his record, are speaking out.

COUPWATCH: Ashcroft and Anti-Abortion Extremism

Institute for Public Accuracy

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

ASHCROFT AND ANTI-ABORTION EXTREMISM:

WIDOW OF DR. BARNETT SLEPIAN AND OTHERS QUESTION WHETHER ASHCROFT WOULD PROTECT ABORTION PROVIDERS

In recent years, the U.S. Justice Department and its Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers have been credited with preventing violence. Although John Ashcroft testified he would protect abortion providers, many doubters, citing his record, are speaking out.

"I have rarely spoken to the media in the two years since my husband's death," says Lynne Slepian, the widow of an abortion provider murdered in his home near Buffalo, New York. In a written statement, she explains her opposition to the Ashcroft nomination: "How can my family rely on John Ashcroft to provide all of the resources necessary to catch my husband's murderer? How will John Ashcroft prevent further tragedies like the one that took my husband's life? I am afraid of what will happen to other abortion providers if the laws protecting them are not fully enforced."

Mrs. Slepian's comment was issued by the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers. "Not only has the Task Force prevented violence," says NAF Executive Director Vicki Saporta, "but it has also devoted critical resources to apprehending those who have committed acts of violence." Saporta's group opposes Ashcroft: "Two days of testimony cannot supersede 25 years of public office."

* Contact Slepian or Saporta via NAF's Stephanie Mueller, smueller@prochoice.org, http://www.prochoice.org

On Jan. 21 in Bowie, Maryland, the Army of God and other extremists who openly advocate violence against abortion providers held their annual national meeting. While FBI agents checked license plates outside, Ashcroft won praise inside. A participant at the meeting was Tim Dreste, a Missourian known for distributing "Wanted" posters and other materials threatening abortion providers. [See John Yewell's "Guns and Roses" at http://www.indyweek.com/durham/current] From 1996 until 1999, while Ashcroft was a leader of the Missouri Republican party, Dreste was a member of the Republican state central committee. In 1996, according to the Riverfront Times, Dreste proposed that a death penalty for abortion providers be added to the state's GOP platform. It wasn't until a court ordered Dreste and colleagues to pay 7 million in damages for unlawfully threatening abortion providers -- and after local protests -- that Dreste was removed from the party committee. At last week's meeting, Dreste told news photographer Jenny Warburg that he keeps a photo of Ashcroft on his wall.

Missouri civil rights activist John Hickey, who led protests over Dreste's post on the Republican committee, comments: "Ashcroft says he will vigorously enforce the law against anti-abortion extremists, but he looked the other way when one was sitting on the Republican state central committee. It strains credulity that then-Senator Ashcroft was unaware of Dreste's views and activities prior to 1999." M'Evie Mead, a local abortion-rights leader who contacted Ashcroft's office about Dreste, says: "Ashcroft's silence in that case was very telling. He seemed slow to act and overly tolerant of extremism."

* Contact John Hickey, director, Missouri Citizen Education Fund, moprovote@primary.net; M'Evie Mead, project director, Show Me Choice 2000 at mevie.mead@ppfa.org

***

Postscript: "License to Kill?"

During the 2000 senatorial campaign, Ashcroft attacked Gov. Mel Carnahan for vetoing a controversial "partial-birth" abortion bill -- the "Infant's Protection Act" -- that Carnahan vetoed in large part because of concerns it could provide a legal defense for violence. "This bill," wrote Carnahan in his veto statement, "will allow someone to legally commit acts of violence, including a lethal act against a physician, nurse or patient, in order to prevent a termination of a pregnancy by a procedure which the attacker reasonably believes would be a violation of this bill." The law is currently under injunction. Although Carnahan repeatedly said he would sign a narrowly drafted "partial-birth" abortion bill, Ashcroft distorted the governor's veto of the "Infant's Protection Act," writing in a campaign fundraising letter: "My opponent, Mel Carnahan, is one of America's leading advocates of partial birth abortion."

See Adele Stan's "License to Kill?" http://www.salon.com/politics/feature/2001/01/18/abortion/print.html

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

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