Extract James Kopp has been found guilty of murdering New York state obstetrician Dr. Barnett Slepian, but police are still trying to close other cases involving Canadian physicians who were shot. Kopp remains a suspect in the non- fatal shootings of physicians who provided abortions in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Ancaster, Ont. He has been charged in the last case — Dr. Hugh Short was shot in the right arm as he sat in his home Nov. 10, 1995 (CMAJ 1998;159:1153-5) — but there is in- sufficient evidence linking him to the Winnipeg or Vancouver cases.
Extract In all, 9 police forces on both sides of the border are investigating 5 incidents that are believed to be linked. All took place around Remembrance Day, all the physicians involved performed abortions and all were shot in their homes. The injured include Dr. Garson Romalis of Vancouver (1994), Dr. Hugh Short of An- caster, Ont. (1995), an unnamed Richmond, NY, physician (1996) and Dr. Jack Fainman of Winnipeg (1997). The first fatality occurred last Oct. 23 when Slepian was shot and killed at his home. An American murder warrant has been issued for Vermont antiabortion activist James Kopp, 44. Kopp, whose whereabouts are a mystery, is charged only in the slaying of Slepian. He remains a “person of interest” in connection with the other shootings.
Extract Sniper-style attacks on 3 Canadian physicians are “terrorist acts,” police say,and the hunt for the attackers now involves a coordinated national effort. “This is terrorism against doctors as a whole,” says Inspector Keith McCaskill, a member of the national police task force investigating the attacks. “There may be a tendency to politicize this, but that’s not right. This is criminal activity.”
Extract I too was dismayed and deeply concerned about the attack against Dr. Romalis. None the less, I must comment on Marshall and colleagues’ statement that “we abhor the use of violence in ethical debates.” These students must realize that therapeutic abortion is the only legalized medical procedure in which another human life is taken. . . Certainly the medical community should oppose violence against physicians practising in this area. Even if this perpetrator, or convicted US murderer Paul Hill, was exercising a difficult personal choice in targeting a physician who performs abortion, a violent act against a physician remains as abhorrent as abortion itself.
Extract When Dr. Garson Romalis was shot in Vancouver in November – police have suggested there is a link between the shooting and his performance of abortions – I realized there are certain aspects of human behaviour that I will never figure out. What could give rise to such hatred? What mysterious willingness causes people to let themselves be led into destructive and pointless violence? . . . Although the motives in these cases are undoubtedly complex, it seems clear that each of the fanatic snipers intended to kill, maim or scare the daylights out of these physicians and others like them. And although society as a whole reacted to the events with revulsion, there were without doubt people who said of each case: “Right on! That’s the proper treatment for those baby killers.” . . . Even if we must accept the occasional appearance of a misguided or mad killer among us, must we also accept the frightening cluster of approving supporters who almost inevitably turn up to endorse the madman and his ideas?