Justice Seeks Order Barring Harassment of Abortion Doctor
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department accused an Ohio man Wednesday of threatening an abortion doctor’s life, trying to run him off the road and harassing his wife.
The government asked a federal court in Cleveland to order a halt to the alleged harassment by Alan M. Smith of Warren, Ohio, and to make him pay compensation to his alleged victims and civil penalties, which could range up to $10,000 for a first offense.
The civil lawsuit was the second by the Justice Department under a 1994 law designed to assure access to abortion clinics and the first aimed at protecting a doctor.
Abortion rights activists, including Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation, have been demanding that the government enforce the act’s provisions against what her group reports is a growing level of threats directed at abortion providers.
The law allows the department to ask a court to prevent people from blocking health clinics or harming health-care providers and to seek compensation for any victims and civil penalties.
The lawsuit alleged that Smith made death threats against Dr. Gerald B. Applegate, of Wexford, Pa., who provides reproductive health services in Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio.
The government complaint also charged that Smith, driving a truck, tried to run Applegate off the road in Youngstown last June 18, and shouted: ``You are ... dead now. Applegate, you never learn. I’m going to teach you, baby killer. Where’s your wife?″
The complaint also said Smith and another individual prevented Applegate’s wife, Karen Fischbaugh, who works as a nurse in her husband’s office, from entering their Pittsburgh office for half an hour last June 6.
Smith could not be reached for comment.
In June 1994, Smith was charged under Ohio law with felonious assault and menacing by stalking for allegedly trying to run Applegate off the road. He has been out on bond with some restrictions on his activities but has violated a state court bond restriction that he stay in Ohio, the Justice Department alleged.
In November 1994, the department said, Smith threatened Applegate’s life during a protest at Applegate’s home.
The government asked the federal court for tougher restrictions on Smith, barring him from any contact with Applegate or his wife, protesting within 25 feet of Applegate’s residence or using bullhorns there, and blocking or entering either of the doctor’s offices.
Last month, the department asked permission to enter an existing civil suit filed under the new law by a women’s health clinic in Milwaukee against eight people who blocks a clinic entrance. In November, a federal court, using criminal provisions of the law, convicted six individuals who blocked the Milwaukee clinic’s entrance.
Last October, the government obtained the first criminal conviction under the clinic-access act: A jury found Paul Hill guilty of killing an abortion doctor at a Pensacola, Fla., clinic. Hill was sentenced to two life terms in prison on the federal charges and sentenced to die in the electric chair on a state conviction.