Activists Deny Encouraging Violence
Jan. 23, 1999
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Defendants in a federal lawsuit that accuses anti-abortion activists of illegally threatening doctors say free speech never killed anybody.
But the principal defendant said the murders of two abortion doctors was justified, and he did not condemn the killers _ both former anti-abortion activists.
``It's justifiable,'' Charles Wysong said Friday, referring to the murders of Drs. John Britton and David Gunn.
The suit, filed by Planned Parenthood and others, seeks $200 million. It claims the American Coalition of Life Activists _ of which Wysong was once regional director _ and other activists crossed the line between free speech and threats with a series of ``wanted'' posters and an Internet site called ``The Nuremberg Files,'' which lists list names and addresses of abortion doctors and clinics.
The Internet site has drawn attention in particular because a New York abortion doctor on the list was killed by a sniper last fall.
A poster called ``The Deadly Dozen'' was distributed at an anti-abortion rally, charging a dozen doctors with ``crimes against humanity'' and offering a $5,000 reward.
Wysong said Friday that such literature wasn't intended as a threat _ but merely as a means to expose abortion doctors to public scrutiny and encourage local opposition to clinics.
``Force is not going to end abortion,'' Wysong said. ``We don't need to use violence. We have been able to use free speech methods. But they are trying to take away our free speech rights by using this lawsuit.''
Bruce Murch, another former director for the American Coalition of Life Activists, testified that he repeatedly rejected violence in discussions with other abortion opponents about tactics and strategy.
He also denied that anti-abortion fliers and posters produced at his commercial printing shop in Springfield, Mass., were crafted to threaten the doctors.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jones said he would like to see closing arguments in the case begin early next week.