National Catholic Register


Bishops’ Spokeswoman Condemns Anthrax Threats Against Abortion Sites

BY John Burger

November 04-11, 2001 Issue | Posted 11/4/01 at 1:00 PM


CHESAPEAKE, Va.—More than 130 letters containing a powder, and some containing a written threat of anthrax, were reported arriving at abortion sites around the nation in late October, amid a national anxiety about the threat of biological terrorism.

Many of the letters contained references to the Army of God, which has claimed responsibility in the past for violence against abortion clinics and doctors. In an interview, the Rev. Donald Spitz, a Chesapeake, Va., Pentecostal minister who runs the Army of God's Web site, said he believes that someone from the Army of God “definitely” sent the letters, but did not know whom.

Rev. Spitz characterized the Army of God as a “sort of nebulous organization—not even an organization—of people who have a belief system … that unborn babies deserve to be protected in the same manner we would want to be protected.

“If someone were to rip the arms and legs off us, we'd want someone to intervene,” he said, saying the same intervention should be given unborn babies.

But Cathy Cleaver, director of planning and information for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-life Activities, condemned the mailing of the threatening letters. “Violence in the name of pro-life makes a mockery of the pro-life clause,” she told Catholic News Service Oct. 19, four days after the initial letters showed up at abortion sites. “Just as we abhor the violence of abortion, we abhor violence as a means to stop abortion.”

Similarly, Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan, called the threats “psychological terror” and commented, “No pro-life agenda is furthered by deeds which show contempt toward human beings.”

And a spokesman at American Life League in Stafford, Va., referred a reporter seeking a statement to that organization's Pro-life Proclamation Against Violence, which calls on prolife advocates to “reject violence and those who commit violent acts.”

Adina Wingate-Quijada, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York, said that by Oct. 22, 136 letters had been received by clinics in 19 states, most of them Planned Parenthood affiliate businesses.

“Planned Parenthood has dealt with this before, so there was a preparedness at the clinics,” she told the Register. Clinics received similar threats in 1998 and 1999, “so there has not been a significant disruption of services.” She said no abortions were disrupted.

Rev. Spitz, however, claimed that “no babies were murdered on Monday [Oct. 15]”, the day the letters began showing up at the clinics. “Abortion mills have to be stopped,” he said. “Every day that passes, there are just as many babies killed as people who died in the World Trade Center disaster.”

Reminded that law enforcement officials’ resources are already stretched thin responding to anthrax scares, he said, “The government allows abortion to go on. They're protecting abortionists, helping them, even financing them. So people on our side don't have too much sympathy for the government.”

In her comments to CNS, Cleaver of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life secretariat quoted the late New York Cardinal John O’Connor's comment that it is a “calumny” to claim that pro-lifers can legitimately “encourage or condone violence.”

Said Cleaver, “We deeply regret how the deplorable actions of a very few can stigmatize the pro-life cause in the eyes of many.”