By Vicki Saporta
Today, the State of Florida Commission on Offender Review is reviewing the case of Michael Frederick Griffin, a convicted murderer who shot and killed Dr. David Gunn in 1993 as Gunn walked from his car to the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services clinic where he provided abortion care. Griffin—a man who had a history of violent behavior and had been indoctrinated into the anti-abortion movement—took the law into his own hands to advance a terrorist agenda. He is an assassin who deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison where he cannot harm anyone else.
On March 10, 1993, Griffin waited outside the back of the clinic for Dr. Gunn to arrive, and shot him three times at point blank range. He then calmly turned himself in to police, saying, “I shot a man back there.” When the other protesters realized what had just happened, they cheered. Protesters outside of other Florida clinics reacted to the news of Dr. Gunn’s death with shouts of “Praise God! One of the baby-killers is dead.”
Griffin has shown no remorse for his actions. He has been revered as a “hero” by some in the anti-abortion movement, and his crime motivated others to publicly endorse violence against providers and even carry out acts of violence themselves. Following Dr. Gunn’s murder, Defensive Action, or justifiable homicide petitions, were circulated among those who agreed that Griffin’s actions were “justifiable.” One of the petition signers—and Griffin disciple—Paul Hill, called Griffin an “inspiration.” Hill went on to murder another physician who provided abortion care in Florida and his volunteer security escort in 1994, just a few months after Griffin was convicted. Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon wrote to Griffin calling him the “greatest hero of our time” before she shot Dr. George Tiller in both arms in August 1993.
Dr. Gunn was the first abortion provider to be assassinated because of his work, and in the years that have followed, 10 more people have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists. In the years before his murder, Dr. Gunn had been the target of relentless threats and harassment by abortion opponents. His picture, name, address, and work schedule had been circulated on “wanted” style posters throughout the South. Today, these same tactics are still utilized against abortion providers, and the internet and social networking sites have only expanded the reach and organization of abortion opponents.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) has been compiling statistics on violence against abortion providers for 40 years. In that time, there have been 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arsons, and thousands of incidents of criminal activities directed at abortion providers. Currently, NAF’s data show a continued environment of hostility directed at abortion providers. Griffin’s release would only serve to encourage anti-abortion extremists, many of whom are already emboldened by the current political climate.
Michael Griffin committed a heinous crime in the name of “life”—it’s only fitting that he should spend the rest of his behind bars. We urge the Commission to consider the safety and security of abortion providers and the communities in which they live and work, and deny Griffin’s request for parole.
Vicki Saporta is the President & CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), the professional association of abortion providers. NAF has been compiling statistics on violence against abortion providers since 1977.