Motives Remain Unclear in Michigan Killings While Terry Plans to Push "Martyrdom" of Pouillon
While the full range of motives for two killings and one additional intended murder thwarted by police in Owosso, Michigan last week remain unclear, Randall Terry, who now leads a group he is calling Operation Rescue Insurrecta Nex (see Right-Wing Watch), is planning a press conference to declare James Pouillon a "martyr."
According to the Ponca City News, Drake was arraigned Friday without an attorney on first-degree murder
charges and ordered held without bond.
Police said little about what might have led Drake – a truck driver who
mostly lived on the road in his cab and had family in the area – to
kill, other than that he had a grudge against Fuoss and Howe [the realtor who apparently was Drake’s third intended target] and didn’t
like Pouillon’s graphic anti-abortion signs.
"Pouillon, 63, was a polarizing figure in Owosso, a town of 15,000" says the news article.
While inhaling oxygen from a small tank, he could usually
be seen with his anti-abortion signs outside schools, the library, city
hall, even football games.
On Friday morning, Pouillon was in his usual place across the street
from the high school, holding a sign that pictured a chubby-cheeked
baby with the word "LIFE" on one side and an image of an aborted fetus
with the word "ABORTION" on the other. Authorities allege Drake pulled
up to him in a truck and opened fire.
Flowers marked the spot Saturday where Pouillon was shot. A note said,
"May you rest now."
Chief assistant prosecutor Sara Edwards said there didn’t appear to be
a "triggering event" but Pouillon’s presence outside the school seemed
to aggravate Drake.
It was "the fact that he was outside the high
school with his signs in front of children going to school," she said.
After shooting Pouillon, Drake drove seven miles and down a dead-end country road to Fuoss
Gravel Co. and killed Fuoss, 61, who owned the business, said
Shiawassee County Sheriff George Braidwood.
While the two men knew each
other, "authorities didn’t detail what may have led to his slaying."
Someone wrote down Drake’s license plate number after Pouillon’s
shooting and called police, who said they arrested him before he could
fulfill a plan to kill Howe.
Drake’s stepmother, Susan Drake, said his family was in disbelief.
"I don’t know what to say. He was a big, gentle giant," she told The
Flint Journal on Saturday. "He has a heart as big as gold."
She said she’s known her stepson for half his life. He didn’t use drugs
or alcohol and never showed signs of an emotional breakdown, she said.
"I’ve called his mother and his wife, and they’re nauseated," she said.
"Nobody knows why this happened."
A real estate agent told he was the third target of a shooting spree that left an abortion protester and a business owner dead said Saturday he fled his home after the violence that claimed two lives in their small Michigan city.
The man charged with the killings, meanwhile, was taken from jail to a hospital to undergo surgery for a self-inflicted wound to his arm, according to a county prosecutor.
There is as yet no evidence that Drake acted against Pouillon for his graphic anti-choice protests any more than if he were holding graphic signs near children of heart surgery or amputations. Yet, notwithstanding lack of clear motives or the intentions or mental state of the killer, some media outlets and groups are treating the killing as a "pro-choice v. anti-choice" debate.
The Flint, Michigan news site, MLine.com, for example, writes:
Pro-life and pro-choice are noble names for the two sides of the
abortion debate — but an appalling amount of blood has been shed over
the decades since Roe V Wade supposedly settled the issue in the U.S.
Supreme Court in 1973.
Pro-life activist James L. Pouillon, 63, of Owosso Township, appears to
be the latest victim in that ongoing holy war — and the first
anti-abortion activist to be killed for publicly demonstrating his
beliefs, according to Reuters and other news reports.
Police say Harlan J. Drake, 33, of Owosso was angered by Pouillon’s
pro-life sign when he allegedly shot him several times from a passing
car in front of Owosso High School on Friday morning.
Residents said it was a familar spot to see the impassioned pro-life
activist, who used a walker and portable oxygen tank while out
demonstrating for his cause. He had been ticketed and arrested several
times over the years for his anti-abortion demonstrations.
Pouillon’s neighbors and friends said they’d often worried whether his
style of confrontational politics would someday endanger his life.
Planned Parenthood East Central Michigan president Lori Lamerand, quoted by MLine.com, expressed worry that Pouillon’s death could spark further violence.
"If this is related to his pro-life views, we find that tragic and do
not endorse such actions in any way, shape or form," said Lamerand.
"Unfortunately we also have to worry now whether this will cause folks
who are not very reasonable people to decide it’s time to retaliate."
Indeed, websites and bloggers all over the nation are picking up the
story and running with it, some as a call to arms and others as a plea
against more violence.
The last violent death attributed to the debate occurred in May, when
Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation’s few providers of late-term
abortions, was shot and killed in a Wichita church. A 51-year old man
was arrested in Tiller’s death.
It wasn’t the first time Tiller had been attacked. According to news
reports, Tiller was shot in both arms in 1993 and his clinic bombed in
Flint Right to Life president Judy Climer said she also opposes
violence in the debate, but doesn’t believe it can be eliminated.
"I think both sides are pursuing their beliefs passionately. How you
compromise, I have no idea," said Climer. "I don’t think you’re ever
going to get the two sides to come together on it. It’s impossible."
According to the National Abortion Federation, 24 murders or attempted
murders of abortion providers occurred in a 16-year period from
During that same time period, 179 bombings or arsons were attempted or
carried out against abortion providers, along with 3,349 incidents of
assault and battery, vandalism, trespassing, death threats, burglary,
stalking and other crimes of violence and intimidation.
"I have to make the observation there is much less violence on the
pro-choice side and it’s often in reaction," said Lamerand.
"I think that’s because many people who are vehemently anti-abortion
tend to draw their beliefs from their religion, and we have seen
violent acts in the name of religion all over the world for centuries.
If it’s done in the name of religion, people feel as if any
self-rightousness is justified."
Climer said she doesn’t know of any similar statistics for violence
perpetrated against pro-life followers, but said she considers abortion
itself to be murder.
"I don’t agree with the person who went into that church and shot Dr.
Tiller. That was as wrong as Tiller going into the womb and (killing)
babies," said Climer. "Either way, one doesn’t justify the other."
Climer also pointed to a 2004 Flint incident when a Davison woman was
arrested after driving her car up over a curb where a group of
pro-lifers were demonstrating. The yelling match turned into a brawl
after the woman slapped a minister in the face and he punched her in
"I honestly don’t think there’s any way you can guarantee more of this
is not going to happen," said Climer.
At least on that point the leaders of the two sides agree.
"What Planned Parenthood has always felt is the main way to attack this
violence problem is to make abortion less necessary in the first
place," said Lamerand. "We all need to work on common sense solutions
so people can exercise their ability to be sexual…but give them the
tools they need to ensure pregnancies only happen when they want them
Meanwhile, Climer said Pouillon’s death is already sparking an upsurge
among his fellow pro-lifers.
"We who believe there is a plan for every life will keep believing.
We’re not going away. This is energizing us even more," said Climer.
In the midst of all this, Reuters is reporting that Randall Terry plans a press conference at the National Press Club on Tuesday, September 15th:
"I’ve known Jim for nearly 20 years. He was dedicated,
articulate, and courageous. And he gave his life in the service of the babies
he sought to defend. We grieve his death, and we will not stop using ANY of
the tactics that cost him his life. He was known affectionately as ‘Jim the Sign Guy.’ May God grant him a
Other news to note…
- Salon: Exploiting the healthcare debate to restrict abortion
- Australian Business: Anna Bligh stays out of ‘tragic’ abortion case
- BeliefNet: Why silence on pro-lifer’s murder?
- AP: Obama: Mich. anti-abortion shooting "deplorable"
- Crooks and Liars: Anti-Abortion Group Announces Drive To Outlaw Birth Control Pill in Florida
- MLive: Vigil honors James Pouillon, pro-life activist who died in Owosso shooting
- Feministe: The Jill Question: What is the Role of Privileged White Women in the Reproductive Justice Movement?
- Examiner: Lies about contraception, and a Florida law to revoke sexual liberation
- Naples News: Michael Peltier: Pro-life drive begins again
- Kansas City Star: HHS secretary: No public abortion funding in health care bill
- NJ.com: (Letter) Abortions should be an important issue in health care reform
- Politico: Dems: No taxpayer funds for abortions
- AP: Abortion opponents try harder line on ban
- Christian Post: Pro-Life Leaders Condemn Slaying of ‘Peaceful’ Anti-Abortion Activist
- Politico: Where Are the Condemnations of Abortion Protester James Pouillon’s Murder?
- MLive:Pro-life and pro-choice leaders speak out on Owosso shooting and implications of future violence in the debate
- Reporter News: LeRoy Busse: Abortion same as heinous murder
- Boston Globe: (Letter) Schools already intrude, so why draw line at birth control?
- New Zealand Herald: Condoms on Labour’s new to-do list
- NYTimes: Slain Abortion Opponent ‘Loved the Controversy’ His Protests Generated
- Christian Press: Man Gunned Down While Holding a Pro-Life Sign to Be Honored at DC Event He had Planned to Attend
- Argus-Press: Pro-Life Groups Mourn Staunch Defender
- Mercury News: Opinion: Is America coming apart?
NewsBusters: CBS Skips Killing of Pro-Life Activist; ABC Sees ‘Flip Side’ to Killing of Abortionist Tiller
- HuffPo: White House To Meet With Anti-Abortion Activists Next Week
- Optimum Population Blog: Sexual health is focus of campaign
- Care2: A Female Condom?
- Naples News: Protesters expected as Planned Parenthood of Collier starts abortions Monday
- Christian Science Monitor: Killing of anti-abortion protester has both sides questioning violence
- Catholic News Agency: U.S. bishops’ officials welcome president’s apparent pro-life accommodation
- Feministing: "The women of Afghanistan are empowered."
- Change.org Women’s Rights: Poverty, The Public Option & Abortion
- Catholic Exchange: Abortion Hot Lines: A New Attack on the Unborn
- LSJ.com: Victim’s pro-life signs were fixtures in area
- Courier-Journal: Abortion information in column revisited
- Democrat Chronicle: Abortion remains an issue in health care debate
- Catholic Exchange: Center for Reproductive Rights Boasts of Global Abortion Push
- Jurist: Oklahoma court ruling against access restrictions is a victory for women’s health and the rule of law