By Alex Newman
Advertisement - story continues below
It was Sept. 11, 2009, just outside a high school in the small Michigan town of Owosso when Jim Pouillon, 63, was murdered for doing what he thought was right: protesting against abortion, which he considered murder.
Like many pro-life activists, the elderly Pouillon, a volunteer with Operation Save America who relied on an oxygen tank to breathe, was peacefully holding a sign featuring a graphic picture of an abortion victim. He had been trying to stop abortion since 1988.
The goal of his particular brand of activism: force people to visualize and understand the reality of abortion, and to help stop it.
Local resident Harlan James Drake, however, had other plans. Apparently he was disturbed by the images of abortion victims, police said later.
Advertisement - story continues below
So, on 9/11, Drake loaded his gun, and from his vehicle, shot Pouillon, killing him. It was about 7:20 a.m.
The pro-abortion killer promptly fled the scene and killed another man.
"I just shot one person, I might as well go shoot anyone else I thought deserved to be shot that day," Drake testified later during his prosecution, which also featured the killer cracking jokes in court.
He confessed to the shooting before claiming to be insane. The jury found Drake guilty of murder and the judge sentenced him to life in prison.
While Pouillon was hailed as a "martyr" by many pro-life leaders, the national press barely noticed the murder. Some media outlets even tried to smear him – starting on the day he was murdered.
Advertisement - story continues below
Most were still busy demonizing the pro-life movement for the killing, months earlier, of late-term abortionist George Tiller.
Instead of endlessly fretting about the threat of pro-abortion terrorism and murder – as generally happens in the exceedingly rare instances when abortionists are targeted – much of the press responded to Pouillon's murder by seeking to smear the late activist's reputation.
Pro-abortion violence is widespread
Most of the attacks aimed at pro-life activists, of course, are less extreme than Pouillon's case.
Advertisement - story continues below
However, a two-week review by WND revealed that violence against opponents of abortion is not only common and widespread – it is often tolerated or even tacitly encourage by much of the media, some elements within law enforcement, and the powerful abortion industry.
The list of brutal beatings, attacks, vandalism, and other crimes perpetrated against pro-life activists, for instance, is virtually endless.
In mid-2012, for example, a Personhood USA leaders' home was violently vandalized by pro-abortion extremists after a profile on the couple appeared in the media.
A large rock was also thrown through the window, scattering glass across their three young children's toys. The couple was also expecting another child.
Later that week, pro-life volunteer Everett Stadig, then 69, was brutally assaulted while collecting signatures for a pro-life initiative in Colorado.
He was hospitalized with multiple serious injuries and underwent surgery for a broken hip sustained in the unprovoked attack.
The year before, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, an abortion supporter viciously attacked peaceful pro-life protesters outside a late-term abortion clinic.
One of the victims, Bud Shaver, was left bleeding profusely after suffering a deep gash on his head requiring stiches that was inflicted by the attacker, who used keys as a weapon.
The year before that attack, the same victim, Shaver, was almost deliberately run over by a longtime abortion supporter who jumped the curb with his delivery truck.
Two weeks before that, a man was arrested with weapons at the same clinic after threatening to murder two pro-life women.
In Kalispell, Montana, an unknown assailant firebombed 40 Days for Life prayer vigil participants praying peacefully outside an abortion clinic in 2011.
The list of similar incidents is practically endless, though media coverage is sparse to non-existent.
More common still are incidents such as spitting, throwing items, and verbal abuse directed at activists and counselors peacefully standing or praying outside of abortion clinics.
Death threats against leaders and activists within the pro-life movement, meanwhile, are practically an everyday occurrence, multiple pro-life leaders who have received such threats told WND in interviews.
In 2012, a self-styled "pro-choice terrorist," Theodore Shulman, 51, of New York pleaded guilty to making death threats against two prominent pro-life leaders.
When he was arrested before being able to launch his attacks, Shulman was found to be in possession of cyanide and castor beans, which are used to make the deadly toxin ricin – A substance that can kill victims exposed to it, even in tiny amounts.
While Shulman made headlines and eventually faced justice for his threats, countless other perpetrators do not.
Despite the occasional headlines about it, the prevalence of violence, threats, and abuse against pro-life activists and sidewalk counselors by abortion activists is far more widespread than media coverage would suggest.
Comprehensive data on attacks and crimes against pro-lifers for their views and activities, however, is not maintained by any government agency.
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request from WND for an explanation on why statistics on the phenomenon were not tracked.
Anecdotal evidence and the statistical research by analysts that does exist, though, suggest pro-choice violence is a major problem in the United States that has been largely unaddressed by government, media, and the abortion industry.
The numbers that do exist
Human Life International, a non-profit dedicated to defending "the God-given right to life and dignity of all human persons," compiled massive amounts of data surrounding violence and crimes perpetrated for the pro-abortion cause.
The latest report on the numbers, released in 2011, documents a stunning level of criminality perpetrated under the pro-choice banner. More recent data has not been released.
Figures relating directly to attacks on pro-life activists are interspersed across the data along with a broad range of other "pro-choice" violence and criminality.
Still, the numbers tell a story that activists said was shocking.
Between 2011 and the controversial Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade in 1973 striking down state laws criminalizing the killing of unborn children, for example, HLI researchers documented nearly 6,000 incidents of "'pro-choice' violence against human beings."
Those figures, which likely drastically underestimate the true total, include everything from violence against pro-life activists and kidnappings to arson, aggravated battery, and murders of women who refuse to abort their unborn children.
The report documented more than 400 death threats, too, though again, the real numbers are likely far higher.
In all, the report also documented 874 "pro-choice" crimes against property.
The grand total for pro-choice violence and crimes was nearly 12,000, according to HLI's report.
Brian Clowes, director of research and training at Human Life International, which compiled the report, told WND in an interview that the number of crimes perpetrated under banner of "choice" was far beyond even the most outlandish estimates of crimes perpetrated by supporters of the pro-life camp.
According to the National Abortion Federation's 2011 tally cited in HLI's report, for example, pro-life activists were involved in 29 incidents of deadly and extreme violence.
By contrast, HLI found more than 1,100 incidents from the pro-abortion side.
Even those numbers, though, almost certainly underestimate the problem by several orders of magnitude.
"My wife and I spent years on the sidewalks in front of some of the worst abortion mills in the country in Portland, Oregon," Clowes explained. "At first, there were several assaults, and the good Christians we were with declined to press charges because they wanted to 'turn the other cheek' like Jesus did."
"This only encouraged the cowards, and the assaults got more frequent and more violent," he said.
Because of that, Clowes still encourages activists and sidewalk counselors who operate outside abortion clinics to report attacks to the police – and if possible, videotape the incident.
"We have the right to protest and the right to be free of harm doing so," he said. "If a pro-lifer is assaulted and does nothing about it, it shows a lack of respect for his or her fellow pro-lifers, since others will be assaulted."
Despite the daily attacks on pro-lifers, the national media and even the federal government continue to paint pro-life activists as potential threats.
And authorities have refused to keep track of violence against pro-life activists, and attacks often go unpunished and unreported.
"This is largely a result of the cover that abortionists have received in the media – there is not enough of an uproar," explained Clowes.
"Even the agents working for the old VAAPCON – Violence Against Abortion Providers – task force knew that the violence lay on the pro-abortion side," he added.
Because of biased media coverage in favor of abortion and demonizing pro-life activists, the public by and large has not yet realized the need to monitor pro-choice violence more closely.
Indeed, when HLI compiled the first-ever comprehensive report on such violence, it, too, was largely ignored by the media.
'Almost no reporting'
"There was almost no reporting on it," Clowes said.
"It does not support the narrative that abortion is not only a constitutional 'right,' but is good for women," he added. "The blackout of these facts remains in effect."
Like others in the pro-life movement, Clowes suggested a link between legally "killing for a living" and "a much higher propensity than most people to commit violence."
"It shouldn’t surprise us, but it should appall us and move us to look more carefully at the connection," he said.
When it comes to law enforcement's response to crimes against pro-lifers, Clowes said most cops "are good at what they do and fair minded."
They also do take the most serious crimes against pro-life activists and counselors – murder and attempted murder, for example – seriously, he said.
"But there have been hundreds of instances when police have actually witnessed attacks on pro-lifers and have simply done nothing," Clowes added, echoing a widespread concern among activists and leaders who spoke with WND for this story. "I have seen this several times myself."
"In many cases a pro-lifer might accidently put his or her little toe over an injunction line, and that person is instantly arrested and carted off to jail," he observed, again giving voice to a common perception among those who stand peacefully outside abortion clinics in an effort to help women and rescue unborn children for the clutches of abortionists.
Among the most revealing data points uncovered by Clowes and HLI in their research was "the incredible number of women murdered for refusing abortion – and we probably know about only a small percentage of them."
"More women are dying of murder for refusing abortion than ever died of illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade, yet the feminists, who profess to care so deeply about women, never say a word about it," Clowes told WND.
"You want a 'war against women?' It is being waged every day by so-called 'pro-choice' men," he added.
"Regardless, the far greater crime is abortion itself, which happens over 3,000 times a day. This is what must be stopped."
Violence and attacks on the rise
One of the activists on the frontlines of the national abortion debate every day is Mark Harrington, the executive director of Created Equal.
His organization, a national pro-life group, suffers from especially frequent attacks due to displays of graphic pictures and videos of aborted children and the process of abortion.
While acknowledging that hard data does not exist to confirm his experiences, Harrington told WND in a phone interview that crimes against pro-life activists were on the rise.
"Overall, in my 20 years of activism, I've definitely seen an increase recently in violence and attacks," he said.
Among the possible reasons for that, Harrington suspects that abortion advocates realize they are losing the battle in the realm of public opinion, as well as in state legislatures across the country.
"In the last 3 or 4 years we’ve seen just an exponential increase in the amount of pro-life legislation that has passed in states across America," he said.
The shifting momentum in favor of life, he said, makes abortion proponents nervous.
"So people on the other side are getting more radical and resorting to things that they wouldn't resort to in the past," Harrington said.
"The tide has turned and now that they are on the losing end, in general, we see increased resistance among those who are more vocal, more willing to break the law, more willing to do whatever is necessary to win," he added.
Recent attacks on video part of trend
Just in the last few years, Harrington continued, there have been a growing number of high-profile attacks on pro-life movement activists.
The murder of Pouillon in Michigan may have been the most extreme, but less severe crimes against pro-lifers perpetrated by abortion advocates are also on the rise.
As one example, he pointed to a recent case in which a radical "feminist studies" professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara was prosecuted for assaulting and terrorizing 16-year-old Thrin Short and other pro-life activists on campus with the group Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.
After stealing signs from the young pro-life activists, the professor eventually pushes and assaults two of them, resulting in minor injuries.
The professor, Mireille Miller-Young, pled no contest to charges of battery, vandalism and grand theft.
Because there was video, the attack, unlike the overwhelming majority, made headlines.
"We've seen an increase in the amount of vandalism at college campuses against our signs and displays," Harrington said. "Unfortunately, it's now seen as acceptable, it seems, to steal, destroy and vandalize."
Law enforcement often witnesses the attacks and does nothing, Harrington said.
This summer in Jackson, Mississippi, for example, "the police just harassed us all morning long" as the group was trying to speak out against abortion.
When a man "systematically" stole their signs right in front of police, "the police stood idly by and allowed it to happen," he added.
"It's another example of how unfairly we're treated when it comes to law enforcement," he continued, noting that there is "a long history" of government harassment of pro-life activists in Jackson and that the city was now being sued over the discrimination.
Instead of stopping pro-abortion forces, police often focus their efforts on arresting pro-life activists, he continued, citing multiple examples of his own arrests.
Last year in New Mexico, for instance, he was arrested near a polling place for supporting a measure banning abortions after 20 weeks – at which point children can often survive outside the womb.
"The police arrested me unlawfully, but we beat the case," he said, adding that it was only "the most recent example of me being arrested unjustly."
In another high-profile attack this year by abortion advocates, Harrington recounted a physical assault on a Created Equal intern in Columbus, Ohio, that was captured on video.
After hysterically screaming obscenities at the bewildered young activist, the enraged woman kicks over a sign, then shouts at the individual documenting the attack on camera.
She then physically attacks the pro-lifers, runs away, kicks over another sign, screams some more, and finally strikes the pro-lifers again before police finally arrive.
"It's just one more example of this," Harrington explained.
"We get a lot of people who get upset, raise their voice – that is typical," he added. "But there are those who go beyond that, and it's now becoming more common to have physical attacks on us."
The group's Youtube channel features numerous video-taped examples, he added.
"It's all anecdotal, but in general, it seems like we're seeing an increase [in violence against pro-life activists] all across the country," Harrington continued, adding that as the nation becomes less restrained by religion and values, the trends are being felt even beyond the pro-life movement.
"If it's politically correct, it will be overlooked by the media and by law enforcement and others," he said.
Increasing security to deal with threat
In response to what appears to be increasing violence against pro-life activists, Created Equal has been taking measures to protect the safety of its volunteers and interns.
"In the last several years we’ve increased our security a lot, training our young people and our staff to identify and profile students who would likely be a threat to us," he explained.
Another one of the security strategies is making activists wear body cameras to ensure documentation of attacks, and hopefully to deter them.
"That’s why most of our situations are caught on video now – we wear body cameras, so we're ready," Harrington said.
"Unfortunately in the past, we've had these things happen, and if you don't have it on video, it never happened," he added, noting that without video, law enforcement often does not take attacks seriously.
What finally led to the body-camera policy at Created Equal, he said, was when a female colleague of his was threatened with a brutal beating by a man who shouting obscenities, threats, and "was very angry and belligerent."
"That was the last straw for me," he said. "It's not worth risking this happening without at least capturing it on video, so now we wear them."
Because of the graphic displays of abortion victims used by the group, Harrington said he thinks Created Equal faces more attacks than most pro-life groups.
"Nothing gets an abortion advocate angrier than exposing abortion through still photos or videos," he explained. "We're not out to make them angry, but that's just how it works – we're uncovering something that they want to keep covered up."
Still, the entire pro-life movement faces similar problems when it comes to attacks and abuse by abortion advocates, he said, even if not quite on the same scale.
But despite the risks, Harrington and his colleagues have no intention of backing down.
"If you look at successful social reform movements historically, the activists involved in each one of those were willing to risk and sacrifice a great deal in order to win – including, if necessary, giving up their own lives for what they believe in," he said.
"We have to have the same mentality when it comes to abortion."
To win the battle, "people need to behave as if abortion is actually murder," he said.
And victory "may take more of us giving up our lives like Jim Pouillon did – it just goes with the territory."
In fact, Harrington expects violence against the pro-life movement to continue escalating in the years ahead, but he will not be deterred by the risks.
"The truth of the matter is you can't keep the lid on the other side being extreme, because what's extreme is abortion, and those who support abortion are extremist by nature," he explained after pointing to an article in Salon this year that called on abortion activists to stop attacking pro-lifers because it made the pro-abortion movement look bad.
"They can't help themselves, the way they react to our movement," Harrington concluded. "It will increase."
"Violence against pro-lifers will become a fact of life," he predicted. "The trend will continue upwards, and no level of telling fellow abortion activists to calm down will suffice – they are extreme already, and they are violent already, because they believe in killing babies."
Attacks on pro-lifers: Imago Dei
Troy Newman, who leads the prominent pro-life group Operation Rescue that also seeks to show the reality of abortion using photographs, has seen it all.
"I've been beat up, I've been kicked, punched, physically assaulted, screamed at, had food items thrown at me, spit on, cans thrown at me, just all in the name of presenting a positive pro-life message urging women to choose life," Newman told WND in a phone interview.
In fact, even a Kansas state representative, Democrat Vaughn Flora, was arrested for battery after an attack on Newman that included ripping off a cockroach mask he was wearing during a protest against unsanitary conditions at an abortion clinic.
Newman was also a friend of Pouillon, the murdered pro-lifer who was shot to death outside the school in Michigan. So the murder hit close to home.
The death threats, meanwhile, are constant, he said.
"I've had anthrax threats at my office – two different times – where people sent powder and said 'you've been infected with anthrax'," he explained, adding that his office was locked down as full Hazmat teams did their work.
"We're kind of a regular stop for the FBI to come by and pick up death threats that we've been subjected to," Newman added, recalling a seemingly endless list of incidents.
Lesser crimes, too, are common, he said, citing tires slashed, vandalism, banners at the office cut down with knives, security cameras, rocks thrown through windows, stalking and much more.
"You know, we say, 'just another day of being a pro-lifer,'" he said, chuckling a little, "but nobody should have to deal with this kind of stuff."
As for why some abortion supporters turn to such tactics, Newman answered without hesitation.
"God says that those who hate God love death, so the enemies of God -- the radical homosexuals, the God-haters, the atheists, the abortionists – they want to tear down those people who stand for what's right," he said.
"Jesus said 'they hated me, they're going to hate you as well,' so don't be surprised when they do that," Newman continued. "In a sense, it's part of being a Christian."
"You know, these people are completely godless – they believe in murdering children, before birth, and even after birth, you know, Obama voted to keep after-birth abortions legal in Illinois," he said.
"If that's what they truly believe, they are not going to have any problem with attacking a pro-lifer, they have no respect for human life," Newman added.
Everything boils down to Imago Dei, the Judeo-Christian doctrine that man is created in God's image, Newman argued.
"The enemy wants to tear down and destroy the image of God, starting in the Garden of Eden," he explained, citing numerous Biblical examples. "Abortion is in the same vein."
Knowing all of that, the attacks and abuse by abortion advocates merely reinforce his commitment.
"My record speaks for itself, I've been doing this for 25 years," Newman said. "I'm completely undeterred. The violence will not stop me, it does not deter me, nor will it ever."
However, the risks do have an effect on a small segment of the pro-life community, he acknowledged.
"Nobody wants to be hurt, or harassed, or arrested unjustly," he said. "But we need to put our actions where our faith is. God says He is going to be with us and protect us, and to defend the weak and the fatherless. So that's exactly what we're going to do."
"Jesus said whatever you do for the least, you do for me," he added. "We’re doing this to save innocent children. The other side is serving the devil. Our faith is obviously much greater, and we will continue to persevere through persecution."
Sidewalk counselors and those who stand outside of abortion clinics, Newman said, "are the last line of defense for these children that are going to be murdered."
"We are regularly snatching them out of the fire and saving their lives," he concluded. "There is no better place for a Christian to stand than outside of these abortion clinics."
Government and media persecution
Despite the fact that violence against pro-life activists is far more widespread than the other way around, both the federal government and the national media tend to demonize opponents of abortion as radical – and potentially even violent.
In recent years, for example, the U.S. government has increasingly lumped pro-life activists in with terrorists and extremists in official reports and documents, with the departments of Homeland Security and Justice leading the way.
Meanwhile, all across the country, pro-life leaders told WND that activists are routinely arrested and harassed unjustly by local law enforcement.
Certain state governments have also been working hard to criminalize their efforts wherever and whenever possible.
A recent wave of laws targeting crisis pregnancy centers, which help women in crisis to deal with their situation without resorting to abortion, provide an excellent illustration of the trends.
The media, Newman said, contributes to the demonization of pro-lifers and the portrayal of the movement as violent.
Even the language used by the press – "anti-abortion" or "opponents of abortion rights" versus "advocates for abortion rights," for instance – reveal the pervasive journalistic bias against the pro-life movement. Never is the right to life mentioned in the press.
"The big media hype is that we kill people," he said. "How dare they say that when they have murdered 55 million innocent children – 55 million have been slaughtered at their hands – and they dare to call us violent?"
"It's the most ludicrous and ridiculous thing I've ever heard," Newman added.
Asked about the handful of abortionists who have been murdered, Newman said they could not have been killed by somebody who is truly "pro-life," because it goes against the foundational principle of the movement: "All life is sacred and has value."
"Most pro-lifers are even against the death penalty," he added, saying he was too.
Still, there are constant issues and controversies involving peaceful pro-lifers.
"When you talk about unjust arrests by police officers acting out of control, I've personally been arrested over a dozen times for peaceful, non-violent, pro-life work," he said, adding that many of the arrests were in front of abortion clinics.
"Even though these activities are well within the bounds of First Amendment free speech, the officers involved often want to remove you from the streets because they think that speech that causes people to be upset is illegal," he said. "That is simply not the case."
The worst places when it comes to government restrictions and attacks on pro-life activists, Newman said, were states like New York and California, and cities such as Chicago.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo even made his feelings explicit: "Extreme conservatives who are right-to-life … have no place in the state of New York."
Newman said the hostility of those jurisdictions is not surprising, "because they’re controlled by far-left abortion nuts who believe in abortion as a sacrament."
"They don't want to have a debate, they want to silence dissenters," he said.
In many states, lack of prosecution for attacks against pro-lifers gives "the impression of a free-for-all against people of faith," Newman added.
"I foresee this getting worse, because the closer we get to victory, the more infuriated the other side gets; and the more angry they get, the more they will act out of frustration and lash out against us," he said.
Just this month, WND reported that a judge in Florida, under the guise of preventing "stalking," issued an injunction preventing pro-life sidewalk counselor James Thoma from peacefully offering women "alternatives to abortion and care afterwards."
In some places, though – Newman mentioned Kansas as an example – the situation is improving.
Either way, pro-life forces are winning the broader battle.
"The numbers are real clear,” he said. "In 1992, there were almost 2,200 abortion clinics. Today, we're down to 573. The abortion rate and the number of abortions have dropped in half. We're passing more and more laws to protect the unborn every year."
In fact, more than 400 laws restricting abortion have been passed in the last five years, he said, and the trend looks set to continue.
Battling in the courts
One of the pro-life leaders who faced down authorities and the powerful abortion lobby in his efforts to protect the unborn is Joseph Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League.
Like other pro-life activists, he has also suffered from violent attacks by pro-abortion forces.
One time, Scheidler recalled in a phone interview with WND, an abortion activist put black paint in his eyes, forcing him to seek medical attention.
"I've also had buckets of paint poured on me," he added. "But the paint in my eyes during a Truth Tour at a college campus was probably the most painful."
In another incident, "they came to my house and broke the windows by throwing concrete blocks through them, and they painted my porch," Scheidler said.
He also remembers being at a protest outside an abortion clinic years ago where pro-life activists tried to block the driveway by lying across it.
"The car simply drove over them," Scheidler recalled. "Then they were all arrested for blocking the entrance."
"We just run into so much of this, I could go on and on," he added. "We get a lot of death threats too – an awful lot of death threats."
Scheidler has also had plenty of run-ins with the law, including between 15 and 20 arrests, he said.
In Fargo, he was arrested for "emitting an illegal noise" by protesting abortion through a bullhorn.
Other arrests involved "trespassing."
In California, police told Scheidler he could not protest on the sidewalk, so he stepped onto the street and was promptly arrested.
Scheidler's longest battle with the law, though, took almost three decades to be resolved.
The saga formally began in 1986, when the National Organization for Women (NOW) filed a federal suit against Scheidler and his organization making various allegations – including a supposed "anti-trust" violation for denying abortionists business that was later thrown out.
The complaint that stuck, for a while, at least, alleged that the defendants were violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by engaging in a "conspiracy" to prevent women from aborting their children.
The RICO statute, of course, was originally drafted to combat the mafia.
"The judge was obviously on their side," Scheidler said, adding that "false witnesses" hiding behind "anonymity" were allowed to manufacture bogus testimony. "It was an unfair trial, unbalanced."
Finally, in 2014, the case ended when federal courts ruled in favor of Scheidler and his organization, forcing NOW to pay the costs.
"It was a form of persecution, it was an abuse of the statute, and that was proved, but it took a long time," Scheidler, now 87, concluded about the ordeal.
"I was always determined to fight abortion and expected repercussions, because we're taking business away and telling them abortion is wrong," he said, adding that he never takes it personally.
"We're on two sides of a life and death issue, and I'm on the side of life, so I expect people who would kill a baby in the womb to use violence against those who oppose them," he added, noting that he had become friends with, and converted, numerous abortionists.
"It's a long war," Scheidler concluded. "But we're trying to do God’s work, and we know we're going to pay a penalty for it."
WND sought comment from pro-abortion group NARAL, as well as tax-funded abortion and lobbying giant Planned Parenthood. Neither organization responded.