David Gunn

God Hates

God Hates

Dear M and S,

I do not ask for understanding, but comprehension.  You both have questions.  Some I’ve answered, insinuated, or obscured for the normal parental reasons.  I owe you, though, the story as I remember it so you may understand through comprehension how dangerous it is, even in the 21st Century, to contradict and undermine conventional thinking.  I hope our family’s historical facts illustrate our ongoing obligation to confront fundamental Pentecostal thinking so we move forward, not backwards.  I am now a mere four years younger than your grandfather when one blinded by fundamentalism and the hate it naturally engenders created a symbol of the man who you never knew.

I last saw my father on Sunday, 7 March 1993.  We did not see each other often, but we talked with relative frequency and were repairing a fairly entrenched rift in our relationship that began 10 years prior when he left our family for another woman after moving us—your grandmother, aunt, and I—to a shit small hovel of an antiquated old southern town in Alabama split between the poles of old blue blood southern aristocratic antebellum money and dirt floor poverty.  Dad came and stayed the weekend with me in Birmingham as he did infrequently.   Three days before his visit, I’d had my wisdom teeth removed.  He called, as he was want to do, late in the afternoon on Thursday or Friday and announced he was coming into town and would be staying with me.  It was a conversation like any other and I don’t recall any real detail other than he was coming.

I know he stayed over at least Saturday and Sunday 6 and 7 March 1993.  I have no memories whatsoever of Saturday night; yet, I do vividly remember Sunday dinner, can still see the round wooden table and mismatched chairs I took from home when I moved away in 1989, and know we grilled cow protein of some form or another—it was probably a New York Strip as I’d not developed an appreciation for the rib eye yet.  Due to the recent dental surgery, the steak, though cooked appropriately, was difficult to chew which made it more difficult to swallow.  We enjoyed our meal, some more than others, while Billie Holliday gently but huskily sang in the background.  Our conversation drifted from school, to my sister—she was 17 and in the final days of her senior year, to politics—President Clinton had just been inaugurated, to my progress in school, and to his work.

Dad explained the protesters were becoming ever more aggressive and confrontational. The few protesters I personally encountered a few years prior when I traveled the circuit with dad were the typical abortion porn sign holders and silent layers of hands. In my teen years, I found his weekly schedule nothing but normal though it took him from our small town hell to Columbus, Georgia then to Montgomery, Alabama, then to Mobile, Alabama, and finally to Pensacola, Florida only to resume anew the next week.  Other kids’ parents traveled so what was so different about his schedule?  I did not figure out until much later that he made this circuit because no one else would.  I certainly never took it a logical step further and deeper to ask why no other local doctor in Columbus, Montgomery, Mobile, and/or Pensacola serviced these clinics.  It was my normal and I was 14 when I first started driving him on some of his trips; yet, as we discussed the present situation, I noticed he seemed preoccupied.  We finished our meal, drained a few more beers, and awoke March 8 and said our goodbyes.

I was aware clinics were bombed in the past and even asked him once if he ever worried about one of the clinics he serviced getting attacked.  He reassuringly told me it did not concern him, and he went on with his day.  Over the weekend of his last visit, though, I thought about the heightened protests, and the ever increasing threats of violence; additionally I remembered my mom calling me one afternoon about a year before this final visit to tell me strangers were in town passing out wanted posters of dad which included his weekly schedule.  When that incident occurred, he again brushed off our concern and said he was not preoccupied with the actions of some crazies.

That Monday morning, prior to seeing him off for the last time, I confronted him about the posters, the renewed threats, and told him I was scared for his safety.  Dad finally told me he had been carrying a gun for a few years, that he suspected he was being followed frequently, and that a strange protester approached him that previous Friday (would have been 5 March) while he was in the car leaving the clinic in Pensacola heading my way.  He said this man had an eerie look about him and spoke to dad through his car window while staring deeply at him with glazed long staring maniacal eyes.  I remember asking when the stalking started, and he indicated it had been going on at least as long as the wanted poster’s origination about a year or so earlier.  I asked if he considered quitting the circuit and going back to less controversial OB/GYN care.  He told me if he stopped, it would be difficult to find a replacement and he was committed to his patients.  He left headed south, and for the first time I admitted to myself that he had a dangerous job and as anyone whose parent has a dangerous job, I wrapped myself in the warmth and security of “not mine”, “not this time”, and drank the Lethean water temporarily cooling my angst and trepidation.

I spoke with your grandfather again on 9 March 1993.  We did not discuss anything specific.  I was preparing for exams; he was in another of the endless line of hotel rooms and sounded lonely.  Sadly, our terminal conversation was brief and unremarkable.  He indicated he was well and heading to Pensacola, and I told him to be safe.  In retrospect he seemed to hang on the line as though he did not want the conversation to end; yet, neither of us could find a way to carry it forward.

I drove to class the next morning on what was, otherwise, an exceedingly peaceful and beautiful spring day in Birmingham.  I’ve always preferred living in Birmingham than other cities as it is big enough to provide some degree of needed anonymity; yet, small enough to retain remnants of its prior smallness which is both sides of the pole simultaneously.  As I was studying for a Semantics class, dad was driving to work.  As I got into my car to head home, he was very likely getting out of his for the last time.

You guys have never seen a real answering machine as far as I know since everyone has digital voicemail these days.  In ’93 you were lucky to have the kind with a microcassette (I’ll explain that later) that was the size of a stereo component.  I don’t recall who checked the messages on the afternoon of 10 March—my at the time girlfriend or me—but I remember thinking it odd to get a message from my grandmother in the middle of the week in the middle of the day.  It was an altogether cryptic but clear message.  She simply said “call me when you get home.”  Both of you are still too young to know there are certain messages you don’t want to return.  I don’t mean the messages from people you’ve left behind or don’t want to talk with at that particular moment, but the messages from family purposely ambiguous so you are intrigued enough, but not too scared, to return the call as soon as you hear the message.  Of course I sensed something was wrong, and, logically, I feared it involved dad.

Dad called me one night in January surprisingly upbeat and happy sounding.  It was the night of the 20th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision (Supreme Court decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion as you may or may not know when you read this; I’ll get to abortion proper later), and he actually to and was genuinely excited to share his day with me.  First, he said someone from Rolling Stone magazine contacted him recently looking to do a profile on his experience as one of the few Southern abortion providers; secondly, he told me how he had finally had enough of the protesters and their bullshit.  He then described how he sang “Happy Birthday to You” at the protesters outside one of the clinics in Montgomery and in the penultimate verse added, “happy birthday dear Roe v. Waaaade.” He subsequently aimed a small boom box at those gathered outside the clinic and played Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” singing loudly along.

For some reason, I thought of this event as well as the suspicious protestor dad described over the weekend as I returned my grandmother’s call.  When she answered, I immediately knew what I suspected was true; yet, we had to play out the charade.  I asked her why she called.  She asked if I had seen the news.  I told her I had been at school studying.  She said good.  I asked why.  She then told me what I intuitively knew.  “Your dad was shot,” she said and I could hear her sadness as she said it.  I asked if he was ok thinking people survive gun shots routinely.  She told me he wasn’t and that he died e route to the local hospital.  She said she was sorry, that she loved me, and asked that I call my mom.

One day both of you will confront my mortality.  Let’s hope it is much longer than four years from now when I’ll be 47 which is how old your grandfather was when he died.  I know that seems old, but it is really very young, and when you hit forty, you’ll both realize how young it is.  My desire is you are prepared for it and it doesn’t pounce on you from behind a corner while you’re busy reading some goddamned semantics notes.

I drove to my mother’s house where some friends and my sister had gathered.  We hugged, cried, and watched cable news run the story of dad’s death and label him “the first abortion doctor to be murdered” ad infinitum.  You have to contextualize the nature of the event and times to truly understand.  On one really used the internet, e-mail was barely in anyone’s vocabulary, and few people had cell phones.  CNN was the only 24 hour news source (it’s hard to conceive of life without Fox, but it was pleasantly non-existent at the time).  Abortion clinic violence was still considered fresh news and had not yet matured and then expired.  In laymen’s terms, your grandfather’s assassination was a big fucking deal, and was the news for days, months, and years as more doctors and nurses in the abortion field died violently.  Cable news still had some decency about the images they showed, or they were simply too late to get images of your grandfather’s body.  The image I recall from that spring day is a shot of his bloodstained glasses disfigured and broken in the grass where his body most assuredly fell.

Within hours of the killing, my mother’s phone started an interminable ringing which would not abate for months.  On the other end of the line was a New York Times reporter looking for comment.  I considered whether or not we wanted to talk, I had mixed feelings of surprise and anger at being asked for comment on the day I found out my dad was dead, and I had no idea what to do given our family’s life capsized, up righted, capsized, and sank in the span of a few hours that afternoon.  We had large issues confronting us:  burial, finances, familial relations, loss, and grief, and it was overwhelming to add media and politics into the mix.  Initially, I wanted to simply hang up on the woman from the Times; yet, I remembered how joyful dad was when he thought someone was finally going to tell his story and write about the insane conditions under which he worked all at the hands of fundamentalists.  I also remembered his calm happiness when he relayed the events of 22 January 2010 and how he joyously sang in defense of his profession and services.  I made a decision, asked for the reporter’s name and number, and said I’d call her back later as we had other pressing needs to address.

I always wondered if the protester dad described to me the weekend before he died was Michael Griffin, the man who assassinated your grandfather.  If so, he looked into the eyes of his assassin five days before he struck, and it was the last time he looked into his eyes as Griffin attacked from behind too cowardly to face the person he hated, stalked, and still feels deserved to die.  I am still convinced others were involved in dad’s assassination.  There was an organized protest in front of the clinic the day

Griffin struck, and the organizer of the protest had witnessed to Griffin in the weeks leading up to the assassination.  This self styled minster had an effigy of your grandfather in his garage, and I do not doubt he influenced or seduced Griffin to take his violent action.  I will tell you more about these events as I continue the story.

To this day I cannot forget the image of his glasses. I also continue to celebrate his fine voice which was inspiring to me personally and has proven inspirational to others.  I am now the dad where I once was the son, and it is my obligation and duty to pass this history on to you so, perhaps, in some minor way, it helps  you understand the essence and roots of hatred as well as how one fine voice can make all the difference if you simply sing out.

With love

PS. The title was taken from Treblinka by Jean Francois Steiner

If you have been following my recent posts, you know I am supporting the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride set to kick off on 23 July 2013 in New York City and San Francisco.  I discussed this summer’s action with a number of people I respect, and there is a divide in the abortion rights community on whether or not it is wise to embark on this action.  I did not reach the decision to support and join with the Riders without giving the decision due diligence; nor, did I neglect to consider the multiple outcomes of the action.

When facing a dichotomous debate among two sides of the community, two camps who should be working together toward common goals, I ask myself now as I did in the past, What Would Dad Do?  Would he shrink back into the shadows, rely solely on private action and influence, or would he advocate, and actually engage in, direct action and response to those who tormented, stalked, and eventually killed him?  Obviously, we know the answer:  he did not back down!  As I wrote a couple of posts ago, I also cannot and will not back down.

Upon the 20th year after my dad’s murder by a Christian terrorist, as we face continued threat of violence, and as state after state passes draconian anti abortion legislation, I reflect not only on what my dad would do but also consider the words of Yeats:

Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.

Knowing I will be appalled by remaining silent, I resolved the vacillation by opting to support what I believe is the right course of action.  To that end, I co-authored a piece on the merits and need of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride with one of its primary organizers Sunsara Taylor.  I want to share with you our recent missive so perhaps more of us will come together on the need for direct, vocal, and mass support our clinics, our doctors, and our rights

Abortion Rights Are At a Crossroads:
This is NOT a Time to Lay Low – It is Time for Massive Uncompromising Struggle!

By Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr.
July 12, 2013

Across the country, people are waking up to the state of emergency facing the right to abortion. As legislators in Texas push hard to close down 37 of 42 abortion clinics statewide, new laws in North Carolina would close four of their five remaining clinics. Meanwhile, Ohio’s recently passed budget could close as many as three abortion clinics. North Dakota, on August 1st, may become the first state to effectively ban abortion. Already Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is merely an appellate ruling away from closure. We could go on.

If we do not reverse this trajectory now, we will condemn future generations of women and girls to forced motherhood, to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. Women will be forced to have children they do not want, trapping them in abusive relationships, driving them into poverty, forcing them out of school, and extinguishing their dreams. Women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, once again flooding emergency rooms and turning up dead women in cheap motels with blood caked between their legs.

We face two divergent roads: Either we seize control of the debate and reset the terms and whole trajectory of this fight; or we continue down the road of “established conventional wisdom,” only to awaken before long to an unrecognizable and untenable situation for women. What each of us does matters,and matters tremendously.

It is in this context that we initiated an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Our echo of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides is intentional and fitting. Women who cannot decide for themselves if and when they have children are not free. On the contrary, they are mere child-bearing chattel whose purpose is to serve and not actively chose their destinies.

Volunteers on this Freedom Ride will caravan from both coasts to North Dakota, traverse through the middle of the country into Wichita, and head due south to Jackson, Mississippi. Our aim is threefold: one, we must move beyond localized fights andlauncha national counter-offensive; two, we must radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women’s liberation or women’s enslavement; lastly, and of paramount importance, we must call forth the mass independent political resistance that is necessary to defeat this war on women.

As the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride evolved from conception to genesis, many have responded by with enthusiastic and unequivocal support. Regular people from across the country as well as those who have been on the front lines of the abortion rights struggle are joining with us in demanding abortion rights without compromise and thanking us for daring to travel to where women’s rights face harshest threat.

However, some who share our passion for the cause have raised concerns and even opposition to this action. They fear the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will be too confrontational, too vociferous for abortion, and may turn off avenues of support.
Some have argued that it is wrong for people to come into local areas from the outside. Others argue that mass political protest will endanger the chances of winning important court cases and that it is better to rely on official channels of politics.

Because the future of women is at stake, we feel it is critical to address these concerns head on. In fact, it is exactly the faulty logic at the root of these concerns that has contributed to all of us finding ourselves in such a dire situation.

First, while local ground conditions are different and unique in some ways, the fact that every clinic and every state is facing heightened assault is not unique nor is it local. We all face a national assault on abortion rights which requires a national counter-offensive. Not only is it utterly immoral for us to abandon the women living in the states most under direct duress, it is delusional to think that what happens in states like Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Kansas will not come soon to a theater near you. Our futures are bound together and we all share the responsibility to take this on and turn the tide where the attacks are the most severe.

Second, while it is true that a great many people – including many who support abortion rights – are defensive about abortion, they should not be ashamed and this defensiveness and shame is precisely something we must eradicate.

Among the reasons many are defensive about abortion are decades of propaganda by those who oppose women’s equality but posture as defenders of “babies”; meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights have too often been conciliatory, muted, and compromising. This must stop. This fight has never been about babies. It has always been about controlling women. This is why there is not a single major anti-abortion organization that supports birth control.

If we want to turn the tide, we have to tell the truth: there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion. Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT murder. Women are NOT incubators.

A great many people are hungry for this message. They are furious and searching for a meaningful vehicle to make their outrage felt. It is only by asserting the positive morality of abortion rights that we can call forth and mobilize the tens of thousands who already share our resolve. Only through direct action and a polemical shift can all of us stand together and change how millions of others are thinking. Shouldn’t this emergency situation awaken us to the need to change public opinion, not accommodate it?

History has proven that directly confronting oppressive social norms can be disruptive and scary; yet, it is a necessary and uplifting part of making any significant positive change. Many argued that it was wiser for LGBT people to stay closeted until society was more accepting; others counseled against the Civil Rights Freedom Rides out of fear that it would only rile up the opposition, but it was only when people took that risk and got “in your face” that broader public opinion and actions began to change.

We must create a situation where being anti-abortion is seen to be as socially unacceptable as it is to advocate lynchings, anti-LGBT violence, or rape (although, if you listen to some on the Right, rape advocacy is not necessarily off their table).When we reach that summit, we will be on our way to turning the tide.

Third, while court cases are important – even essential – it is only through truly massive independent political struggle that we stand a chance at defeating the truly unyielding and powerful foe we face. Every setback the anti-abortion movement experiences only makes them more determined and every victory only makes them more aggressive. They will not be appeased if we lie low. No court case or election or new law will stop them. Not only has the existing power structure proven unwilling or unable to do so, people who believe they are on a “mission from God” are not bound by human laws and do not yield to public opinion.

But they can be defeated. Forced motherhood is deeply opposed to the interests of humanity. If we get out there and tell the truth, if we resist, if we clarify the stakes of this battle, and if we mobilize wave upon wave of the masses to get off the sidelines and into the streets with us, we can win. There is a tremendous reservoir of people who can and must be called forth to join in this struggle. We have seen this vividly in Texas. Let us not underestimate the potential that exists in every state across this country.

We stand at a crossroads. For the future of women everywhere, let us refuse the worn pathways that have allowed us to lose so much ground. We must not lay low, hope these attacks will blow over, and allow women in some parts of the country to be forced into mandatory motherhood while hoping to preserve the rights of a shrinking few. We cannot continue to foster the attitude that abortion is the 21st Century’s Scarlet Letter while allowing abortion providers to be further stigmatized and demonized. We cannot recoil from the massive fight that urgently needs fighting at this moment in this time.

Now is the time for courage, for truth telling, for stepping out and launching an uncompromising counter-offensive. We have right on our side. We call on everyone who cares about the future of women to join with us in strengthening the national impact and influence of this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Join with us at our kick-off rallies in New York City and San Francisco in July 23. Caravan to meet us in North Dakota, Wichita, Kansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. Send a donation or a message of support. Reach out to individuals and religious communities that can provide safe passage to the courageous individuals who are giving up their summers and putting everything they have into winning a different and far better future for women. Most importantly, let us together take the rough road to victory. It may be less traveled, but only through struggle can we reap the benefits of love’s labor won.

To learn more about and get involved with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, go to: http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/

Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution Newspaper (revcom.us) and is an initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org)

David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman, and blogs for Abortion.ws

I Won’t Back Down

David Gunn, Jr.

David Gunn, Jr.

Please grant me the indulgence of a slight digression before getting to the meat of my post.  I have never been one for personal theme songs, couples taking ownership of a particular song from a particular place and calling it “our song”, and  I never believed in the “soundtrack of your life” bullshit slogan we get sold by Apple or some other company asking we consume their individuized music player cutting us off from the music’s true power which is to be consumed—not in the sense of bought in some meaningless disposable manner—but to be collectively consumed as one consumes food, nourishing your being and providing limitless sources of inspiration rivaling the written and spoken word in its power to move people to “seek, to find, and not to yield” (thanks, Tennyson).

In fact, music is one of my first artistic loves though I am not a musician.  It rivals reading and the written word in my mind, and fuels a long standing self-debate which should not matter in any capital T truth sense, but I find the question haunting—for me at least—and I have found how one answers the question reveals something of the soul for lack of a better word since I do not believe in an eternal soul.  The debate topic, my friends, is which of the following is the purest art:  music, painting—or some other graphic design, or the word?  Pure is probably a poor choice of words as it is a relative term and has no meaning we do not assign it so in simplest terms, I struggle to determine which one is better and find others’ answers to the conundrum particularly interesting and revealing.



Joyce argued the written word is the most powerful, and therefore, the purest art.  If you ask any self- respecting Christian, told since time immemorial that God is the word and the word is God, I believe they would agree with Joyce; however, Tolkien imagined the world’s creation through the singing of angelic type beings which is kind of ironic when you think about it since Tolkien envisioned the choral creation in writing!

Over the years I’ve vacillated on the topic but more and more find myself falling on the musical side of the debate as its motivational power transcends language.  Though great works find global appeal via translations, any bilingual reader knows any particular work’s power diminishes when not digested in the original language.  Music, though, requires no translation or modernization:  there is no New English Version of Beethoven’s Erocia for example, and if you play “Imagine” or any number of excellent modern songs most folks respond much more positively than, say, if you read a passage from Macbeth to an alien.  One of the proofs for my side of the argument is Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  When, in the movie, we finally established first contact, we “spoke” through music, not the written or spoken word.



I apologize, again, for the theoretical introduction and want to get down to what in the world all of the above has to do with abortion and my story.

1)     Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around:

I Won't Back Down

I Won’t Back Down

Though I do not believe in a personal theme song, my dad became irrevocably associated with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”  I remember the first time I heard the song in 1989 and I owned a copy of “Full Moon Fever”.  I argue it is one of the greatest rock albums of the 80s for a number of reasons, but I have digressed enough and am not writing rock criticism.  Dad loved “I Won’t Back Down” and sang it to himself frequently.  Petty’s ode to personal strength and fortitude hit in the summer of 1989 which, oddly enough, is when Christian Terrorism was in its embryonic phase from the standpoint of most of their terror attacks, at this point anyway, were limited to physical damage to clinics and intimidation while also employing massive acts of civil disobedience.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 1.09.29 PMBy late 1992-93, antis targeted dad with wanted posters, stalked him, staged protests at his workplace, and otherwise eviscerated any shred of privacy he enjoyed—which wasn’t much given we lived in a very small Alabama town at the time where gossip ran through town like the river from which it took its name.  In a show of personal strength and defiance, during an anti-abortion protest on Roe v. Wade day outside of one of the clinics on his circuit, dad stood in front of the antis, sang “Happy Birthday to You” to the Roe decision, and then played Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” to the antis as a means of showing his personal commitment to provide quality health care to women even in the face of intimidation and terror.  Of course, local media picked up on the event, and a local paper ran an article with a photo of dad antagonizing those who terrorized him, and his co-workers, for years.

2)     You can stand me up to the gates of hell, but I won’t back down:

Christian Terrorism

Christian Terrorism

Twenty days later, dad lay bleeding out on the ground outside a clinic in Pensacola, FL becoming the Abortion War’s first casualty.   Soon thereafter Petty’s anthem became a rallying cry for the pro-choice movement.  Folks played the song at vigils, protests, and speaking engagements.  What was a song I immensely enjoyed, became both a personal motivator and a painful reminder of death.  I quickly became a poor substitute for my father’s courage and attempted to act as his surrogate.  Though I was no doctor and could not actually fill his void, I tried, in my own small way, to keep the providers’ travails in front of a public who did not necessarily want to understand, for any number of reasons, what doctors and clinic staff experienced on a daily basis.

Christian Terrorism

Christian Terrorism

For six to seven years, I traveled to various cities—wherever I was asked to go—to tell dad’s, and by proxy other providers’, story.  My intent was to galvanize support for the providers and to tell those who thought “it can’t happen here,” that it can and will if you do not get involved, act, and act now.  Over the course of the 90s, Christian terrorists murdered more doctors, and violence spread northward disproving the widespread belief doctor murder was a Southern thing.  During the 90s, the choice movement grew and was highly visible.  We saw court and legislative victories in the form of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance Act in mid-1994 as well as a positive ruling by the Supreme Court in the NOW v. Scheidler case which was subsequently overturned during the farce we now know as the Bush years.  We met each act of violence with a large public outcry and response.  Roughly 800,000 people attended the March for Women’s Lives on April 25, 1994 in Washington DC including myself as a speaker.

As the 90s ended and the Bush era began, abortion, though still a target of Christian Fascists, ceded ground to the now eternal War on Terror taking a backseat to Bush’s neverending wars, civil rights abuses, and war crimes.  Though the struggle—and Christian Terror–continued, it went largely ignored by a press preoccupied with terrorists abroad while those of the homegrown ilk were allowed to regroup and gain courage from the first admittedly Evangelical President.

3)     Well I know what’s right, I got just one life; In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around but I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down:

Following a highly abridged overview of the past 20 years in an attempt to keep your attention and this post a respectably attention holding length, I ask you to look around you to see where we are as of mid-2013.  Many Republican controlled states—mine included—passed and/or are preparing to pass regulations designed to severely cripple a clinic’s ability to remain open while at the same time making it personally intrusive and harder than ever for women to seek the medical care they feel they need.  Whether being forced to undergo a rape-like act via vaginal probe, an onerous waiting period, propaganda influenced “counseling”, or being forced to watch an ultrasound, Christian Fascists have succeeded in making a legal medical procedure virtually unobtainable in many Red states via intrusive and overly restrictive regulations. It’s funny how the party of regulatory constraint never met a regulation it did not like when abortion—or birth control or sex education for that matter–is concerned, and how the “libertarian” Tea Party Racist/Terrorists love liberty as long as it doesn’t apply to women, minorities, or the poor.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 1.14.59 PMHell, in my state alone, where there used to be multiple clinics in three of the major cities—or at least six to nine clinics statewide–according to abortion. com, there are only two clinics for the entire state.  These last bastions of reproductive freedom risk closure due to new regulations making their way through my state’s state legislature.  In Mississippi, were there were clinics in Jackson and Gulfport at the very least, there is now one in Jackson.  Likewise, Tennessee is served by only two clinics:  one in Nashville and one in Bristol (eight hours apart at least for the southern geographically challenged).  Also, there is only one operational clinic for the women of Arkansas.

Think of the implications of the above for a few moments.  Imagine yourself a minimum wage earner in rural Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, or Tennessee who elects to undergo an abortion; in order to get the medical care you desire, you must travel at the very least 60 miles to the nearest clinic and more than likely longer.  If you are unfortunate enough to live on the Gulf Coast of Alabama or Mississippi, your travel time to the nearest clinic exponentiates drastically and may be sufficient, on its own, to force you into motherhood.  Aside from the travel obstacle, you also have significant economic challenges if you elect to travel the underground abortion railroad as you must lose at least a full day’s wage, waste at least another few days’ wages and fuel, and then endure the cost of a hotel plus the cost of the procedure itself; therefore, your medical procedure—since it isn’t covered by insurance, Medicaid, or military insurance—can cost you a month’s salary.  Given the above, it is blatantly clear for many women in the United States, though abortion is technically legal, it is not available as a viable health care option.  These obstacles do not account for the ever reducing number of providers who do not view abortion services as a career option due to the threat of violence.  Again, though abortion is legal in the USA, the Christian Fascists through terrorism, regulatory intimidation, and simple misogyny have effectively banned the procedure for many women across the county.

4)     Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out; hey I will stand my ground and I won’t back down:

The above encapsulates a small number of the travails women seeking abortion in 2013 face.  There are many reasons for these developments.  One, choice groups cede the local fights in Red States and instead focus on a national agenda. Two, politicians and the media cannot say the word abortion much less report on it in a way that reflects the actual disposition of the nation on the topic.  If one simply watched corporate news, you would think most people are against abortion while the converse is obviously and undeniably true in poll after poll.  Three, and this is most important in my opinion, we lack grass roots direct action to counter the actions of the Christian Terrorists.  We do this for a number of reasons primarily out of a combination of fear and shame.  Fear of how a strong stance on abortion will impact our friendships, family relations, and children as well as a shame or guilt some may feel due to their own religious beliefs.  We must, though, have the courage to educate the public as to the true reality.  Namely, we significantly outnumber those against abortion, and we must have the confidence and perseverance to unabashedly engage the public, teach the scientific truth, and demonstrate our determination to win this war on women.  Not because it is, in simplest terms, the right action but because it is just.

In furtherance of these goals, we must reorganize and have the courage to “stand our ground” and “not back down” as our children’s rights depend upon what we do now, not what we might do in the future.  I have a personal stake in this not only due to dad’s death and my own personal involvement in the past, but I owe it to my daughter to ensure she enjoys self-determination and true liberation.  If the Christian Right has it their way, by the time my daughter hits puberty, after suffering through abstinence only sex education, should she be “legitimately raped” to quote Mr. Akin, she would be forced to bear the rapist’s child.  How utterly intolerable, ludicrous, and goddamned unacceptable is that statement?  How important, then, is it we re-energize, re-engage, and rejuvenate our conviction to win this fight and win it now—and we absolutely can and will win if we take proper action at this crucial moment!

To this end, I want to announce a project I’m supporting and ask that you support as well.  Two groups of activists embarking from San Francisco and New York City are planning a freedom ride style journey across the United States set to kick off with joint rallies at each city of origin tentatively set for July 23.  The riders will tour and engage the public in areas of the country impacted most by the draconian anti- abortion regulations currently making their way through state houses across the country.  Both groups will converge on Bismark, North Dakota by 8/1 to protest the effective date of North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat legislation which goes into full effect 1 August 2013.

I believe actions such as these are not only needed but required if we as a movement are going to regain the needed momentum to re-establish our strong and solid footing in our struggle against the well- funded and connected Christian Fascists.  If you have any sense of history, you know that only through mass direct action do the voiceless gain voice, the powerless gain power, and the professed ideals of our nation actualize in reality.  Building a national movement is paramount and failing to do so is tantamount to surrender; however, I know we will not surrender to threat, intimidation, and violence because we have righteous conviction to engage the armies of the night and prevail.  To this end, I urge you to review this statement published by the Riders’ organizing committee and lend your signature/support to the growing movement by following the attached link:


Lastly, I appeal to everyone to reflect objectively on the statement, sign it, and lend what support you can.  Give money to fund the riders, join the caravan when they come through your town, and even if you simply donate your signature to the statement:  that alone is taking action.  There are those of us in the movement who have been engaged for a long time—many of you much longer than myself.  You know abortion is not a foul and dirty word.  You know attaching shame to the procedure only aids the antis by keeping it in the closet and attaching a scarlet letter type stigma to what should be a private matter between patient and doctor.  You understand the effectiveness and utility of direct action because you organized and led it in the past.  You also understand sacrifice because some of you do it daily by choosing to walk into a clinic under threat of death after witnessing many of your colleagues suffer death for continuing to make abortion services a safe option for women across the country.  I know all of the above from direct experience after suffering through what the Christian terrorists did to my family.  We cannot allow it to happen to another.  We must draw a line and we must not back down.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

I started this post with a lighthearted philosophical debate and have framed my essay using song.  To be fair to both sides, let me offer the following words of Walt Whitman as a benediction of sorts:

O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;

Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;

Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;


Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists, and identity;

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Now is the time to ask ourselves about our verse and to determine what impact it has to the powerful play.  My dad’s was “I Won’t Back Down.”  Is it not time that we make it ours as well?

A Sort of Reintrodution

David Gunn, Jr.

David Gunn, Jr.

On a warm spring day in March of 1993, I sat outside the Humanities building of the University of Alabama at Birmingham studying for a Semantics final exam; meanwhile and probably simultaneously, my dad arrived at work, parked his car, started to head toward the door to the clinic where he practiced, and was assassinated by a Christian terrorist named Michael Griffin.  After pumping three rounds into my dad’s back, Griffin promptly walked around to the front of the clinic where the typical and regular antis were gathered, and turned himself in to the police who arrived on the scene to break up the protest which I always believed was contemplated and coordinated by the protest organizers to serve as the diversion Griffin needed to pull off his assassination unimpeded.

Since my dad has the bitter designation of First Abortion Provider Assassinated, a media circus ensured after his assassination, and I ended up fighting a battle on my dad’s behalf with the dual intentions of drawing the public’s attention to the Christian terrorists and their horrible tactics as well as doing whatever I could to keep another doctor’s family from experiencing what mine did.  I spent almost 10 years in the trenches, hitting any media outlet I could, speaking to whatever group would listen, and lobbying our government for action.  I certainly was not alone in these actions, and through the efforts of Pat Richard’s organization NCAP as well as other Pro-Choice organizations, we won a major victory with the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Law which Pat and I watched President Clinton ultimately sign into law.  Along the way, I married, had a child, and I reached a point where I had to pause my activism to raise a family which evolved to include a second child eight years after the first.

Christian Anti Choice - Anti Life Terrorist - He Assassinated Dr. David Gunn

Christian Anti Choice – Anti Life Terrorist – He Assassinated Dr. David Gunn

I recently reconnected with my old friend Pat Richards.  We had a couple of phone conversations and swapped some emails which culminated in my being asked to provide some blog content which I am happy to do.  In fact it is the least I can do and I have some sense of duty insofar as doing it is concerned.  Now I’m a somewhat motivated person, but oftentimes I need a pressure point to get me off my arse.  The arrangement between Pat and I results in my monthly blog contribution.  Our project gives me the deadline I need to stress me to produce pages while at the same time gives me some encouragement to write the goddamned book I’ve been wanting to write for about 20 years now whose vague amoebic shapely mass lies somewhere between the brain cells you use daily, those that are reserved for recreational devastation, and those we can’t yet access but the Obama administration is currently making the Kennedian final frontier of R and D if you believe recent administration palaver.

I’m presently faced with the dilemma of which topics to cover, what salacious details to include, what to leave out to protect the guilty, how to make myself the Byronic hero shaking my fist at the heavens perched on a cliff façade, and where the hell to start.

I’ve been away for a few years so a reintroduction seemed like a decent initial post, but I do not know that I want to go the route of a typical linear biographical “I was the son of a share cropper” type format.  What I’d really prefer is to utilize this opportunity to inspire me to do what I’ve been delaying for 20 years now and that’s write the goddamn book—in fact, I think if I finish it, that will be my title:  The Goddamn Book by David Gunn, Jr.  I think the folks in marketing could work wonders with such an appellation.  It sure beats An American Tragedy or My Antonia or The Stand, or any title given to similar real-life tragicomic rehashing of events insofar as titles go in my opinion anyway.

Seriously, though, after my absence from the scene, if you will, and in light of Dr. Tiller’s recent assassination coupled with the renewed draconian Red State regulatory traps aimed at eliminating reproductive freedom by technicality rather than illegality, my desire to do something—and the something was some ambiguous uninformed action I could not label—led me to stumble upon Pat’s blog which allowed us to reconnect and brings us current while preserving the biographical fare for future posts which I hope will include some serial entries from The Goddamn Book I am now seriously starting to write and develop.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity Pat’s providing me and hopefully, we in the community who know the tragic and truly dangerous effects of living under constant threat while at the same time constantly remaining vigilant in our guarded responses to certain questions we get from normal folks—especially when you have kids cause you don’t want the response to negatively impact them indirectly—can become acquainted again, you’ll get something from my humble wordsmithery, and I may finally be able to cathart out The Goddamn Book I’ve been promising myself I will write for years.  I’m looking forward to this new venture and am already finding it difficult to stop writing now that I’ve finally started.  As of now, I resolve to contribute toward a solution to our problems in any small way that I can.  I’ve grown weary of lacking conviction, and it is now time to confront those of the worst who have the passionate intensity desperately lacking on our side (thanks WBY).

Paul Hill Convicted Anti Abortion Pro Life Christian Murderer

Paul Hill Convicted Anti Abortion Pro Life Christian Murderer

It might have come down to a simple question mark.

On July 29, 1994  anti-abortion advocate Paul Hill killed Doctor John Britton and his body guard, James Barrett, as they pulled into the parking lot of the Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida. Hill just calmly walked up to the pick-up truck, took out a shotgun and, aware that the Doctor was wearing a bullet proof vest, shot him in the face. Hill was quickly arrested, tried and convicted. He died by lethal injection on Sept 3, 2003.

Several months before the murders, I was at the White House when President Bill Clinton signed into law the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. That law prohibited the “use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, interfere with …any person who is obtaining reproductive health services or providing…such services.” That law also included language confirming that anti-abortion protestors could exercise their First Amendment rights without fear of prosecution. Of course, how one defined the right to protest was subject to interpretation.

Bill Clinton Abortion Rights Advocate

Bill Clinton Abortion Rights Advocate

Once the law became effective, pro-choice groups started lobbying the Department of Justice to use it against protestors who were considered particularly dangerous. Paul Hill, because he believed that it was “justifiable homicide” to kill an abortion doctor, was very high on the list.

A long-time presence at the Ladies Center, Hill was known for carrying with him a very large sign that read: “EXECUTE MURDERERS ABORTIONISTS ACCESSORIES?” The sign caught the attention of many in the media, it intimidated patients and it terrified the clinic staff. When the National Coalition of Abortion Providers held a memorial service for Doctor David Gunn at the site of his murder in March, 1994, Paul Hill was quietly walking back and forth with that very sign.

Pro Lifer Murder Threat Today!

Pro Lifer Murder Threat Today!

Pro-choice groups were very concerned about Hill (as were some anti-abortion advocates), but the lawyers at the DOJ were not sure what they could do about him. In June, 1994 I had a conversation with one of their attorneys and he said that he had not crossed the Free Speech line because he was not saying out loud “I am going to kill a doctor.” Instead, he was “merely” expressing his views on the issue, i.e., saying that he thought it was “justified” to kill an abortion doctor. When I raised the issue of the sign, the attorney directed me to the question mark at the end of the sentence. I had never noticed it. Paul Hill was “merely” posing the question.

Department of Justice

Department of Justice

Was Paul Hill really that smart? Did he understand how far he could push the First Amendment? We’ll never know. We do know, however, that Hill was being watched very carefully by the authorities but that sign – and his very ugly speech – was not actionable.

I often wonder what the authorities might have done if there was no question mark on his sign.

I wonder if a case could have been made under the FACE law?

I wonder if the lives of two people could have been saved?

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