Abortion Docs Decry "Wanted" Posters as Bait

Updated 11/9/10

Reverend Phillip "Flip" Benham, 62, director of the anti-abortion group Operation Save America, was found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits residential picketing for stalking a doctor who performs abortions. He was sentenced to 24 months probation and plans to appeal.




They look like wanted posters from the Wild West. But they're not photos of criminals, CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports -- they depict doctors in North Carolina who perform abortions. They asked us to block their faces.

"It doesn't say 'Wanted Dead or Alive' but the implications are clearly there," said a doctor, who, fearing for his life, asked to remain anonymous.

"I am always looking over my shoulder," the doctor said. "I know they know my car. They know my face. They've been to my house. They've put these posters in my neighborhood. So yeah, I look over my shoulder."

Those responsible for the fliers, Operation Save America, repeatedly protest abortions at women's health clinics in the Charlotte area. Claiming the doctors "harm women and kill babies," they list specific addresses and urge people to contact doctors there. One poster even cites a home address.

"These 'Wanted' posters are a call for my murder," a doctor said.

In the 1990s similar fliers were distributed in other cities. Then came the murders. Pensacola, Fla., doctor David Gunn and Dr. George Patterson of Alabama were shot and killed in 1993. Dr. John Britton was murdered a year later in Florida. All were targets on Wanted posters.

Dr. George Tiller survived an assassination attempt in Wichita in 1993. He was killed in his church last year.

"We know what the pattern has been year after year," said Katherine Spillar, the executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "Wanted poster, murder. Wanted poster, murder. We need tough prosecution before more doctors are murdered."

Flip Benham founded Operation Save America and says the new posters are not threatening.

"If you read the writing in there, it's wanted by Christ," Benham said. "We want them to meet Jesus."

Federal law makes it a crime to use force, or even the threat of force, to prevent people from accessing clinics. In 2002, a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that Wanted posters similar to these were a violation of that law.

"The decision back in 2002 only affects that region and that area," said CBS News legal correspondent Jan Crawford. "It doesn't affect the poster in Charlotte that are at issue now."

"The posters are meant to call for my murder by that borderline person," said the doctor. "They are putting out the bait, they are putting out the message, the call, and hope that somebody will respond."

Women's rights groups have called for the Justice Department to investigate the posters fearing history could repeat itself.
  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.

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