Attorney general directs U.S. marshals to protect abortion clinics, providers

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dispatched the U.S. Marshals Service to protect “appropriate people and facilities around the nation” in the wake of the killing Sunday morning of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kan.

Likely top candidate for federal protection: Boulder physician Warren Hern, believed to be the last remaining doctor in the world to provide very late-term abortions.

Hern, director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, told The Colorado Independent that Tiller’s assassination is the “absolutely inevitable consequence” of decades of anti-abortion fanaticism.

“Every doctor that does abortions has been under an assassination threat for decades,” Hern said Sunday afternon. “The anti-abortion movement message is, ‘Do what we tell you to do or we will kill you,’ and they do. This is a fascist movement.”

Here’s the statement Holder issued after Tiller’s assassination:

“The murder of Doctor George Tiller is an abhorrent act of violence, and his family is in our thoughts and prayers at this tragic moment. Federal law enforcement is coordinating with local law enforcement officials in Kansas on the investigation of this crime, and I have directed the United States Marshals Service to offer protection to other appropriate people and facilities around the nation. The Department of Justice will work to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice. As a precautionary measure, we will also take appropriate steps to help prevent any related acts of violence from occurring.”

“My family is terrified,” Hern told the Wall Street Journal after Tiller was gunned down in a Lutheran church. Hern said both he and Tiller have “been targeted by name by anti-abortion activists who call them baby killers and mass murderers.”

After predicting anti-abortion violence would rise following President Barack Obama’s election last fall, Hern told the Los Angeles Times he knows he’s a target.

“They want the doctors dead, and they invite people to assassinate us. No wonder that this happens,” Hern said. “I am next on the list.”

A call to the Colorado District of the U.S. Marshals Service wasn’t returned Sunday evening.

Anti-abortion activist and Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry has had Hern in his sights for decades. Footage aired by the CBS news program 60 Minutes in 1992 showed Terry outside the Boulder Abortion Clinic “asking his followers to pray for either the salvation or the death of the clinic’s doctor,” correspondent Lesley Stahl reported.

Media Matters tracks down the program:

60 Minutes then aired video of Terry stating “But pray that this family will either be converted to God or that calamity will strike him.” Stahl added, “The doctor he’s talking about is Warren Hern, who runs the clinic. He’s been a major target of pro-life groups for years because he’s one of only three doctors in the country who specialize in late-term abortions.”

Terry emerged again the next year calling for “judgment” for Hern. As the Pope visited Denver and anti-abortion activists failed to drum up the protests they’d envisioned, the New York Times reported:

The leader of the anti-abortion group, Randall Terry, appeared on Christian radio stations this week to assail a Boulder doctor, Warren Hern, as a “baby killer” and issued what Dr. Hern considered a dangerous threat. Dr. Hern has criticized the tactics of the anti-abortionist protesters.

In his radio appearances, Mr. Terry said of Dr. Hern: “I hope someday he is tried for crimes against humanity, and I hope he is executed. I make no bones about it friends, it is a biblical part of Christianity that we pray for either the conversion or the judgment of the enemies of God.”

“He’s clearly inciting someone, anyone, to kill me,” Hern told the Times.

A local Operation Rescue spokesman disagreed, claiming the anti-abortion activist’s words weren’t meant to bring harm to Hern.

“He meant only that God would deal with him,” a Philip Faustian said. His group distributed fliers titled “Expose the Killer” that included a map to Swedish Medical Center, where Hern worked at the time.