The rescue movement, which already had sustained major legislative and judicial setbacks this year, suffered another crippling blow July 29 with the murder of abortionist John Bayard Britton in Pensacola, Florida.
The killing further undermined the mission of 20 years of nonviolent confrontation, breached in March 1993 when David Gunn became the first abortionist murdered since Roe v. Wade.
Paul J. Hill, a 40-year-old former Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and Orthodox Presbyterian Church pastor, awaits trial in the murder of the 69-year-old Britton and his 74-year-old bodyguard, James Barrett. They had arrived in a pickup truck in the parking lot of the Pensacola Ladies Center when Hill allegedly shot them with a pumpaction 12-gauge shotgun. Britton wore a bulletproof vest. He and Barrett were shot in the head.
During an interview last fall, Hill told CHRISTIANITY TODAY, "Preventing murder is clearly prescribed in the historic understanding of the sixth commandment.
"To proclaim justice, all godly action is necessary for the taking of innocent life, including force." He predicted violence would become more widely accepted in pro-life circles.
After Gunn's killing, Hill formed Defensive Action, calling for the acquittal of Michael Griffin, who is serving a life sentence for the first-degree murder of Gunn. He also traveled to Wichita, Kansas, this year to argue for the acquittal of Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon, who is serving a nine-year sentence for wounding abortionist George Tiller.
Last year, around two-dozen pastors and leaders of city rescue organizations—none of them in the mainstream pro-life movement—signed a statement written by Hill that said the "use of lethal force was justifiable."
Most pro-life groups ...