When the Abortion Doctor I Protested Was Killed by a Sniper
Image: Jillian Clark

The phone rang shortly after midnight on October 24, 1998. My husband answered, waking me after hanging up. “Channel 4 just called,” he said. The usual evenness of his voice was broken by a whisper of urgency. “Barnett Slepian was shot. He just died at the hospital.” I couldn’t comprehend if I was awake or asleep. “They want you to come into the news station first thing in the morning.” The fog slipped away. This wasn’t a bad dream. It was a nightmare.

Slepian had been a prominent abortion doctor in Buffalo, New York. That night, he’d been preparing dinner after returning home from a service at his synagogue. While he stood in front of his kitchen window, a sniper hiding in the woods nearby aimed through the glass and shot Slepian in the head.

When an abortion provider is shot, abortion opponents are the first suspects. Over the next three weeks, AP, Time, CNN, CBS, and every local news outlet grilled me as the spokesperson for Buffalo’s local pro-life movement. The headline of Sunday’s Buffalo News was “The Abortion Assassination.” Under it was a picture of then-President Clinton with his statement. Next to Clinton’s picture was mine. “For anyone to take it upon himself to be judge, jury, and executioner is nothing but sheer evil,” I said.

Three weeks after the murder, I was being interviewed by Melissa Block of NPR when a knock at my office door interrupted us. When I opened the door, two women pulled out their IDs. “You’ve been expecting us, Karen,” said one of the FBI agents with a friendly smile.

Victory Years

I had joined the pro-life movement 11 years earlier. I was 22, and up to that point hadn’t thought ...

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When the Abortion Doctor I Protested Was Killed by a Sniper
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