RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: 1993, this woman, her name is Shelley Shannon, walked up to a car in a parking lot at a medical clinic in Wichita, Kansas, and she shot the driver. She shot the driver of the car she walked up to. The driver was the doctor who ran that medical clinic. She shot him through both arms. The doctor survived the shooting and the very next day, he returned to work.
DR. GEORGE TILLER, MEDICAL DOCTOR: You know, I'm just like my patients. You know, last night, I got shot and I was scared, but there was somebody there to take care of me.
MADDOW: The woman who shot that doctor in both arms got letters and visits in prison from a whole lot of people who said they agreed with what she did, and they wanted to support her in having tried to kill that doctor. One of the people who visited Shelley Shannon in prison, and made friends with her on the basis of his admiration for her crime was this man. Sixteen years after Shelley Shannon shot Dr. George Tiller in Kansas, Scott Roeder shot him, too. Scott Roeder shot him point-blank in the head, at Dr. Tiller's church and killed him.
A couple things have happened in this story since then. First, Mr. Roeder was tried and convicted. Like Shelley Shannon before him, he was visited and got correspondents from a whole bunch of people said they agreed with him, that murder was the right thing to do in this instance, that it's a justifiable way for one side to get what they want in the fight over abortion rights in America. Two of the people who testified as character witnesses for Mr. Roeder at his sentencing wanted to make their case in court that it was right to kill that doctor. That one legitimate way to get what you want in this country is to kill the people on the other side of the debate. The judge essentially shut them down from making that case but they made it to the press and to anybody else who would listen.
You may also remember from when this story broke that the radical anti- abortion group, Operation Rescue, their phone number was found on a piece of paper on the dashboard of the killer's car when he was pulled over just hours after the murder. Now, the Feminist Majority Foundation is an organization that tracks threats and violence against clinics. A legal coordinator for that foundation attended an anti- abortion rally last month, who's put on by the Maryland Coalition for Life, it was held at a church in Germantown, Maryland. The foundation reports that the operation of Operation Rescue, this group that had its phone number found in the car of the man who killed Dr. Tiller, the president of Operation Rescue was there last month, bragging in a speech about how Wichita, Kansas, had been made abortion- free. They are right, that since the assassination of Dr. Tiller, abortion, as far as we know, has becomeunavailable in that city and in that part of Kansas. The family decided to -- the family of Dr. Tiller decided to close the doctor's clinic and another one has not opened in Wichita to replace it.
So, here's the question that matters -- that looms over all this, regardless of how you feel about the abortion issue: is murder an effective political tactic in the United States in 2009, 2010, 2011? If there's a political movement that preaches that killing people is a just and appropriate way to achieve your desired political ends -- how do we as a country react when some extreme member of that extreme political movement actually follows through and really does kill someone? It was May 31st, 2009, when a man who provided abortion services in Kansas was killed because he did that. Nobody has openly provided abortion services in that city since then. The movement to which the extremist who killed him belonged is now bragging about the effectiveness of their tactics at stopping abortion in Wichita. And now, we can report exclusively that the same tactics of intimidation, harassment and the implicit threat of force are being used to keep anybody from replacing the doctor who was killed. Again, regardless of how you feel about abortion, are we OK as a country with this being the way this issue gets decided?
In December, " The Associated Press" reported that two Wichita doctors were training to provide abortion services. The doctors' names were leaked to the press by the anti- abortion movement and the " A.P." inexplicably decided to publish them, even though it did not necessarily advance the story. The protest at the doctor's offices against them potentially providing abortions at some point in the future started immediately. And after a lawsuit filed by her landlord, one of these two doctors is now looking for another facility to move to, one where she'll be able to set up enough security to be able to provide this supposedly constitutionally protected legal service. But there's more. In October and November of last year, you may remember we reported on the disturbing reemergence of one of the most notorious tactics of the extreme pro-violent edge of this movement, the wanted poster, or the pseudo- wanted poster.
It used to happen a lot. Before Dr. David Gunn was murdered, there was a "wanted" poster about him. Before Dr. John Britton was murdered, the radical anti- abortion movement had a "wanted" poster out targeting him. Before Dr. Tiller was shot the first time in 1993, it is believed this "wanted" poster targeting him was being circulated in anti- abortion circles. And this past fall, we reported on the return of that tactic. In North Carolina, these wanted posters targeting abortion doctors there. Posters call them killers. They show their photos. They list their offices and in some cases, their home addresses. One of the doctors targeted by the posters told us that he saw the poster very clearly as a threat against his life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reminds me of the old Wild West wanted posters. That's the way I took it. The poster itself is a call for my murder. The poster itself, I think, is targeting that person who has a personality that's already borderline and will see this as a message to do some harm. That is the purpose of the poster. And if anything happens to me, that's what's going to happen.
MADDOW: A doctor in North Carolina speaking to us a couple of months ago, his identity severely shielded for his own safety at his request. A member of the same group that put up the wanted posters that targeted that doctor in North Carolina is now doing it in Wichita, too. They're doing it by e-mail, but you recognize the format, right? The grainy photo; the exact address of where to find the doctor. We blocked all this out, but assure you, the information is very specific. I have seen it. It includes not only the address but the cross streets. It also includes an instruction that this doctor should get visits at her office or at her home. The doctor described as an unspeakable, horrific murderer who earns blood money for violently slaying the innocent. Again, it lists the address of her office. It says, "Don't ignore her. Do provoke her."
The supposedly more mainstream anti- abortion movement under the banner of Kansans for Life is now doing all but the same thing -- naming the doctor, calling her practice a killing center, denouncing her as grave evil, publishing her exact address, describing it as a place for killing children. Kansans for Life recently convened a prayer meeting to pray or to stop this doctor's practice. They convened the prayer meeting at a middle school literally around the corner from where Dr. George Tiller was murdered. After the last murder of an abortion provider by this radical movement that promotes killing American doctors in order to get its way, this is at least the seventh doctor or clinic worker they have killed. What did we think the affect would be of that murder? What did we think the effect would be of George Tiller's murder? Are we doing anything to stop this movement of using physical intimidation and threats and harassment and murder-- we generally lump those under the category of terrorism -- what are we doing as a country to get them to not get their way? Or are the doctors who are willing to provide this service still just on their own, with their face on wanted posters and we're just waiting to see what happens next?
Joining us now is Dr. Mila Means. She's the Wichita doctor whose plans to begin providing abortions have made her the target of protests, a lawsuit and those very disturbing emails you just saw. Dr. Means, I know this was not an easy for you to join us tonight. Thank you for doing so.
DR. MILA MEANS, WICHITA FAMILY PRACTITIONER: Thank you.
MADDOW: First of all, I guess I should feel like -- I guess I feel like I should ask you how you are holding up, and what went into your decision to talk publicly about this?
MEANS: I think I'm holding up well. My decision is I had too many patients since having a pregnancy that was causing their life and their health problems.
MADDOW: As for these -- the threats that you have received, and I can see -- I see these e-mails as threats, these ones from these guys responsible for the wanted posters in North Carolina. What did you think when you first saw this e-mail? I saw it as a threat to you. Did you see it that way as well?
MEANS: Yes. I think they're clear threats there. I'm hoping that they acted so quickly to put Scott Roeder away that people will think more about whether they want to destroy their own life before proceeding in a violent fashion.
MADDOW: In terms of this lawsuit that you've been contending with, I know you've recently come to agreement with your landlord, and it, as far as I understand, that an agreement that involves you looking for another place to practice medicine. Are you satisfied with that agreement? Do you feel bullied by this process? How do you feel about that situation now?
MEANS: We actually were looking for two to three months before the lawsuit, and my landlord knew that. I felt very much that the lawsuit was a tactic of the anti- abortion movement in Wichita. Its effect has been that there are some realtors and properties that wouldn't even talk to us or let us look at a property that's been opened for two to three years now.
MADDOW: Do you think that you're going to be able to relocate your practice in Wichita?
MEANS: I am hoping that there is some corner of this city that is willing to take a chance on us and realize that we will be providing security for staff and our patients.
MADDOW: In terms of your decision to do this, you mentioned at the top that it was essentially medical concern for your patients who didn't have anywhere else to go. Do you feel like that what's happened since you made this decision, the way this has played out thus far and the reaction thus far, do you feel like it's worth it? Are you glad you made this decision?
MEANS: I am glad and I think women deserve their rights in this state. And a lot of the rights in Kansas are very behind the times. And it, in fact, spurs me forward.
MADDOW: The reason that felt like this is a national story, that this is a story that's about much more than Wichita, much more than Kansas, is that it seems like this is -- this is -- this is an issue on which one very far-fringed side of the debate has decided that violence is the way they're going to get what they want, either by directing violence individually at people on the other side of this debate, or by simply creating such a physically threatening climate that people are intimidated and won't do it. Do doctors who are considering making the decision that you've made talk about that threatening environment as a determinative factor about whatkind of medicine they're going to practice, where they are going to practice medicine, whether they're going to offer abortion services?
MEANS: I really haven't talked to a lot of other doctors in this community that would even consider it, so it's not come up in conversation. Certainly, the person that has been helping me train is very committed to women's appropriate healthcare and has been a real leader and mentor for me.
MADDOW: Can I just ask what happens next for you, Dr. Means?
MEANS: Well, right now, we just are looking intensively and continuing to train so that we can make sure and keep women in our community healthy.
MADDOW: Dr. Mila Means, thank you very much for joining us tonight. As I said, I know it wasn't an easy decision and I wish you all the best of luck.
MEANS: You're welcome. Thank you.