Sunday, August 24, 2003


The highlights....

After Paul Hill is executed in Florida's death chamber next week, one aspect of his life likely won't be buried with him: the movement to kill doctors who perform abortions.

Hill, 49, and a small group of activists helped give birth to the movement in the early 1990s after growing disenchanted with traditional means of protest. Despite years of picketing and blockading what they called ''abortuaries,'' abortion was still legal.

So, Hill said, God called him to kill.

The Pensacola preacher obeyed in July 1994, shotgunning a hometown doctor and his bodyguard. Hill didn't run away. He didn't plead innocent. And he didn't appeal his death sentence.

If carried out Sept. 3, it will make him the first killer of an abortion doctor to be executed in the country.

But rather than close a violent chapter in the struggle over abortion, Hill's execution threatens to resurrect the radical movement, which has lain dormant. Most of its bombers and shooters have been locked up and muted in prison, robbing the movement of its essential elements: publicity and symbolism.

....Like pilgrims traveling to a revival, people who espouse extreme antiabortion views plan to go to Starke to protest the execution and talk about getting their movement back on track. They'll be joined by antideath penalty protesters who last week urged Gov. Jeb Bush to halt Hill's execution because it would beget more violence.

As if in fulfillment of their warnings, four anonymous death-threat letters -- each containing a rifle bullet -- were sent to Florida officials last week to protest Hill's execution.