Candle flames danced in the warm summer breeze Wednesday night as demonstrators gathered in Salt Lake City to protest the recent slayings of a doctor and his bodyguard at a Pensacola, Fla., abortion clinic.
Although the mood was one of sadness, it also was one of determination as the Utah Pro-Choice Coalition held a "candlelight vigil" at the Utah Women's Health Center, 515 S. 400 East."We want to honor these individuals and other women and men who have been killed, wounded or terrorized by the radical religious right," said Susanne Millsaps, executive director of the Utah chapter of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
"We call upon the anti-choice groups in Utah to give a clear message to their followers that they are also appalled at this growing terrorism in the name of life and that they will not tolerate such actions."
The group of about 75 were protesting the shotgun slayings of Dr. John Britton and his escort, Jim Barrett, by the Rev. Paul Hill outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola last week. Britton recently had replaced Dr. David Gunn, who was gunned-down in Pensacola last March.
"The vast majority of the other side are good, kind people," said Rep. Mary Carlson, D-Salt Lake. "It's a sin of omission, not commission, of all of us who are not speaking out against this violence."
Carlson, herself a pro-choice activist, said, "This is a nation of laws, and we should not allow people to put themselves above the law."
Alissa Porter, administrator of the Utah Women's Health Center, said she was shocked but not surprised when she heard about the slayings last week.
"He (Hill) knew they were wearing bullet-proof vests," she said. "That's why he shot them in their heads." Her clinic employs three doctors.
"We sort of all undergo feelings of fear and talk about what is fearful to us and what we can do to prevent terrorist acts," she said. "We all take special precautions."
Porter said so far in 1994, the clinic has "experienced 15 protest events, three death threats and three acts of vandalism."
"We're a moderate and conservative state," she said. "Utahns would hate what's been happening in Florida. Utahns kind of like to sit down and talk things over."
She said she is grateful for that.