Workers Vanguard No. 1050

8 August 2014


Montana Abortion Provider Under Attack


18 June 2014

Dear Editor,

Late at night on March 4th, All Families Healthcare of Kalispell, Montana, which provided first-trimester abortions, was destroyed, seemingly by an armed burglar with family ties to an antiabortion organization called Hope Pregnancy Ministries. These evangelicals, after the fashion of such groups described over the years in Workers Vanguard, appear to have ties to organized fascists, and they sometimes work hand-in-hand with the state.

For at least a decade, they organized a threatening presence outside the clinic owned by Susan Cahill, a physician’s assistant. They celebrated Lent each year with a continuous picket lasting 40 days and 40 nights, until recently, when they purchased the building that housed the clinic. Cahill, a health care provider for the last 38 years, was then forced to find another space to rent. She and her business partner, Dr. James Armstrong (now retired) have served multiple generations of Montanans, including elderly relatives of mine, who have been well cared for by them. After her clinic was firebombed in 1994 in a string of such attacks across the American West, the Montana state legislature passed the Susan Cahill Law, barring physician’s assistants from performing abortions, but the law was overturned in state supreme court.

This year’s attack came three weeks after Cahill re-opened her clinic at a new location. It was the night before a security system was to be installed, and just before Lent. Cahill wrote in a letter to a local newspaper that everything was destroyed, from the plumbing and heating systems, to medical equipment and furniture, to photos of her baby grandson. The man charged in the attack was arrested shortly afterwards, carrying a loaded handgun and extra bullets. His trial is scheduled for September and likely to be well-attended, but apparently the firearms charges have already been dropped, and “hate crime” charges, which Cahill and some supporters called for, seem never to have even been considered.

Cahill told the liberal news show, Democracy Now, that the damage to her clinic was first noticed by an employee who arrived in the morning. She stayed outside and called the police, who sealed off the premises for the next 24 hours, with the help of FBI agents. The US government tends to take a keen interest in patient files at abortion clinics, but one news report indicated that in this case some files had been taken by the burglar. In any case, many files were apparently damaged beyond recognition.

Shortly after the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller, Susan Wicklund, author of This Common Secret: My Life as an Abortion Doctor, and an associate of Susan Cahill’s, told an audience at Revolution Books in Manhattan that at her clinic in southern Montana, patients showed up from five or six different states and Canada because of the extreme shortage of abortion providers—especially affordable ones—throughout the region. Cahill, similarly, had patients from so far away that she often had to give them lodging, and sometimes also money for food and gas. Many could not otherwise afford to spend the night in the area, which in recent years has become gentrified to the point that the local airport is crowded with private jets; Kalispell’s SWAT team has its own armored assault vehicle, donated by a real estate tycoon, and many long-time local residents are being driven off the land by skyrocketing property taxes. Health care at the nearby Kootenai-Salish Indian Reservation has also been cut back recently. Cahill says she is not sure whether she will ever re-open her clinic, and Dr. Wicklund retired in October after nearly 30 years, during which she often carried a .45 and wore a bullet-proof vest.

The capitalists’ reactionary drive to ration and restrict access to abortion and other forms of health care by any means available—legal or otherwise—clearly shows the need for a revolutionary struggle against capitalism itself.

Comradely greetings,