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Dr. Slepian’s Assassination

Lawrence Bush
October 22, 2017

Dr. Barnett Slepian was murdered in his home by an anti-abortion militant, James Charles Kopp, on this date in 1998. Slepian, 52, was the primary obstetrics/gynecology doctor at a clinic that served mostly poor women in Buffalo, New York. The clinic had been targeted for protest and harassment by Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion groups, and Slepian had received hundreds of death threats. The father of four sons, he had just returned home with them from a memorial service for his own father at the family’s synagogue when he was shot through his window by a high-powered rifle. He was the fourth doctor and seventh person in the U.S. murdered for providing abortions. Kopp evaded arrest for four years with the help of a network of friends and anti-abortion militants. He is currently serving a sentence of 25 years to life for second-degree murder.

“Please don’t feign surprise, dismay, or certainly not innocence when a more volatile and less-restrained member of the group decides to react to their inflammatory rhetoric by shooting an abortion provider.” —Dr. Barnett Slepian, letter to Buffalo News, 1994

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.