National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

IN THE COURTS | Federal Judge Orders Abortion Opponent Dunkle To Stop Threatening Internet Postings

IN THE COURTS | Federal Judge Orders Abortion Opponent Dunkle To Stop Threatening Internet Postings
[Nov. 12, 2007]

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Golden on Thursday ordered abortion opponent John Dunkle to stop posting material on the Internet that is threatening to abortion providers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Federal prosecutors in August filed a complaint against Dunkle alleging that he violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act by posting on his Web site and blog threats against abortion clinic physicians and staff (Moran, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/9).

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Dunkle on his Web site and blog posted a photo and the home address of Mary Blanks, a former abortion provider who previously worked at several women's health clinics in the Philadelphia area. Dunkle also protested outside Blanks' home in New Jersey and was found guilty of trespassing by local authorities (Hinkelman, Philadelphia Daily News, 11/9). In a posting about Blanks, Dunkle said that "while it does not sound good to say go shoot her between the eyes, it sounds even worse to say let her alone" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/9).

In addition, Dunkle distributed a newsletter, which later was posted on a blog, for antiabortion advocates who are in prison for committing violence against abortion providers "to let them realize they're not forgotten." The newsletter listed the inmates' names, and in some cases their release dates, and was mailed to Blanks' home. Dunkle also posted information provided by a reader of the newsletter that suggested Blanks be killed.

Blanks in a testimony against Dunkle said that she was "afraid for [her] life and [her] safety," as well as for her family. She added that she stopped providing abortions because of Dunkle's actions (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/9). Blanks also said she wore a disguise and bulletproof vest when going to work at a Reading, Pa., abortion clinic in 2005 (Philadelphia Daily News, 11/9).

Ruling, Reaction

Golden in his ruling said there was "no question that threats were made" against employees of abortion clinics. He added that Dunkle was responsible for the information posted on the Web site, blog and newsletter because he published it. Golden also ordered the government to monitor Dunkle's Web site to ensure he did not post names, addresses or photos of clinic physicians, staff or patients (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/9).

Dunkle, who represented himself, said Golden's ruling was "fair," adding that he was trying to represent as many viewpoints as possible. Dunkle also said he "probably should not have" put two threatening posts by other readers on his Web site, adding that they have been removed from his Web site and blog (Philadelphia Daily News, 11/9). Jennifer Boulanger, executive director of the Allentown Women's Center and another target of Dunkle's protests, said Golden's ruling was "wonderful" and added that it would improve safety for abortion providers, clinic staff and patients (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/9).