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Certainly threads do link the most outspoken antiabortionists into a loose network. Many have signed a petition that justifies the murder of abortion doctors with arguments rooted in Christian theology. Major players are in frequent contact, sometimes through couriers to avoid possible government surveillance. They swap tactics and quietly circulate a how-to manual for clinic attacks that explains how to superglue locks, build bombs and burn clinics. Most alarming, in January a new group called the American Coalition of Life Activists released a "deadly dozen" list of abortion doctors. The Justice Department quickly dispatched U.S. marshals to protect the physicians, one of whom was tracked down on vacation in the Caribbean and met by marshals at the airport.

Federal authorities know it would be foolhardy to regard the 12 names as anything other than a hit list, since doctors identified in antiabortion literature have a habit of becoming targets. Moreover, at least one shooter remains at large. Last October, McMillan was quoted in the New York Times Sunday magazine, apropos of the case in which Paul Hill killed a doctor in front of a clinic, as saying, "Why would a person do it publicly, when maybe he could have done it clandestinely, with a high-powered rifle ...'' Nine days later, Dr. Gary Romalis was gravely wounded as he sat at his breakfast table in Vancouver, British Columbia. The rifle bullet had come through the window; the sniper was never caught. The question now is whether this attack-rather than Salvi's alleged rampage seven weeks later-represents the cutting edge of antiabortion extremism, and whether the reign of terror can be stopped before more people are injured or killed.

LAST SPRING 80 ANTIABORTION ACTIVISTS from around the country gathered in a hotel conference room near Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. They had come to hammer out a common strategy, but by the time the two-day session ended, the group had suffered a permanent rift over the murder of Gunn 13 months earlier. Hill, a defrocked Presbyterian minister, had arrived in Chicago with a petition, signed by more than 30 activists, that called the shooting justified. Flip Benham, director of Operation Rescue, which was once considered the radical wing of the antiabortion movement, spoke against the attack and later confronted Hill. "For the cause of Christ, for the sake of the children and the sake of your own family, cease and desist from spewing this misrepresentation of the Scripture," Benham recalls telling Hill in a corridor. Hill refused, but he promised others that he would never pull the trigger.

Three months later, Hill did pull the trigger. Twice. He killed Dr. John Britton and his escort, retired Air Force officer James Barrett, outside a Pensacola, Florida, clinic, not far from the one where Griffin had killed Gunn. Griffin too had ties to the extreme wing of the movement. The week before the Gunn shooting, Griffin had met five times with Burt, the Pensacola-based official of Rescue America. Burt showed Griffin and his wife gory videos of dismembered fetuses and a life-size effigy of Gunn with bloodstained hands and the biblical inscription, "If man sheds man's blood, by man will it be shed." Burt had also urged Griffin to attend a protest outside the Pensacola clinic the day of the shooting.

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