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October 1995 Issue [Readings]

Confessions of an Abortion Warrior


From an open letter to anti-abortion activists written by Shelley Shannon, an Oregon woman who was sentenced last year to a ten-year prison term for the attempted murder of Dr. George R. Tiller, a doctor at an abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas. Shannon’s letter was published in April in Prayer & Action Weekly News, a newsletter for anti-abortion activists.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.
—James 5:16


Out of obedience to the verse above, and in spite of problems it may bring her with the authorities, Shelley Shannon shares the following:

Anyone who doesn’t know a lot about other people’s crimes or is not willing to “snitch” on his friends ends up with a lot more jail time than an individual who “cooperates.” That’s the way the Feds operate. I tried to take a cooperating deal (I could have got my time down to five years!), and I did give the Feds information, which is my reason for writing this. Part of the deal was that I would tell them exactly what I did and didn’t do.

The Feds are working on a lot of different puzzles—if they put together enough pieces, they will be able to see a picture. I gave them too many pieces to too many puzzles in a selfish effort to save my own life. I really didn’t know whether or not it was the right thing to do. Everyone seemed to want me to. I begged God over and over to show me. I read verses about agreeing with the adversary. But later, I started reading about Judas the traitor. Shortly thereafter, my attorney called off the agreement. What finally helped break it off was that I failed two polygraph tests. I said that I did not know the true identities of Atomic Dog and Mad Gluer. The machine said I lied both times.

I’m humiliated to admit all that I told them, but since this affects other people, I feel a need to try to undo some of the damage. Without saying what is true and what isn’t, I’ll try to remember what I said about whom, for those who need to know, explaining as little as possible.

In the presence of prosecutors, the FBI, the ATF, and two men Janet Reno sent from D.C., I admitted that I didn’t do Redding or Boise [set fires that damaged abortion clinics there] and that I know who did. I did not give them a name. Thankfully we didn’t get that far in our deal. However, I did say it was someone who was not associated with pro-life activities, except for some prior “criminal mischief” he was never arrested for, and that he is about six feet tall. They may suspect that he lives in the Grants Pass area [of Oregon]. A polygraph proved that I didn’t do Boise or Redding but was inconclusive as to whether or not someone else told me that they did it.

During the questioning they went through my notes. I kept detailed accounts of most of my pro-life activism. I also saved letters. If you ever sent me anything, please assume the Feds have it.

My notes said that two people convinced me that God is calling them to shoot abortionists. I didn’t give them those names. I don’t believe they have any clues to the identities of those people. However, they do know that one of them plans to shoot Dr. Edward Allred [the owner of several abortion clinics in California]. I can only hope that someone else will somehow inform the person who wants to shoot Allred that the Feds know. Not by phone or mail, though!

Going through my diaries, they learned who Tablet, Handbag, and Cal are; that John Witte sent me “Determined Rescue info” (clippings, one document, and a Rescue America newsletter); that Trina was against the use of force at first; that I wrote Fairy Tale (I was both Shaggy West and Mad Momma); that I don’t remember the identity of “A.C.” (the one who gave me a map that I used); that I saved a letter from Danny B. explaining a way to blow up a building.

I hope the soldiers still out there leave other people out of their activities. Don’t tell anyone anything or you may put them in the position of someday having to choose between their freedom and yours. If you’re keeping diaries and notes, the Feds will take them very seriously after your arrest. If you ever start talking to Feds, you could easily get caught up in something that’s not easy to get out of.

There was pressure from everyone: “What if you don’t cooperate and you spend your whole life in prison and the others get caught anyway?” “It’s time for you to quit. You did your part. Now you need to think about your husband and kids and grandkids.” “There’s never anything wrong with telling the truth.” “People shouldn’t have told you anything if they didn’t want it known.” Everyone was saying make a deal, no one was saying don’t. I was stressed past being able to think straight, compounded by being here, with loudmouthed crazy lesbians, lights that stay on all night, no chance of seeing the outdoors or breathing fresh air. But when I tried to make a deal, I had no peace. I always felt despair. I wanted to die and had thoughts of suicide for the first time in my life. I should have known it would be better to get five hundred years in prison myself than to land other people there. If life in prison is God’s will, then that’s what’s best. I have God’s peace. I hope to avoid any further “cooperation” even if I do get three hundred years. May God have mercy and forgive my compromise, and I pray the same of my friends.

Love, Shelley

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October 1995

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