The All Families Health Center in Kalispell, Mont., was operational for only three weeks when it was vandalized and destroyed on March 4.
Susan Cahill, the clinic owner, reported that the building’s plumbing and heating systems and medical equipment were destroyed, along with artwork and awards. Family photographs were slashed with knives. Files were stolen. Cahill asserted this was a hate crime, an “act of terrorism,” that it was personal, and that everything that was important to her was destroyed, a “total loss.”
A physician’s assistant, Cahill has provided comprehensive health care services to women and men in her community for 38 years. First-trimester abortions comprise 10 percent of the clinic’s work. That is why it was targeted.
According to NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, Cahill previously had to move her clinic from another location when a virulent anti-choice group purchased the facility, intending to shut down the clinic. The Montana Human Rights Network reported that Michelle Reimer, director of Hope Pregnancy Ministries (an alleged “crisis pregnancy center”), bought the building.
Notably, the person arrested for vandalizing the new clinic is Zachary Klundt, the son of Twyla Klundt, a Hope founder and board member. When arrested, Klundt had loaded semi-automatic weapons in his possession.
Maggie Moran, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, stated, “These were violent acts meant to scare and intimidate …. We have feared that pockets of violent extremism would resurface through anti-choice [crisis pregnancy centers].” Her organization’s report, “The Truth Revealed,” tells of CPCs ties to anti-abortion, sometimes violent, extremist groups.
Hope Pregnancy Ministries is also linked to other forces of racism and reaction. In a Jan. 25, 2010, press release, MHRN reported that April Gaede, a locally known white supremacist, solicited contributions for Hope on a neo-Nazi website and that she appeared to know its staff.
Since abortion was legalized in 1973, anti-choice bigots have tried to restrict and ultimately overturn this right legislatively. When they can’t achieve their goals quickly or thoroughly enough, misogynistic extremists have resorted to anti-clinic violence and brutal attacks – including murder – of medical providers.
These fascist-leaning forces will stop at nothing to get what they want: a complete shutdown of all women’s reproductive health service providers. They are emboldened by their reactionary allies in state legislatures who are pushing through anti-abortion laws, often with judicial and executive backing.
Cahill a pro-choice hero
The history of the pro-choice movement, however, is marked by the many strong, courageous and compassionate medical practitioners, clinic providers and workers who have faced down the ultra-right to provide reproductive health care for women.
Cahill is a hero, a pioneer in women’s medical care and a fighter for safe, legal abortions. As a physician’s assistant – in a state which allows PAs to perform abortions – she provided the procedures alongside Dr. James Armstrong beginning in 1976. When their clinic was firebombed in 1994, they rebuilt it, and Cahill kept it going after Armstrong retired.
When anti-choice politicians enacted a law targeting PAs for performing abortions – Cahill was the only one in Montana – the state Supreme Court upheld her right to do so.
With the health center closed for now, Cahill is contemplating what to do next. She has the backing of her community, as shown March 27 when the courtroom was packed with her supporters at Klundt’s arraignment.