Jan. 21, 2022
By Eyal Press
This Saturday marks the 49th, and quite possibly the last, anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in every state. Roe’s precarious future can be attributed to various factors: the tenacity of the anti-abortion movement, the addition of three conservative justices to the court during Donald Trump’s presidency, the opportunities that pro-choice advocates may have missed. But if, as is widely expected, the Supreme Court upholds a Mississippi statute that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and overturns or guts Roe later this year, I will be thinking about something else: not the legal precedent, but the role that lawlessness and terrorism — and the medical community’s response to it — played in hastening Roe’s demise.
The act of terrorism that particularly haunts me took place on Oct. 23, 1998. That evening, an obstetrician-gynecologist named Barnett Slepian was standing in the kitchen of his home in Amherst, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo, when a sniper’s bullet struck him in the back. He collapsed to the floor and, within a few hours, was pronounced dead. At the time, Dr. Slepian was one of three abortion providers in the Greater Buffalo area. One of the others was my father, Shalom Press, an obstetric gynecologist who performed abortions on certain days in his private practice.