The Nuremberg Menace
The Nuremberg Files is stirring up terror again. Even as James Kopp was apprehended last week in the murder of a doctor once targeted by the infamous antiabortion Web site, the menacing electronic hit-list was back online with a new and expanded list of abortion proponents it would like to see harmed.
Under intense pressure from pro-choice activists, the Web site had been dormant for much of the last two years. The latest and lengthiest version of the files attacks an eclectic group, including hundreds of doctors, several of them in New York City, as well as Whoopi Goldberg, Mary Tyler Moore, Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal, and Hillary Clinton. The names of foes who have already been eliminatedincluding Kopp's victim, Barnett Slepianappear with slashes through them.
The site, which received a favorable decision in a long-running court battle last week, now offers personal information about politicians, judges, and even family members of these peoplea category the site calls "miscellaneous spouses & other blood flunkies." In addition, Nuremberg Files webmaster Neil Horsley has begun tracking information on the abortion pill RU-486, providing a list of colleges that are refusing to dispense it. (Click on christiangallery.com/atrocity, and the words "Email Us Info On People Prescribing RU-486" eerily your cursor.) Now updated daily, the site promises it will soon add a "live Web cam," which will film patients on their way into clinics.
The point of all this, according to the site, is to "catalog the people who go out to kill God's little babies" in anticipation of a future in which abortion is illegal and everyone listed will come to trial. (The Nuremberg name is meant to play on the well-worn abortion-as-holocaust theme.) According to prochoice activists, such sinister scrutiny is part of an antiabortion strategy to terrify doctors into inaction.
"Oh, no," says Linda Prine, when a reporter tells her she is now part of the Nuremberg Files. Prine, a family practice physician at Manhattan's Institute of Urban Family Health and a part-time abortion provider for Planned Parenthood, is one of the recent additions to the list. (Accordingly, her name appears with a yellow "new!" tag next to it.) Though she considers New York City a far safer place to perform abortions than most of the rest of the country, Prine says she worries about the possibility of violence.
"Every time I get a package, it makes me nervous," says Prine. "It's a creepy thing to have to live with, thinking every time, 'Is this something I ordered or is it a bomb?' " Last week's capture of Kopp, who was apparently planning a trip to Brooklyn when he was arrested, made Prine especially nervous. "I mean, what was he on his way to New York to do?" she asks.
It's certainly not paranoid to think that someone is out to get you if you provide abortions, especially if your name appears on the site that's peppered with terms like "butcher," "slaughter," and "abortion war." It's not just that Slepian's name showed up on the Web site before he was killedand was subsequently struck through. Three other doctors, David Gunn, John Britton, and George Patterson, were murdered after a group known as the American Coalition of Life Activists made Wanted posters with their faces on them. Horsley has been connected with the ACLA, some of whose members provided information to the Nuremberg Files.
"There's a chilling coincidence between the appearance of people's names on the list and murders," says Donna Lieberman, interim director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the Nuremberg founders in the case, despite its support of free speech. "The description of these providers and the Wanted posters were clearly designed to intimidate and threaten them."
Yet, despite the seemingly obvious intentions of its creators, last week a federal court overturned a 1999 decision that would have required them to pay $107 million to Planned Parenthood, four doctors, and a clinic listed on the site.
Though the Planned Parenthood's initial victory didn't directly bar the site from operating, it was helpful in convincing servers not to host it. Already, the site has been removed from about 22 servers, according to a pro-choice activist who has spent much of the past two years alerting host companies to the Nuremberg Files' disturbing content. Along with the help of the National Abortion Federation, the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has successfully gotten the site removed from Mindspring, Yahoo, Lycos, UUNet/MCI, and Go2Net, among others. Activists are currently trying to persuade the Nuremberg's current host, Coza Hosting in Parow, South Africa, not to carry the site.
While Planned Parenthood is hoping to get the latest decision reversed, there is little those targeted can do to combat having their names, addresses, and personal information publicly posted. Ann Glazier, national director of clinic security for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, helps doctors who find themselves on the list assess and reduce their risk of violence, though she's reluctant to say how. "I couldn't reveal that," she says. "That wouldn't be smart."
Glazier's attitude is consistent with the mistrust at the violent center of the abortion war, which has involved seven murders and 17 attempted murders in the last 10 years. In a documentary airing on HBO this week, Horsley denies posting the information on his site with doctor-shooting in mind. But other activists in the film are far less cautious; one even poses for the camera as if he's aiming a rifle.
If not for the genuine threat behind it, the Nuremberg Files might be funny. The site is so extreme it lists Bob Dole on its list of enemy politicians, considered the "mouthpieces" of abortion. Also in the database are Cybill Shepherd, "Jane (Born Again) Fonda," and Mario Cuomo, who hasn't held public office since 1994.
As Kopp's arrest is a grim reminder of how real the consequences of such provocation can be, the recent verdict in favor of the Nuremberg founders points to the difficulty of halting it. Meanwhile, some of those marked are skeptical of getting adequate legal protection from a Bush administration. Janet Benshoof, executive director of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, who has been listed in the Web site's miscellaneous section for years, says she is now more apprehensive than ever. "What alarms me is being on the list when we have Ashcroft as attorney general," says Benshoof. "I don't believe he's committed to vigorous enforcement of the [clinic access] laws."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.