In this country, women have a constitutional right to abortion. This month, Susan Cahill, a Montana physician’s assistant who protected that constitutional right by providing abortions in one of four abortion clinics in Montana, filed a civil lawsuit in state court against anti-abortion extremists. Anti-abortion extremist Zachary Klundt broke into her medical clinic and completely destroyed it, thereby putting her out of business. The lawsuit alleges that Klundt, who is currently in prison for the break-in, did not act alone in his attempt to destroy Cahill’s practice, but rather acted in concert with Hope Pregnancy Ministries, an anti-abortion organization. At the time of the destruction of Cahill’s clinic, Klundt’s mother was on the Board of Directors of the anti-abortion group, and on the night of the break-in it was Klundt’s mother who provided Cahill’s name to Zachary Klundt. At the time of the break-in, Klundt was carrying a handgun on his person, and a semi-automatic rifle in his vehicle.
As a medical professional, Cahill had been offering family practice services in Kalispell, Montana since 1976. She provided abortions as one part of her comprehensive reproductive healthcare model–and this is why she was targeted by anti-abortion, anti-choice extremists. The damage to Cahill’s clinic was a total loss. Klundt broke or slashed practically every object and surface inside the clinic. He destroyed the building’s plumbing and heating systems, pulled plants up by their roots, stabbed holes through faces in Cahill’s family photographs, and destroyed all furniture, medical tools & equipment, and medical records. At the time, Klundt’s mother was a director at an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center in Kalispell, Montana called Hope Pregnancy Ministries. After the break-in, she resigned.
This is not the first time that anti-abortion extremists have threatened Cahill’s life and livelihood. Another clinic where she worked was firebombed by anti-abortion extremists in 1994. The following year, the Montana State Legislature passed a measure known as the Susan Cahill Law to ban physician assistants from providing abortions. Cahill was the only physician assistant providing abortions in the state. The Montana Supreme Court later rejected the law and upheld her constitutional right to provide abortions.
The attempts against Cahill’s life and livelihood continued. At one point, Hope Pregnancy Ministries bought the commercial building where her clinic was, and then evicted her. In a statement to Democracy Now!, a director at Hope Pregnancy Ministries admitted to purchasing Cahill’s old clinic space to “advance the cause of life.” Only weeks after Cahill was evicted from her former building, and had set up her practice in a new building, Klundt, broke into Cahill’s new clinic space and destroyed everything inside. Luckily, Cahill was not working late at the office when he arrived.
Cahill’s civil lawsuit is a courageous attempt to speak truth to power and let the extremists know that they cannot get away with terrorizing the life and livelihood of medical professionals who perform a legal procedure that saves women’s lives. The Montana Supreme Court has held that Cahill herself has a constitutional right to perform this procedure. As Cahill has stated, “abortion is a very simple, safe medical procedure, and it saves women’s lives, because we know that women will always seek abortion services, and there is absolutely no reason why women should die from it. “