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Abortion clinics on edge after woman who shot Kansas doctor is released from prison

Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Abortion clinics across the country were taking extra precautions Wednesday after the anti-abortion activist who shot Wichita, Kan., physician George Tiller in 1993 and committed a string of clinic attacks in several states was released from prison.

Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon, the Oregon woman whose actions once triggered a federal investigation into the possible existence of a national conspiracy of anti-abortion terrorists, had been living in a halfway house in Portland, Ore., since May. She has spent 25 years in custody.

"We're extremely concerned," said Katherine Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "We're alerting providers, briefing them and making sure they have enough security precautions in place.

"We know by her own writings and the writings of those who went on to commit violence that this is a woman who inspired three murders."

Shannon's release was confirmed Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. She will be on supervised release for three years, but the conditions of her release are not public information, the bureau said.

"She's going on probation," said the Rev. Donald Spitz, an anti-abortion activist who has remained in regular contact with Shannon. "She said the conditions of release are going to be very strict."

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Spitz, leader of Pro-Life Virginia and sponsor of the Army of God website, which supports those who have committed violence against abortion clinics and doctors, said the fears of abortion-rights advocates are unfounded.

"I don't think she'll be doing anything violent," he said. "Of course, no one knows, but I'd be very surprised."

Spitz said he had an hourlong phone conversation with Shannon on Monday.

"She's very upbeat," he said. "She's glad to be getting out, she's going to church again. Just doing everyday things."

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