The Abortion Sniper

In the 1990’s there was someone hunting abortion providers in North America.  Five doctors were shot by an unidentified sniper who hid in the dark outside their homes.  Four were injured and one was killed.

The first incident happened on November 8, 1994, when a bullet smashed through a glass door at a home in the west–end of Vancouver, B.C., piercing the leg of Dr. Garson Romalis.  The bullet severed his femoral artery and shattered the bone in his left leg. A second shot narrowly missed him.  Dr. Romalis survived. but despite intensive physical therapy he never fully recovered. At the time of the shooting, Dr. Romalis was an outspoken OB GYN who had been performing abortions for over 20 years.

Dr. Garson Romalis

The second incident occurred almost exactly a year later.  On November 10, 1995, Dr. Hugh Short was shot in the elbow as he sat in his second floor den in his home in Ancaster, Ontario.  The shot was fired from a wooded area behind his house.  Shell casings and a balaclava were found near the house.  Investigators were able to extract DNA from the balaclava and develop a profile of the shooter.  Dr. Short recovered but never worked again.

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The house in Ancaster where Dr. Hugh Short was shot

Then in 1997 two more doctors were attacked.  On October 28th, a doctor in Richmond, NY was hit by flying glass when a bullet smashed through a window at his home.  On November 11th, 66-year-old Dr. Jack Fainman, the head of obstetrics and gynecology at Winnipeg’s Victoria Hospital, was sitting in his living room watching TV when a bullet ripped through a window and into his shoulder. Dr. Fainman tried but was never able to return to practicing medicine. Little bits of bullets stayed buried in his shoulder.

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Dr. Jack Fainman of Winnipeg, Manitoba

The final shooting occurred on October 23, 1998 near Buffalo, NY.  Dr. Barnet Slepian had just returned from synagogue and had gone into the kitchen to warm up a bowl of soup in the microwave when a bullet smashed through the kitchen window.  The bullet pierced Dr. Slepian’s spine and aorta. He died a few hours later.

Dr. Barnett Slepian was the father of four young boys when he was killed

Police would eventually find a rifle on Dr. Slepian’s property which they traced back to 44-year-old James Kopp from Vermont who was a known anti-abortion crusader.  He had been arrested many times over the past 12 years for disrupting women’s clinics around the United States.  Other anti-abortion radicals nicknamed him Atomic Dog.

Police issued a warrant for Kopp’s arrest and the FBI placed him on the top 10 most wanted list.


Kopp was arrested in March 2001 after being tracked to a small town in northwest France.  He was extradited to the United States and tried on state and federal charges.  He was sentenced to life plus 10 years.


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