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Photo by The Harrisburg Patriot News

See no evil

Abortion | Violence against pro-life activists goes unreported by the mainstream media

Issue: "Signs and wonders," Jan. 26, 2008

On Dec. 22, pro-life clinic counselor Ed Snell, standing on a platform on top of his car, which was parked, with permission, on private property adjacent to a seven-foot fence surrounding the Hillcrest Abortion Center in Harrisburg, Pa., tried to persuade a young woman to keep her baby instead of aborting.

The woman's male companion charged the fence, clambered up and over, landed on Snell's car, and sent the 69-year-old Snell flying backwards. Snell landed on his head and back, fracturing four vertebrae and sustaining a bleeding brain injury that soon had doctors fighting for his life. No major media covered the story.

The attack on Snell was the second in less than four months on a pro-life sidewalk counselor-both of which resulted in criminal charges-and it has pro-life activists raising an interesting question: Had the pro-lifers in both cases been the attackers instead of the victims, would mainstream media have picked up the stories?

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Kelly Shackelford has no doubt: "There would be national forums on the trend of 'pro-life violence,'" said Shackelford, chief counsel for Liberty Legal Institute, a Dallas public interest law firm. "You'd see it on Nightline and the Today show. This is another example of how media bias is just as much about what you refuse to cover as what you cover."

Only a handful of pro-life activists inside and outside Orlando know about the Aug. 29, 2007, attack on Patte Smith. Smith was standing outside the Orlando Women's Center, a clinic operated by abortionist James Pendergraft, who specializes in "labor and delivery" abortions. Smith and another counselor, Mary Jo Gardner, began speaking to a man and a pregnant woman as they approached OWC.

Introducing herself, Smith said to the couple, "If you wait just a few more months, you could go through the same process-labor and delivery-and you could have your baby and place it in a loving adoptive home."

Smith said the man smiled at her in a "cold," intimidating way, prompting her to retrieve a video camera from her car after he and the woman disappeared into the clinic. Smith said she had for years been advised by pro-life attorneys to keep a camera with her, for her own legal protection in case of violence or litigation.

"I usually don't carry one, though," she said. "I want to help women and babies, not discourage them from talking to me."

But this man's attitude bothered her, so she got her camera. Shortly thereafter, the man emerged from the clinic alone and, after a trip to his car, returned to where Smith was standing, counseling another young woman. According to Smith, the man walked rapidly toward her and grabbed for her camera, repeatedly muttering, "Don't film me, don't film me."

Gardner, who witnessed the attack, said Smith turned to keep her camera away from the man, but he wrapped his arms around her. While trying to escape, Smith fell to the ground. Gardner screamed for help. Both Smith and Gardner said the man then bent over Smith, still struggling to get the camera. Then he kicked her in the ribs and went back inside the clinic.

Using the assailant's license plate, police learned that his name is Dr. Nelson Kraucak, a practitioner of traditional and holistic medicine. Kraucak did not return two calls from WORLD requesting an interview. But the Orange County Clerk of Court confirmed that the Orlando state attorney's office on Dec. 21 filed battery charges against the physician.

Charges were also filed in the case of Ed Snell. His assailant, Nathan Scott Richardson, is scheduled to appear in a Jan. 31 hearing in the Central Court of Dauphin County, Pa., on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, and reckless endangerment.

Doctors were able to stop the bleeding in Snell's brain. He is now recovering at home, wearing a brace around his chest and back to support his fractured spine.

Among secular media outlets, only the Harrisburg Patriot, a small daily paper, reported the attack on Snell. No one reported the attack on Patte Smith.

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