North Oakland Doctor Harassed by Anti-Abortionists By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday June 14, 2005

For one neighborhood in North Oakland the national battle over abortion has been delivered to their mail boxes. 

Anti-abortion groups in Kansas and Texas have been blanketing the Oakland homes for the past seven months with fliers, one of which depicts a bloody fetus strewn on a table.  

The campaign is targeted at one of their neighbors, Dr. Shelley Sella, who performs abortions at clinics in Concord and Wichita, Kan. 

“She came on to our radar screen because she flies in here twice a month to kill pre-born babies,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a Wichita-based anti-abortion group, which has spearheaded the mailings. “She’s an abortionist and we’re exposing what she’s doing.” 

In Wichita, Sella works at a clinic run by Dr. George Tiller, who has been the frequent target of Operation Rescue protests. In 1993, he was shot by an anti-abortion protester. 

Nevertheless, Sella’s partner said from her home Sunday that the family did not fear for their safety. 

“They [Operation Rescue] don’t appear to be violent,” she said. “The only concern is that they could incite someone to do something.” 

Sella is in Kansas this week and could not be reached for comment. 

Recently anti-abortion advocates, in town to protest a medical convention in San Francisco, staged a brief demonstration outside her home, she added. 

Mitzi Sales, the vice president of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Concord, said Sella also works in Wichita because the city has few services for women who want to terminate their pregnancies.  

“She’s helping women who are in desperate straits,” Sales said. 

The latest flier, produced by a company in Denton, Tex. and delivered to neighbors within a few blocks of Sella’s home, raised unsubstantiated claims that Dr. Tiller had failed to report incidents of child rape. It urged recipients to “Stop collaborating with ‘Tiller the Killer’ in protecting child rapists and participating in the murder of innocent pre-born children through abortion.” 

A telephone number listed on the flier to file complaints was out of service. Previous complaint numbers, neighbors said, directed them to Tiller’s clinic. 

When Michael Allaire received the first flier last November, he left a note at Sella’s door offering support and leaving his phone number to call in case she felt threatened. 

“The neighborhood won’t tolerate this,” he said. “It stirs up fear that someone could come from outside and incite violence against your neighbor.” 

Allaire said he informed the FBI of the mailings, but federal investigators determined that the fliers did not seek to incite violence. 

“This is classic free speech,” Newman said. “If you don’t like something your neighbor is doing you should talk to them.” 

Neighbors can’t do much to stop the fliers, Oakland Councilmember Jane Brunner said, because Operation Rescue doesn’t include a return address. Brunner has asked neighbors to trash the cards, and has produced pro-choice posters they can hang in their window. 

“I think it’s backfiring on them,” Brunner said. “What it has done is brought our community together in support of her.”