ANNAPOLIS – Maryland clinics are on high alert following last week’s execution of murderer and anti-abortion activist Paul Hill, and Bowie resident the Rev. Michael Bray is tops on their watch list. “You never know what the trigger point will be for people to commit violence,” said John Nugent, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Maryland. “Part of my concern is that Hill was acting as their hero, now martyr. Now someone needs to step up to take his place.” Area pro-choice activists are worried Bray may just be that person.
Last week, Bray led the prayer vigil in Florida for Hill, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of Dr. John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett. The outspoken reverend and father of 11, is a Hill supporter who is putting together a biography of the late activist.
Hill, executed in Florida on Sept. 3, became the first American put to death for anti-abortion related violence. Bray was also a fixture at the Buffalo, N.Y., trial of James Kopp who was convicted of murdering Dr. Barnett Slepian last March. Bray has a long history with Planned Parenthood in Maryland, spending almost four years in prison for his role in the fire bombing of 10 abortion clinics in the mid 1980s, including a Planned Parenthood clinic in Annapolis. Bray, 53, who is now back in the Bowie area, is also rumored to be the leader of the militant anti-abortion group, Army of God, although he does not characterize himself or anyone else in that way. In an interview with Capital News Service, Bray said organizations such as Planned Parenthood should be concerned, not only about him, but about any of the more than 1 million people who believe as he does. “They have reason to be concerned about anyone,” he said, “fathers, mothers, grandfathers, anyone who opposes the killing of the unborn.” He said he has no plans to avenge Hill’s death – that’s not the way it works. It is up to individuals in their own communities to take action against people who kill the unborn, Bray said. “We have a holocaust here. We throw people in jail. Usually when people are being killed you want to stop the killing and take whatever action is appropriate,” he said. After Hill’s execution, Planned Parenthood heightened security and worked with police to increase patrols around its nine clinics in Maryland, Nugent said. They are also keeping close tabs on Bray and fellow activist Joshua Graff whom Planned Parenthood believes lives in Gaithersburg. Both men were seen in Florida last week, according to news reports. Bray insists there are no leaders in the militant anti-abortion movement and said that people of shared beliefs act as individuals for the greater good. “Some people protest, some people preach. The goal is to get the community to rise up against what is in their neighborhood,” he said. “The intent is to let people know what is happening in their neighborhood and they can rise up as a community, whether they tear down the clinic or burn them down.” Many anti-abortion activists, however, condemn the more violent actions of people like Hill. They are hurting the cause, they said. “Paul Hill was a crazed criminal,” said David Lam, executive director of Maryland Right to Life, “and he does not have a following in the anti-abortion community.”