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Trial Date Set for Abortion-Rights Opponent Who Threatened Kansas Abortion Provider

January 8, 2016 — A federal judge on Wednesday scheduled a May 3rd trial date for a Kansas abortion-rights opponent who sent a threatening letter to a Wichita doctor, AP/KAKE TV reports.

The three-day trial will take place in Wichita (AP/KAKE TV, 1/6).

Background

In 2011, the Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against antiabortion-rights activist Angel Dillard under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act after she wrote the letter to Mila Means, who was training to offer abortion services in Wichita. Wichita had not had an abortion provider since the murder ofGeorge Tiller.

In the letter, Dillard wrote that thousands of people nationwide were scrutinizing Means' background, adding, "They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live." The letter continued, "You will be checking under your car every day -- because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it."

In 2013, a federal judge ruled that Dillard's letter was constitutionally protected as free speech and did not constitute a "true threat." The DOJ Civil Rights Division appealed the ruling. In July 2015, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit overturned the lower court decision and ruled that Dillard must stand trial over the letter. Dillard petitioned the 10th Circuit to reconsider the ruling, but the appeals court denied her request.

Means eventually decided that she would not offer abortion care at her clinic (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/1/15).