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the Body Politic
Vol. 05, No. 03 - March 1995, Page 17
Copyright © 1995, 1998 by the Body Politic Inc.
Spotlight

Bruce Lucero, M.D.: Quit, Die, or Defend

Interview by Anne Bower

People have to realize that our opposition is nihilists. There's no getting along with them. You can't have a Mason/Dixon line where there would be abortions in one part of the city and not others. None of that is acceptable. If they can't stop our actions, they'll stop us in our beings.
During the Connections Conference held in Florida this February, (see pg. 4), Dr. Bruce Lucero shared his philosophy on surviving as an abortion provider in today's society: QUIT, DIE, OR DEFEND. After talking to Dr. Lucero, who is very much alive, it is easy to see he has never been a quitter, especially on the issue of reproductive health care for women.

When Bruce Lucero, originally from Colorado, was doing his residency in pediatrics in Mobile, Alabama, he began moonlighting at the abortion clinic where his former wife was administrator. From working at the Mobile clinic, he branched out to work in Gulfport, Mississippi and in Pensacola at The Ladies Center, the clinic bombed Christmas 1984.

Toward the end of his residency in Mobile, the President of the University told Dr. Lucero's department chairman that the doctor could no longer work at an abortion clinic. With a little chuckle, Dr. Lucero relates how he told his chairman he had obligations to his family, the clinics, and his patients at the hospital and he wasn't going to quit any of it. "The problem is yours." The Pediatrics Department had a meeting and after being assured that Dr. Lucero was determined to continue work, and that he often had dinner with prominent lawyers, the department decided the doctor could keep his "night job". In Dr. Lucero's words, "we went eye to eye and they blinked."

Dr. Lucero was able to complete his program and by 1986 he had established the New Woman Health Center in Birmingham where he still performs abortions today. The last 10 years have seen no diminution in protests or attacks on providers. As Dr. Lucero says in the following interview, his friends are being killed. However, he has no intention of letting the zealots win, and is fighting them on a number of fronts, including legal.

Bruce Lucero, never a quitter, keeps defending himself, his family, and the rights of women to have safe and legal reproductive health care.


Q: Bruce, you're a young man so you don't remember when septicemia wards were routinely filled with women recovering from or dying from botched abortions. What brought you into this movement?

A: I don't remember those wards, but I was close to them in time. However, it was the protestors that got me involved as early as 1982. That, and my determination.

My father tells the story that when I was a baby, he heard me screaming outside and when he found me, I was holding a yellow jacket that was stinging me, but I wouldn't let go while it continued to sting me. My tenacity started off at a very early age. I wouldn't let it go.

Q: It sounds like you're not going to let this go, either.

A: Exactly.

Q: You've got a case in court. Explain the law suit.

A: There are actually two suits. In 1991, we filed a RICO suit against Operation Rescue which went all the way to the Appeals Court, essentially in back of Bray. Our case would have been considered if Bray hadn't. The decision in Bray sent my case back to the federal judge here in Birmingham. When he was ready to give us an injunction he actually granted us an interlocutory appeal that went to the appeals court in Atlanta where it sat for a long time. Finally, this case came back about two months ago.

In the meantime, we began to have some more problems here. A couple of the protestors came on to the property and blocked me in my car and one of them made some threats. They had already come out to our house twice and he said something to the effect that it must be pretty scary living out there now that you know we know where you live. "Maybe we'll have to come out there again." We considered these comments a violation of FACE. Next we got a call to expect something special around Roe v. Wade day. At that point, we filed for a TRO under FACE and the federal judge granted it.

Because Father Trosch had been in Birmingham talking about "justifiable homicide", our suit is named Lucero v. Trosch.

Q: This suit is currently in federal court in Birmingham and you are awaiting a decision?

A: Yes. We have the TRO and are expecting a Permanent Injunction by March 27th.

Q: What provisions are in the injunction?

A: We are requesting a very small buffer zone. Since Fr. Trosch calls this a "war zone", my attorney says we need a demilitarized zone - a DMZ. We are asking for a twenty-five foot zone around the clinic, our homes, and our persons.

Q: Do you think this will be effective?

A: It makes a big difference. One of the problems we have is that a protester can stand right next to you -- point blank. If he is armed, he can shoot and no police or bodyguard can protect you. That's why we want a zone.

Q: You sound hopeful about this.

A: I am. I used to talk to David Gunn on the phone. In fact, I asked him to come and practice with me, but he didn't. I was at lunch with my wife when Dr. Patterson sent in an emergency call to tell me David had been murdered. Dr. Patterson had always advocated keeping a very low profile and being very careful. He was killed next.

Then Dr. Britton and James Barrett were killed at the clinic where I was working. My comrades are going down left and right and the bullets keep flying. You can't help but think it will be you soon.

If this works, I hope it will be a "cookie cutter" type of complaint that can work for other clinics as well. Of course, a lot of our injunctive relief was accomplished by Patricia Baird and Ted Windle and Susan England in the Madsen case because that Supreme Court decision told judges it's OK to have safe zones.

Q: Because your case is in front of a federal judge, do you think he can use Madsen to guide him in his ruling?

A: Yes. You know, when we fight these battles, it's often one inch at a time. We couldn't have had Roe v. Wade before we had Griswold. We needed FACE; we needed Madsen; we need Trosch. If we can get all three, then we'll see what happens.

We think the main reasons judges and police aren't assassinated more often is because of certainty and severity of punishment. The anti-abortion people receive uncertain and usually not sever punishment when they violate the law.

We had two incidents here yesterday. A suspicious package arrived and we called the bomb squad. It turned out to be box of Valentine candy with plastic fetuses implanted in it.

After that, my wife went to pick up the children. They usually take the bus, but she went to the school and a man whose car had been parked by the bus, followed her almost all the way to the school. That car had been seen here at the office a few weeks ago. We are concerned they wanted to do something with the children.

I said at the Connections Conference, we have three choices -- QUIT, DIE, OR DEFEND.

Q: I can see which you have chosen. Do you see anything hopeful down the line?

A: If the judges and police will become very active in enforcing the law, then there's hope. I also believe pro-choice people need to go on the offensive, protesting at anti-abortion OB doctors. We should tell women that those doctors may not tell a woman she has cancer for fear she might abort or the doctor will not offer amniocentesis for the same reason.

We should have protestors at their crisis pregnancy centers saying unsuspecting women are being told lies and seeing untrue movies. Our mission should be to tell the truth and quit being defensive. If we don't, we'll always be pigeon-holed and that's a difficult way to fight. Hopefully, eventually, either the legal or political system will work.

The thing that I'm most concerned about is, if those systems don't triumph, this "civil war" that Trosch advocates will become even more a reality and bullets and bombs will go in both directions. The tragedy of that is, once it starts, it's almost impossible to stop because so much fear, hate, vindictiveness, and vengeance is created you can't stop it and the people go underground. Then they are unreachable. You can't talk to them, because you don't know who they are. There are no leaders because they fraction and splinter. It will become like Beirut or Belfast.

People have to realize that our opposition is nihilists. There's no getting along with them. You can't have a Mason/Dixon line where there would be abortions in one part of the city and not others. None of that is acceptable. If they can't stop our actions, they'll stop us in our beings.

Q: Sounds like you're not a promoter of the "common ground" theory.

A: Oh, I'm a big promoter of common ground. The problem is our opposition will not accept any. There are some things we should be able to agree on. For example, "If you're against abortion--Don't have one," should be common ground. We can unite to decrease the need for abortion. But that's not good enough for them, either. They want to control everyone else in their personal, family, and religious beliefs.

Q: You don't see any quick end to this.

A: I think, ultimately, their success will breed their failure. They are able to unite to some extent, the radical religious zealots, but as they get more successful, they have less to hold them together and will begin to fracture and fight among themselves.

Politically, I think the pro-choice movement has been hurt by liberal and moderate Democrats who are out of touch fiscally with much of the country which is moderate to conservative. However, I believe that most of the country is pro-choice. There are only 10% of the people so opposed to abortion that we can't get along with them.

This has gone on back to Carter and Reagan. Reagan didn't win on the anti-abortion platform. He won on economics, but eventually took advantage of the abortion issue to secure his position. Same thing with Bush. I'm afraid it will happen again with Dole. The question then will be, how much will the anti-abortion people influence him? Maybe we should flood into the Republican party and take it over?

Q: When you're trying not to get your head shot off, it's difficult to think about politics.

A: That's true, but you have to think about all of it. The more that choice becomes limited, the more that people will rebel and become active against the anti-abortion movement. So, some of our losses will ultimately be our gains. If all abortion were to become illegal over night, there would be an incredible awakening of a sleeping dragon that would be very angry and active. That law would not last long.

Q: What do you think people should be doing before the 1996 election?

A: We have to start identifying with the moderate conservative economic movement either in the Democratic or Republican Party. We shouldn't just stay with the liberal faction of the Democratic Party and loose on the choice issue.

No matter who's in power, as the religious radicals get more control of this country, they will be viewed as the enemies that they really are of the First Amendment. Their short-term political gains will end in their demise, if people stand up and tell the truth. The Nazis came to power under freedom of the press, but people became afraid and wouldn't stand up to them, so they took over. We can't let that happen.

We need to relate choice to the family and what's best for it. Crime is the result of children brought into the world uncared for and unloved.

If the "religious Nazis" win, their agenda will be to do away with birth control and reverse Griswold. Our job is to expose this agenda.


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