Prayer for unborn children or aggressive death threats? That’ll be up to the courts to decide.
James Canfield, longtime abortion activist and protester, has been issued a temporary restraining order due to the death threats he allegedly shouted at an unidentified doctor on Saturday, Feb. 4 outside of Women’s Health Specialists clinic on Humboldt Road. According to Dr. John Doe, as he’s been identified in court records, Canfield yelled, “Doctor, you are a murderer and you will be shot for it.” Canfield, 70, denies making a death threat and said he shouted the same thing he’s been shouting for five years: “God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Your eternal life is in jeopardy.”
Canfield belongs to the loosely organized prayer group Missionaries to the Unborn and protests outside of Women’s Health Specialists every Saturday. Cyrus Zal, Canfield’s attorney, said Canfield’s “sidewalk counseling” involves trying to interact with girls and women going into the abortion clinic. Zal said they target every woman entering the facility.
Christina Comfort, clinic administrator for Women’s Health Specialists, said Canfield’s protesting has become increasingly aggressive and intimidating over the past 12 months, with Canfield “shouting accusations” at staff and patients entering the facility.
The doctor has filed a police report, and the incident has also been reported to the FBI and the Department of Justice. A temporary restraining order was issued by Judge Barbara Roberts on Feb. 16 in response to Canfield’s alleged threats. The restraining order prevents Canfield and 50 other unnamed individuals from protesting within 100 feet of the clinic. Women’s Health Specialists is seeking a preliminary injunction, with a court date set for March 3. The restraining order will remain in effect until that time. If the case goes to trial, the clinic will seek a permanent injunction against the protesters.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said Chico Police are still looking into the incident, but as yet have not found enough evidence to charge Canfield with a crime.
For now, as protesters show up at WHS, they are being served with restraining orders. Since last Saturday, the first day of protesting since the incident, a chalk line has been drawn by WHS administrators to mark off an area 100 feet from the property line of the complex. According to Comfort, the chalk line will be in place every Saturday to protect the facility, staff and patients from harm. Comfort is asking for community support, adding, “We are health-care providers. There are no other health-care providers that have to protect themselves from harm.” Due to the new buffer zone for the clinic, Canfield said he has “resorted to showing graphic signs” of aborted fetuses to convey his message.
WHS successfully obtained an injunction against protesters when its facility was located on Flume Street, but could not retain it when they moved to their new clinic in 1994.
The protests will undoubtedly continue. “As long as they’re killing 10-20 children every week, we will not cease going there to pray,” said Canfield.