The state of Florida has executed a man who gunned down a doctor who provided abortion services and his bodyguard in 1994.
Paul Hill, a former minister, was a constant presence at the Pensacola, Florida, abortion clinic run by Dr. John Britton in the early 1990s.
Hill led a group of anti-abortion activists who carried out protests at the clinic and threatened violence against abortion providers. But police in the northern Florida city say they were taken by surprise when in 1994 Hill gunned down Dr. Britton and his driver and bodyguard, retired Air Force Colonel James Barrett.
Paul Hill received the death penalty for the two murders, and since his conviction has refused all efforts to appeal the verdict. In a final news conference with reporters one day before his execution, Hill said he felt no remorse for the double murder.
"I believe that the Lord has used and will use what I did in a marvelous way." Hill told the journalists. "I am standing for a principle, and I am willing to die for the principle. I consider it a great honor to die, possibly die, for having defended innocent human beings."
Paul Hill is the first person to be executed in the United States for murdering an abortion provider. Seven people, including three doctors have died in attacks by anti-abortion extremists since 1993. The last fatal attack took place five years ago, when Dr. Barnett Slepian was killed by anti-abortion activist James C. Kopp, who received a lengthy prison term for the murder.
Abortion providers and some law enforcement authorities have expressed concerns that Hill's execution could lead to retaliatory violence by anti-abortion extremists. In recent days several state officials involved in the Hill case, including Florida Governor Jeb Bush, received threatening letters containing rifle bullets.
Most anti-abortion activists in the United States have condemned Hill's actions and other violence directed at abortion providers. But a small group of Hill supporters demonstrated in his support at the Florida State Prison in the hours leading up to the execution.