Dr. Jack Fainman at window where he was shot (Great Plains Publications)
They say that our lives can change in an instant. That was the case with Dr. Jack Fainman of Winnipeg. Fourteen years ago he was shot in his own home by an anti-abortionist named James Kopp.
They Shoot Doctors, Don't They?: A Memoir was written by Dr. Fainman with former Manitoba attorney general Roland Penner. It is being launched at McNally Robinson on Wednesday November 16 at 7 p.m.
SCENE asked Great Plains Publications to provide an excerpt of the book.
INTRODUCTION - A Shot in the Dark
November 11, 1997. Remembrance Day. The luxury of a day off. It's 8:00 p.m. Dark outside. I'm sitting with my back to a river-side window wall, watching TV. My wife Fagie is in the bedroom getting ready for company and then ... and then ... the sudden sound of a gunshot, a sharp pain in my right shoulder, just inches from my head. I probe the pain and discover blood. "Fagie, I've been shot." She calls 911, helps me down the circular stairs to the ground floor front entrance. I take my own pulse to check for shock. I apply pressure with a towel Fagie brings me to staunch the bleeding. In what seems like forever but is in fact only minutes, paramedics, the police and our guests for the evening arrive, in that order. I am rushed to Emergency at the Health Sciences Centre, conscious all the time, my friend, a doctor, with me. There's a quick assessment in Emergency. No surgery required. The bullet fragments cannot be removed and are still there, over fourteen years later. They still bother me. In fact fragments still exude from time to time.
I am moved to a treatment bed where I will spend the next five days. It's a surreal time. There are police guards at my hospital room door twenty-four hours a day. Senior detectives are in to question me daily. I am cautioned by the police to avoid the media while they investigate. Fagie spends the next few days in hiding with friends.
That shot in the dark ended my forty-year medical career. As an obstetrician, I had successfully delivered well over 5,000 babies, each delivery a profound moment of joy for the mother and for me! Now, that was about to end. Forced retirement at age 66 loomed in front of me, very much earlier than I wanted. A crushing blow.
There are two aspects of the role of the Winnipeg Police in all of this which trouble me. The first is that I was strongly urged not to say anything to the media which might suggest that my being shot was linked to the politically-charged abortion issue. How ridiculous when two other prominent Canadian obstetricians had been shot in the same way! Even more troubling to me is, that after the second shooting in 1995, two years before I was shot, a bulletin had been sent to police forces in major Canadian cities advising them to alert obstetricians to the danger and asking them to take precautions. I was not alerted and I took no precautions. I was a sitting target and should not have been.
My shooting was the third in a series of shootings of prominent obstetricians in Canada, each assassination attempt remarkably similar. Each took place on or about Remembrance Day: Dr. Garson Romalis in Vancouver, BC, November 8, 1994; Dr. Hugh Short, in Ancaster, Ontario, November 10, 1995. Each shooting was carried out by a sniper with a high-powered rifle. Each shooting was carefully planned, almost certainly by the same person, almost certainly an American. There can be little doubt that each shooting involved the assistance of a Canadian resident living in the same city as the intended victim. The investigating detectives thought my movements, which varied a great deal, must have been tracked by someone for at least a year.
The Canadian shootings were clearly an attempt to murder, fortunately a failed attempt in all three cases. Not so lucky was Dr. Barnett Slepian of Amherst, NY. On October 23, 1998, he was killed by a single shot from a high-powered rifle.
Shortly after my shooting, a National Task Force on Doctor Shootings was formed consisting of representatives from the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Vancouver Police, the Winnipeg Police, the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police, and the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League. Together, these organizations raised an astonishing fund of $547,000 as a reward "for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for these shootings."
James Charles Kopp, an obsessed, extreme anti-abortionist known in pro-life circles as the "Atomic Dog" was identified by the Canadian task force on the shootings as "a person of interest." American authorities also identified him as the key suspect in the Dr. Slepian murder. They tracked him down and found him hiding in a small city in France living under an assumed name. He was arrested, returned to New York pursuant to an extradition order, indicted, and convicted. Kopp is now serving a life sentence with no chance of parole under any circumstances.
Kopp will never be extradited to Canada to stand trial for the Canadian shootings. The evidence against him is damning but, in legal terms, circumstantial. With Kopp never to be released from prison, there appears to be no point in pushing for an extradition to Canada.
The shootings of obstetricians in Canada and the U.S. (and they continue there) were and are clearly intended to inhibit a woman's choice to terminate a pregnancy. The abortion issue is, politically, still very much on the front lines both in Canada and the U.S. (That issue and more of the Kopp story are found in Appendices I and II.)
Dr. Jack Fainman and Roland Penner (Great Plains Publications)
Pictured above, in body of text: Jack and Fagie Fainman (Great Plains Publications)
Listen to an interview with Terry MacLeod of Information Radio and Dr. Jack Fainman and Roland Penner from Wednesday November 9, 2011.