“The energy of hate in that place was palpable...”

Susan Cahill speaks out after the destruction of her Montana family clinic, which provided abortions

March 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Revolution Interview: A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports, and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.


On March 3, All Families Healthcare, a clinic that provides abortions in Montana, was so severely vandalized that it has been forced to close down indefinitely. This took place against a backdrop of the most relentless escalation of restrictions against abortion and clinic closures since Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion 41 years ago. Across the country, the right and ability to access abortion hangs by a thread. Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper (revcom.us) and initiator of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org), spoke with Susan Cahill, the owner and advanced-level clinician who provided abortions and other services at the family clinic.

In this interview, which begins in this issue of Revolution, Susan Cahill provides the larger picture of what it means to take the responsibility to provide women with abortions, the threats and violence as well as legal attacks and demonization as well as the gratitude and support; she reveals the depth of her own commitment to women and what it would mean if abortion was no longer available; and she explores and shares her thinking about how we have ended up in the situation where this right is being taken away and some of the elements necessary to turn the tide. The full interview will appear at revcom.us shortly.

Sunsara Taylor: First, I really want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. When I first heard about the vandalism that happened at your clinic I was incensed. I’m outraged about this and a lot of people are, but a lot of people actually have no idea what happened at all. And even those who have heard about it, the headline said that your clinic was “vandalized” and that can conjure up the image of some kids playing a prank. So, I wonder if you can start by just talking about what happened.

All Families Healthcare Clinic after being severely vandalized March 3. Photo courtesy of Steve Martinez.

Susan Cahill: Yes, and I’m actually going to go back just a little bit. All Families Healthcare is my business which I started at a different location 6½ years ago and I was very happy there. But I was renting and [not long ago] my landlord at the time said that he was running into some financial problems and he was going to sell the business. He asked me if I wanted to buy the building but it was an older home, which was great because I liked the cozy atmosphere of it, but I didn’t really want to take on that big a project at this time in my life as far as the building and it needed a lot of work so I said no. You know, I may be retiring in a couple of years. So I didn’t think it would sell right away because of all that and because of what he was asking for it, but it did. And when it did, I turned to my secretary/receptionist and said, “An anti-choice person bought this building, I bet you anything.” So I asked my landlord if I could stay there and they said no they were going to use the building and I had to get out.

So I had to turn inward and decide whether or not I was going to try to find another place ’cause it’s not easy for me because I do abortions to find a place to rent. But I did. So I got out of there and in minus 15 degrees with a huge amount of help from very dear friends who moved my office to this new location.

And after spending a lot of money and time fixing it up, new paint, cabinets, lots of stuff... I moved in on the weekend before the 11th of February, started seeing patients on the 11th of February.

There’s a lot of things to do when you move a medical office. Lots. So just getting everything organized, remembering where you put new stuff after 6½ years of being in a different place. We were just starting to feel like we were getting settled. It looked really nice. The sun was coming out again and it wasn’t minus 15 anymore and I had almost finished the security system. I had cameras in but this was a new system that was wireless and the person on Monday the 3rd of March said to me, “Tomorrow, I will finish it.” I said “great,” because the next day the 40 Days for Life [40 days of protest and prayers outside the doors of abortion clinics across the country] was going to start and I wanted it up for that.

So that was what happened on Monday. I remember actually walking around after everybody had left thinking, “We did a really good job with this new place.” I was really happy with it. The next morning I was getting ready to go to work and my secretary/receptionist comes in before me and she went in to go to the back door and saw that the glass had been broken and it was obviously broken into. She smartly did not walk in. She walked to where the landlord was, who’s a lawyer and said, “We’ve been broken into, we need to call the police.” Then she called me and by the time I got there the police would not allow us to go in. The FBI was there and actually—this was a Tuesday—we didn’t get to see the damage until Wednesday afternoon.

During that time they spent all day and all night there as well, and the police kept telling me, “This is really very destroyed. I need you to get prepared for this.” They asked me if I wanted to watch the videos of it first before we walked in, but that whole thing made me so anxious. I said, “No, I just want to get in there.”

So, by Wednesday afternoon they finally let me in after doing all their investigation and... it’s really hard to... in fact... every time I think about it I start crying because it’s really, it’s really very difficult to understand the devastation that was there. And everything kept running through my mind, I mean it was only three weeks ago that all of my dearest friends and colleagues helped me create this space and now it was completely vanda... completely destroyed.

And the energy of hate in that place was palpable because not only did this person take meticulous care to damage every possible [medical and structural thing] you can imagine, but on top of that broke... I mean, you know I have prints and paintings and things through the years that represent important things for me that I put up... They were totally destroyed. As well as my, you know, pictures of my family... where holes [were stabbed] in their faces... Everything.

And then every piece of medical equipment was destroyed in some manner or the other. He had put iodine and sprayed it all over everything... He took the fire extinguisher and sprayed the dust... I mean we’re still dealing with this in the little room that we have now, trying to get our charts in order, every time you pull a chart, you know [the] smell comes again... I go to sleep with that in my nose.

So it was complete devastation... They pulled my plants from their roots and besides that he went downstairs in the basement and completely destroyed the heating and plumbing as well. So it was not mere vandalism and it certainly wasn’t [random]. It was an attack on me, there was absolutely no doubt about that.

To be continued

Volunteers Needed... for revcom.us and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.