By Jeff Barnard Associated Press
GRANTS PASS, Ore. — An anti-abortion protester involved in a stabbing outside a Planned Parenthood health center in Oregon was released as investigators sort through issues involving self-defense, authorities said Wednesday.
Josephine County Deputy District Attorney Lisa Turner said it could be weeks before police finish their investigation and turn over the information to prosecutors.
“There definitely are some self-defense issues to look at,” Grants Pass police Lt. Dennis Ward said.
Kailah L. Clair, 22, told police the dispute began as she passed the center in her car and lone protester Christopher R. Tolhurst, 54, went into the road with his sign.
Ward said the woman stopped and kicked over one of Tolhurst’s signs before he pushed her. She later returned with her father, Ted A. Clair, who pushed Tolhurst to the ground and punched him in the face, police said.
Arriving officers reported finding the 48-year-old Clair holding down Tolhurst, who had a knife. Ward said it was a pocket knife with a 3-inch blade.
Clair was stabbed several times and remained in stable condition after undergoing surgery. His daughter was treated for cuts on her hand. Tolhurst had bruises on the side of his face.
Tolhurst, who gave his address as a motel, had been protesting by himself since June outside the health center. He came and went on a bicycle, with his signs in a duffel bag, said Myrna Shaneyfelt of Josephine County Right to Life, who sometimes stopped by to encourage him and warn that he was vulnerable protesting alone.
“He said he had a real passion for stopping Planned Parenthood,” Shaneyfelt said. “He said, ‘I have this calling. I have got to be here.”’
His signs read, “Abortion is Murder,” and “Abortion Kills Children,”’ she said.
Settled during the Gold Rush, politically conservative Grants Pass has a long history of anti-abortion activism. Josephine County Right To Life holds an annual parade, and the city is the hometown of Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon, convicted of firebombing abortion clinics and the 1993 shooting of a doctor in Kansas who provided abortions. She is serving an 11-year term in federal prison.
Along with carrying the anti-abortion signs, Tolhurst wore a button and had a placard supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a GOP candidate for Congress.
Shaneyfelt said the Josephine County Right To Life group had picketed Planned Parenthood for about 20 years, until a court ruling about four years ago prevented members from going on private property, making it difficult to talk to people using the site.
The health center, which does not provide abortions, is on the campus of a medical office complex.
Shaneyfelt said she invited Tolhurst to join picketing by her group outside the local Democratic Party headquarters, but he only showed up once then returned to his protest outside Planned Parenthood.
Ward said police have dealt with several complaints involving protests by Tolhurst.