CINCINNATI - John Brockhoeft bristles at the use of the word violence to describe the war he has waged against abortion.
For Brockhoeft, who went to prison for setting fire to two Cincinnati abortion clinics and for trying to bomb another, such actions are justified.
“When you call the destruction of a facility like that, where people are tortured to death, when you call the use of force against that violence, you’re using pro-abortion rhetoric,” Brockhoeft said in a wide-ranging and exclusive interview last week. “You’re pretending not to be able to make the distinction between violence and the use of force.”
Asked if he regretted his crimes or the years he served in federal prison, Brockhoeft is definitive.
“For me, personally, was it worth it? Incredibly so,” he said.
Brockhoeft launched his crusade against abortion in the 1980s with the Tri-State as his battleground.
As part of a militant group known as the Army of God, Brockhoeft set fires to two local abortion clinics in 1985 and planted a pipe bomb at the temporary offices of one of them in 1987.
The attacker’s identity was a mystery until federal agents arrested Brockhoeft in Florida with bomb-making materials in his car in May 1988.
After serving seven years in federal prison, Brockhoeft largely has remained out of the spotlight since his release.
In an exclusive interview with WCPO Digital, Brockhoeft spoke of his crimes, of the years he served in federal prison and of the cause to end what he sees as the evil of abortion – a cause to which he remains committed.
On the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, WCPO Digital found Brockhoeft living in a small home in rural Adams County, about 70 miles east of Cincinnati, with his second wife and their six children.
Now an over-the-road truck driver, he regularly drives across a multi-state region for his work.
Reflecting on his time in prison, Brockhoeft said, “I lost seven years of my life, but I gained a beautiful young wife who loves me, and six more children, besides the three I already had. I couldn’t imagine life without any one of those children … I never would’ve met this woman, my wife, if I hadn’t done that. She wrote to me in prison, out of the blue.”
Moreover, Brockhoeft stays in contact with his fellow activists in the Army of God, and envisions stopping all abortions by “people taking to the streets and demanding an end to it.”
“I foresee victory – complete victory – but I don’t know how long it will take,” he said. “If you had asked me 30 years ago if this slaughter would go on for 40 years, I would’ve said no. God would bring judgment down before that. But here we are, 40 years later. I am still positive the Lord will give us victory someday. When? I don’t know.”
To turn the tide he thinks it will take grassroots action, not legislation or judicial rulings.
“I think it will happen one of two ways: Either God’s judgment coming down on our nation, or a great revival and people taking to the streets and demanding an end to it,” he said.
Now 61, Brockhoeft could be mistaken for anyone’s kindly grandfather with his bushy beard and soft-spoken demeanor. Few would guess that he was once labeled a domestic terrorist.
In fact, Brockhoeft was featured in an article last March in the Highland County Press, along with two other military veterans. Then-Congresswoman Jean Schmidt presented Brockhoeft with three medals she helped him obtain for his service with the Navy during the Vietnam War. There was no mention of his criminal past.
During the 1980s, Brockhoeft was a mail handler who lived in Hebron, Ky. Raised a Methodist, he later became a self-described fundamentalist Christian. He credits a column written by conservative Pat Buchanan in 1984 for inspiring his attacks on clinics.
“Something about what he said that day made me stop looking at it from a statistical perspective and suddenly I saw these babies as specific individuals,” Brockhoeft said.
“Here you have this baby girl who’s waited thousands of years in the heart of God for her only chance at life in this world, and a few weeks ago she was conceived finally, after all this time, and tomorrow her mother is planning on taking her in to be dismembered,” he said.
The epiphany would lead to a trail of fire and destruction in Cincinnati.
In December 1985, Brockhoeft set a fire in the basement of the Margaret Sanger Center of Planned Parenthood on Auburn Avenue in Mount Auburn. It caused $75,000 in damage, and the clinic was closed for about six months while the building was demolished and a new structure was built.
At the same time, Brockhoeft set fire to the Women’s Health Care Center on East McMillan Street in Mount Auburn, causing $250,000 in damage.
Later, in February 1987, Brockhoeft placed a pipe bomb outside the temporary offices of the Sanger Center, but it was discovered and removed before it exploded.
Today, Brockhoeft insists he took extra care to ensure employees and patients weren’t hurt in his attacks.