“While the other side is out bombing clinics, we’ll be electing candidates!” This quote, from the late California senator Alan Cranston, reflects a very destructive trend in the abortion wars. All too frequently, the attempt is made to generalize the entire pro life movement as being a group of far-right fanatics bent on using violence and coercion to enforce their agenda. Of course, such fallacious logic ignores two important facts:
1. These tactics are thoroughly denounced by 99.9% of the pro life community, and
2. Violence and extremism occur on the pro choice side as well.
Between 1994 and 1998, when abortion related violence was at its peak, there were seven reported murders performed by self styled anti-abortion militants (I will not call these criminals “pro life”). While this is certainly seven too many, there have been far fewer abortion providers killed on the job than in many other professions. It is also noteworthy that when pro life President George W. Bush was elected, the numbers dropped even more dramatically. Nonetheless, in every case, the true pro life movement forcefully and universally condemned these heinous acts. In the words of pro life liberal Jim Trageser:
“I have vehemently condemned these attacks for the exact same reason I condemn abortion — we do not have the right to take another’s life…To suggest I am guilty or share the blame for these abominable attacks is to stretch the meaning of personal responsibility beyond all reasonable recognition. By this logic, Martin Luther King Jr. was responsible for the Black Panthers because both sought equality for blacks. Extend this argument to its logical conclusion, and Abraham Lincoln shares the guilt for John Brown’s terrorism because both opposed slavery…Any effort to stigmatize the entire pro-life movement because of what a few terrorists claim as their motive is nothing more than emotional blackmail.
Furthermore, pro lifers are often the very ones involved in bringing the perpetrators to justice. When a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic was bombed, it was a chapter of Feminists for Life who offered a reward for the guilty person’s arrest. Similarly, Priests for Life, under the leadership of Fr. Frank Pavone, has also offered substantial rewards for fugitives in clinic violence cases.
We must also note that violent extremism is certainly not exclusive to the pro life side. There have also been many criminal acts performed by pro choice radicals. In fact, Human Life International (www.hli.org) has documented over 7000 incidents of criminal activity by pro choice extremists. They include 880 homicides and other killings, 86 attempted murders, 23 arsons and bombings, 787 assaults, 1,798 sex crimes (including 169 rapes), 59 kidnappings, 420 cases of vandalism, 270 drug-related crimes and .1,577 medical crimes. Some examples:
In 1993, pro choice activist Eileen Ornstein Janezik shot and killed Jerry Simon, who was a minister, radio host and pro life activist. Janezik then continued to hold police at bay for six more hours.
In 1994, abortion provider Alicia Ruiz Hanna was convicted of murdering her patient, Angela Sanchez after Sanchez died at her clinic. Hanna then attempted to stuff Sanchez’s body into the trunk of her car, as Sanchez’s four children looked on.
in 1998, pro choice activist Alfred E. Smith was convicted of murdering his ex girlfriend, Deena Moody, specifically because she refused to have an abortion.
Regardless of which side of the abortion debate you happen to be on, we should all be horrified by these sort of tactics. How we view the abortion issue largely reflects how we view life, sex, religion and many other “hot button” topics. While meaningful dialog and debate are to be encouraged, we should all find common ground in denouncing violence and extremism wherever it is found. No matter how noble one may perceive their cause to be, violence is never a justifiable way to promote it. To do so is the very definition of terrorism.
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