The Anti-Abortion Movement’s Continued Complicity in the Planned Parenthood Shootings

We live in a bizarre world, my friends. It’s a world where anti-abortion activists use rhetoric that quite clearly should justify violence against abortion clinics and abortion providers, and then, when such violence does occur, these same anti-abortiona activists act confused as to how this could have happened, and irate that anyone would think it has anything to do with them—while repeating the same rhetoric. I’m honestly not sure how it’s not crystal clear to them that their rhetoric is creates a climate that fosters anti-abortion violence.

For example, in a youtube video, Dave Daubenmire stated the following:

I tried to warn you on Friday that they were going to blame this whole Planned Parenthood thing on pro-life Christians. Here’s the truth. You really want to know what terrorism is? Can you imagine being an unborn baby in the warmth of your mother’s womb, and having some doctor insert some scalpels up inside there and dismember you, grab a hold of your legs? Can you imagine the terror of a little baby trying to get away from those metal objects … Planned Parenthood has the audacity to blame terror on those who are out trying to rescue the children? Folks, there’s terror every day inside those Planned Parenthood clinics!

And here’s an exchange between actor Kevin Sorbo and commentator Steve Malzberg:

MALZBERG: On this abortion–the Planned Parenthood shooting, the media’s trying to make it that all Republicans, anybody against those baby parts are evil.

SORBO: Yeah, you know, they’re more upset about the murdering that happened by this one guy instead of the 60 million murders they’ve committed since Roe v. Wade. That’s not an issue? So, I don’t know. Once again, we’re dealing with insanity.

You can see these and more such quotes on the Republic of Gilead.

When I was pro-life, I never thought much about anti-abortion violence. I was largely unaware of arson and vandalism campaigns against Planned Parenthood clinics, and of campaigns of terror against Planned Parenthood employees. But I do remember thinking that murdering an abortion doctor most surely be justified. It was one of those things that sort of niggled at me—if abortion really were the modern equivalent of the holocaust, I wondered, why were we not doing more to stop it, by whatever means possible?

And so when I read quotes like those of Daubenmire and Sorbo above, and those of other anti-abortion activists reacting to last month’s Planned Parenthood shooting, what I see is individuals disavowing violence against Planned Parenthood clinics while using rhetoric that arguably justifies violence against Planned Parenthood. Robert Dear was a deranged loner, they say—and then describe the murder of infants that they believe takes place at Planned Parenthood every day. Robert Dear had nothing to do with the anti-abortion movement, they say—and then note that 60 million children have been murdered since 1973. Can they not see the import of their own rhetoric?

Don’t get me wrong, I am against anti-abortion violence! I am not at all suggesting that we should have more of it. I am simply noting that, in the wake of the Planned Parenthood shootings, anti-abortion activists have acted mystified at Robert Dear’s actions and confused as to why anyone would pin is actions on them while repeating the exact same rhetoric that led Dear to do what he did.

Imagine, if you will, a Muslim imam condemning the San Bernardino shootings, expressing bewilderment that anyone connected the shooters’ actions with Islamism, and then arguing that infidels are a blot upon the earth guilty of far more moral destruction than Syed Rizwan Farook or Tashfeen Malik.  I’m pretty sure such a statement would raise more than a few eyebrows, and yet that is exactly how many anti-abortion activists—including those quoted above—have reacted in the wake of the Planned Parenthood shootings.

I honestly don’t know what the solution is. I have argued before that promoting longterm birth control methods, strengthening our social safety net, and cutting down on the stigma associated with unwed pregnancies would do far more to cut the number of abortions than would banning abortion, and I stand by that. Unfortunately, such arguments are likely to do little to sway those who honestly believe abortion clinics are akin to the gas chambers of the holocaust. If anything, I’m surprised there isn’t more anti-abortion violence.

At the very least, we can refuse to let individuals like Daubenmire and Sorbo off the hook when they repeat the same rhetoric that led to the Planned Parenthood shootings, and we can hold them and other anti-abortion activists accountable for condemning anti-abortion violence without caveats. Condemning the shootings in one sentence while arguing that Robert Dear’s crime is nothing compared to the grisly murder that takes place inside Planned Parenthood clinics every day simply doesn’t cut it. It’s time to hold their feet to the fire.

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