Which Is Worse—an Abortion Clinic Shooter or the Clinic Itself? (2 of 2)

Which Is Worse—an Abortion Clinic Shooter or the Clinic Itself? (2 of 2) February 24, 2020

A 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic that killed three people prompted a conservative response by Matt Walsh (part 1). Walsh denied that pro-life vitriol could’ve played a role in motivating the shooter while reserving the right to trowel on large amounts of that same vitriol.

His denial of responsibility failed.

Dismissing murder

Walsh admitted that the shooter’s actions were bad, but. He couldn’t ignore a grandstanding opportunity to argue the other side of the issue, that the shooter’s target—the abortion providers—are the worst possible people.

George Tiller, the heinous late-term baby executioner who ruthlessly slaughtered thousands of viable and fully developed infants, is the only abortion worker to be killed by an abortion opponent this century. That’s it. One. And he was one of the most dangerous, vicious, and murderous human beings to have ever lived.

You make it sound like working at a Planned Parenthood clinic is no more risky than being a librarian. Not so: there have been 11 murders and 26 attempted murders on U.S. abortion clinic workers. There have been 42 bombings, 188 arsons, and an additional 100 attempts at bombing or arson. And there’s more: vandalism, acid attacks, bioterrorism threats, assault and battery, death threats, kidnapping, burglary, stalking, and more—over 10,000 incidents in all.

Go research why women went to Tiller to get abortions. Was it because they didn’t want to be so fat? Or was it a more substantial reason—birth defects, mother’s health, catastrophic changes in financial status, or something similar?

And let’s pause to listen to your rhetoric. Was Tiller seriously “one of the most dangerous, vicious, and murderous human beings to have ever lived”? Few of us would morally object to going back in time to assassinate Joseph Mengele or Heinrich Himmler or Adolph Hitler. You’ve intentionally put Tiller with this company, so why then do you object to the shooter’s actions?

This hypocrisy is the problem that Walsh can’t acknowledge. He wants to say that the shooter was a killer and Planned Parenthood kills, so they’re in the same boat. But not him—he’s cut from different cloth because he’s pro-life.

But the rage he reveals in this article gives just as strong an argument for a very different arrangement of these three parties: now it’s the killer with Walsh in the same boat because of his venomous rhetoric that could easily provoke violent action. Planned Parenthood is the odd man out because it provides legal abortions before the fetus is a person.

As the article progresses, Walsh is on a roll, and the indignant “Of course we deplore violence—we’re pro-life!” attitude is gone. With no ear for irony, he repeats the line the killer is said to have used:

Planned Parenthood sells the parts of dead babies.

Wrong again. Selling body parts is illegal, and Planned Parenthood doesn’t do that. The mother can choose to donate the fetus for research, and Planned Parenthood can be reimbursed for their costs.

Planned Parenthood is a rotten, corrupt, depraved, vile, disgusting, brutal, murderous conglomerate of butchers and mercenaries.

And yet you wonder how anyone could possibly be incited to violence?

Abortion fanatics hate pro-lifers personally. They hate Christianity. They hate children. They hate life itself. Theirs is the sort of hatred that destroys the soul and dissolves the human conscience. We hate what is evil; they hate what is good.

And now it’s just a rant. This kind of rhetoric is what drove the shooter to kill.

Improving society

Why don’t you [Planned Parenthood] just shut up and work on not killing babies?

And what are you doing, Matt Walsh? Are you focusing on reducing the cause of abortions, unwanted pregnancies?

Among countries in the West, the U.S. compares poorly. In the United States, the annual pregnancy rate was 57 per 1000 women aged 15–19. This was, by far, the highest rate in the 21 countries studied. Compare this to 8 in Switzerland. What are we doing wrong (or what is Switzerland doing right)? There is ample room for improvement.

Is it better sex education? Is it easier and subsidized access to contraception? Whatever it is, cutting the number of abortions by as much as 90 percent simply through honest and open discussion by parents and more effective education and policy by society seems possible. Why are you approaching it the hard way? Instead of swimming upstream, you could work with pro-choice people who want the same thing. It almost sounds like you’re not really serious about this, and abortion isn’t the holocaust you claim it to be.

More to the point, making it “illegal” isn’t the way to do it. The abortion rate was more than twice as high as the current rate in the U.S. before Roe v. Wade made it legal nationwide, and safe and effective abortion by medicine would make it easy to skirt a ban.

The trolley problem

Almost everyone has heard of this thought experiment, but here’s a brief summary. Imagine a trolley that’s heading toward five unsuspecting workers on the track. If it continues, it will kill them all. But there’s a switch, and you can reroute the trolley down another path with only one worker. Would you switch the trolley?

Most people say they would. But what if you’ve got the same trolley heading for the five workers, and you’re on a bridge over the tracks. The only way to stop the trolley is with a large weight in its path. You’re not heavy enough to stop it, but there’s a large man on the bridge who is. Do you push him over?

Most people say they wouldn’t, but it’s the same calculation, five deaths vs. one.

The Planned Parenthood shooter in effect pushed the large man over. He’s taken the unthinkable but logical step—logical given Walsh’s own analysis. Walsh is left fuming about decorum—it’s one thing to label abortion providers as the most wicked scum on the earth, but in polite society one doesn’t actually act on this! He wants his rage but won’t accept the consequences.

Additional pro-choice resources:

But the consequence of using language like that
can be very dangerous.

I think candidates need to step back,
take a deep breath, and understand . . .
we have a responsibility to use
thoughtful and careful language.

Wendy Davis, the former Texas state senator
who filibustered to block legislation
that would restrict abortion


(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 12/4/15.)

Image from Kit Clutch, CC license

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  • Greg G.

    Off topic for the article but not for the forum in general. I noticed some of this recently and read about the order the OT books were written.

    The last passage of the Old Testament order is:

    Malachi 4:5-6 (NRSV)5 Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.

    The Gospels have a lot to say about that passage:

    Matthew 11:14 (NRSV)14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.

    Matthew 17:10 (NRSV)10 And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

    Matthew 16:14 (NRSV)14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

    Mark 9:11 (NRSV)11 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

    Luke 1:17 (NRSV)17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

    John 1:21 (NRSV)21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.”

    But the last book written would be the Chronicles so the last passage for the Jews would be:

    2 Chronicles 36:22-23 (NRSV)22 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom and also declared in a written edict: 23 “Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him! Let him go up.”

    Now consider Isaiah’s words where is Cyrus is called the Lord’s “anointed”.

    Isaiah 45:1-5 (NRSV)1 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,    whose right hand I have graspedto subdue nations before him    and strip kings of their robes,to open doors before him—    and the gates shall not be closed:2 I will go before you    and level the mountains,I will break in pieces the doors of bronze    and cut through the bars of iron,3 I will give you the treasures of darkness    and riches hidden in secret places,so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,    the God of Israel, who call you by your name.4 For the sake of my servant Jacob,    and Israel my chosen,I call you by your name,    I surname you, though you do not know me.5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;    besides me there is no god.    I arm you, though you do not know me,

    Perhaps the Old Testament writers were satisfied that Cyrus was the Messiah at the time.

    • epicurus

      Excellent work!

    • Isn’t Daniel the last OT book, chronologically?

      • Greg G.

        I think you are right. One of the sources I was looking at said Chronicles was the last but I think they were one that take Daniel as earlier. I didn’t even think of that. Thanks.

  • I still say the shooter is worse, because the shooter is taking actual lives with actual value.

    • Joe_Buddha

      But, you don’t understand. Only unborne life is worth anything! Why I despise forced birther scum.

    • Susan

      I still say the shooter is worse, because the shooter is taking actual lives with actual value.

      Yes, with actual brains that care about their actual life.

      Also, even if all that’s in place, there is the personhood problem.

      i.e. No one would be held accountable for another’s actual brain, even if one were shown to exist.

      Unless one is a woman.

      No one has to donate bone marrow, or a part of a liver to an actual brain.

      But women are supposed to donate their bodies to a cell.

      Because Yahwehjesus.

      • Phil Rimmer


        A person must have, or have had once, a mind, to be such.

        That donated liver lobe is human and living but not a person.

  • igotbanned999

    Few of us would morally object to going back in time to assassinate Joseph Mengele or Heinrich Himmler or Adolph Hitler.

    There are actually tons of reasons (moral and otherwise) to object to this.

    • I have no problem with someone going back in time and ganking Mengele.

      • igotbanned999

        Problem 1: Is it moral to kill someone for something they haven’t done yet? See ‘Minority Report’

        Problem 2: Is the death penalty ever justified in the first place?

        Problem 3: The butterfly effect. You have no idea what the consequences of messing with the past are. Killing him could lead to something much worse happening, like full scale nuclear war, via a complex chain of events.

        Problem 4: The Grandfather Paradox. If you go back and kill him before he does anything that you would consider worthy of death, then time changes, and you would never have a reason to go back and kill him in the first place. Without knowing exactly how the universe would resolve a paradox like this, you should never attempt it. Worst case scenario is what Doc Brown was worried about in BTTF II: Time can’t handle the paradox, and the entire universe is destroyed.

        Problem 5: The ethics of changing the past. Even if you assume that problems 3 and 4 won’t be an issue, and that Mengele’s premature death creates an overall better world, you’re still erasing the lives and experiences of the billions of people who have lived since then, replacing them with different lives, different experiences, and thus different people. Sure, many of those lives will be essentially the same, but as time progresses and the butterfly effect causes your change to history to cause more and more ripples in time, more and more people will be effected. Countless people will die in different circumstances, or never be born, or live completely different lives, becoming completely different people. The end result is that you have effectively erased (i.e. killed) billions of lives, making you the biggest mass murderer in history.

        • igotbanned999

          I also forgot Problem 6: Alternate timelines.

          One of the possible ways that a paradox can be resolved is the creation of a separate timeline. So if you kill him and then return to the present, you may find that nothing has changed, as the timeline where he died early branched off into a separate one, and you’ll never know if you really ended up doing what was best.

        • Geoff Benson

          I know it’s speculation, what might happen with time travel, but it’s a very good way of beginning to learn the basics of morality.

        • All of that is just a maybe. Ganking Mengele would save lives.

        • igotbanned999

          And you know all of the consequences of meddling with history? It would end lives, erase lives, prevent lives. It’s not worth the risk.

        • Says you.

        • igotbanned999

          The idea is dangerous and ridiculous. You would be erasing the lives of billions of people who lived after him, replacing them by changing history. You would never have been born, or if you were, you would be a completely different person.

        • Lord Backwater

          The idea is dangerous and ridiculous.

          It could only be dangerous if it worked. But it doesn’t. It is fiction.

          BTW, by invoking the ‘butterfly effect’ I can claim that every single decision you make every day, down to whether to have orange juice or grapefruit juice for breakfast, changes the entire future of humanity. How powerful you(r ego) are!

        • igotbanned999

          Again, that has a different meaning if those possibilities are actualized in reality rather than just potentialities.

        • Lord Backwater

          Some lives are worth erasing. That is the whole premise.

        • igotbanned999

          You don’t get it. We’re talking about every single human life born after the fact, up and into the future. One ripple spreads out and changes everything. As time progresses, the effect becomes greater and greater. You or your parents may never have been born.

        • Lord Backwater

          Oh I get it: you are making bleep up. Since time travel does not actually exist, you are filling the vacuum by making up silly and pretentious rules as to how it works.

        • igotbanned999

          But here we’re positing that it does exist, and if you don’t follow the alternate timeline model, this is the alternative.

        • I have often said “If Hitler didn’t live, I probably wouldn’t have either”. One grandparent on either side moved from England to Australia after WW2 – it seems much less likely that would have happened without the specific circumstances of WW2, including Hitler as German leader. Even if both had moved it would have been in different circumstances, and thus they probably wouldn’t have met their future (Australian) partners and my parents would never have been born.

          At the same time, I buy your problems 1 – 4, but am not sure that I buy problem 5. Yes, billions of potential people on the old timeline are erased – but billions of other potential people on the new timeline are brought into existence. It seems to me counter-intuitive to just focus on the negatives and ignore the positives when the two seem two sides of the same coin. You need work to even justify calling it murder, IMHO. On a smaller level, my life decisions have doubtless changed many people, and quite possibly if I had taken those decisions differently potential people would exist that do not now, and people who do exist now would not exist. I don’t feel any guilt for the loss or gain of those potential people.

        • igotbanned999

          So it’s okay to kill billions of people as long as billions of others take their place? The difference between making a decision in the present and altering the past is that in the latter case, the results have already manifested in reality, and you are doing something to wipe them out.

        • Erased is a fair word. I don’t think any of “kill”, “murder” or “wiped out” are fair words. They have very specific meanings in our (usually assumed non-time-travel) world, to do with ending of life, and those meanings don’t apply here. If in the new timeline these people have never existed, then you can’t have ended their life. Either that or they have already existed in some sense – manifested in reality – and you have not changed the fact that at some past point they did manifest in reality (really, at what point in that manifestation have you ended their existence, and how could you know? This may also be getting to your problem 6 – the theoretical splitting of the timeline).

        • igotbanned999

          Point is that we are hardly in a position to make that kind of decision.

        • Lord Backwater

          Problem 1: Is it moral to kill someone for something they haven’t done yet? See ‘Minority Report’

          A work of fiction. They always set up complex, completely-made-up rules for how things work, such as: the foreseen future is only a probability, not a certainty, because of course that must be true if you can go back and change it. If you change the arbitrary rules, the lesson you will draw could be completely different.

        • eric

          Problem 1: Is it moral to kill someone for something they haven’t done yet?

          It’s certainly considered moral to stop, arrest, try, and convict someone for attempted murder. So if you’re really worried about this, go back in time to the moment were you catch him “red-handed” in the middle of his first attempted murder, but before the knife comes down (so to speak), grab him, and whisk him away in your time machine to stand trial for the one attempted murder you can all agree he did.

          Problem 4: The Grandfather Paradox.

          IIRC, Kip Thorne pointed out that if the grandfather paradox can occur, it will first occur with undirected subatomic particles traveling through to the past and knocking “past” subatomic particles out of their “intended” trajectories, before any human can decide to kill their grandfather.
          Thus, either the universe is going to blow up the moment you use your time machine, or it’s never going to. Either way, human intent towards people in the past is not important to the physics.

          The same is probably true with the butterfly effect – merely using your time machine is the big cause; what the human time traveler does on a macroscopic scale is probably small potatoes after that.

  • eric

    Why don’t you [Planned Parenthood] just shut up and work on not killing babies?

    Yeah! Why don’t you offer counseling and birth control to 2 million women! And pregnancy tests for a million! And education programs for another million! And you should give pap smears! Like, half a million of them! While you’re at it, why don’t you do breast cancer exams! Maybe you should do a half a million of those too! And you should offer STD tests! Like, 4.5 million of them! And if you really want to shut up, you should do that EVERY YEAR!

    Wait, you do? But why doesn’t anyone talk about that?

    • Otto

      My wife got her medical check ups there for years when we could not get health insurance…which allowed her to be healthy and allowed us to ‘plan our parenthood’ though the use of contraception provided by ‘rotten, corrupt, depraved, vile, disgusting, brutal, murderous conglomerate of butchers and mercenaries’ which of course lead to a lack of need for an abortion. They seem to be shooting themselves in the foot with that strategy.

      • eric

        They have multiple strategies. Preventing women from getting BC is another, as is preventing anyone without health insurance from getting state-supported medical care. So many conservatives would likely oppose PP’s support for your wife regardless of whether it drives the abortion rate down or not. But, I’m certainly not the first person to say this…

        • Otto

          I meant PP’s strategy…but yeah I agree

  • Geoff Benson

    The dreadful ranting into which Walsh descends reveals the paucity and inconsistency of his position. There’s an anger there, which I think is pretty widespread amongst forced birthers (pro-life! don’t make me laugh), and seems based on a sort of resentment that their beliefs have been sidelined. As is so often brought up in abortion debates, the issue of abortion was never an issue until it was weaponised in the 60/70s as a means of devolving excessive power to the religious right. Get people angry about abortion and the religious leaders are served up a level of power they never previously could have envisaged.

    Even now forced birthers get their arguments jumbled. They’ll argue biology all day, whether it’s a foetus having DNA, or when it experiences pain, or when a heartbeat begins. By and large the biology is accepted (though, on the pain issue, I argue that abortion almost certainly involves less distress to a foetus than actual birth), so there’s no point in pursuing this too far. Instead it seems to me to be philosophical: when does ‘personhood’ (which has no formal definition) begin? It’s paradoxical that when arguing the subject of rights with ultra conservatives and where they originate, they invariably claim ‘you’re born with them’. I then point out that, even accepting the truth of this (of course, it isn’t true at all, but that’s another discussion) means that those rights don’t exist prior to birth! Trouble is forced birthers aren’t there, in the main, as a result of logic, so it’s impossible to have rational debate.

    • when does ‘personhood’ (which has no formal definition) begin?

      Yes, that’s an open question, but it’s not a person when it’s just a single cell!

  • Rudy R

    Why are you approaching it the hard way? Instead of swimming upstream, you could work with pro-choice people who want the same thing.

    Walsh and his ilk do not want the same thing as pro-choice people, that is, to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The goal is to increase the number of Christians. Would Walsh feel the same about saving babies that would be enemies of Christians?

    • johnsoncatman

      I think their primary goal is to control women.

  • John Grove

    In order for the human species to move forward we must first emancipate ourselves from the man made and mind forged shackles of religion.

  • Thanks4AllTheFish