After a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs four years ago that killed three and injured nine more, I came across a response on TheBlaze, Glenn Beck’s entertainment and news network. The article was “Abortionists and Planned Parenthood Shooter Are Just Two Sides Of The Same Coin” by Matt Walsh. It tried to walk the line between putting pro-choice advocates and the shooter in the same bin (as the title makes clear) and handwaving that the outrageous rhetoric of pro-life fanatics didn’t encourage the gunman.
Violent talk has consequences
I’m not Walsh’s audience. He was preaching to his choir, using terms like “pro-aborts” and “abortion fanatics” to refer to people like me, but the article gave an insight into the hostility of and rationalization by this community.
Walsh tried to walk away from any consequences of violent rhetoric from extreme quarters of the pro-life movement.
[Clues that the shooter was unlike the typical pro-life terrorist] has not prevented abortion enthusiasts on the left from gleefully spiking the football as if some point has been proven by the random violent outburst of a paranoid hermit.
Yes, there’s a point: speech can have consequences. Spin a story about how Planned Parenthood is an evil organization, and this kind of violence may be a consequence. If you don’t think it through, impressionable readers might not either. As the Bible says, you’ve sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.
As if we need more examples of speech having consequences, one mother tried to kill herself and her two daughters to avoid the Tribulation predicted by Harold Camping for May 21, 2011 (more here and here). Did Camping deserve no condemnation for saying that the world would end, knowing that some of his gullible flock might take him seriously?
Another example is the person who took the Pizzagate conspiracy theory (invented to discredit Hillary Clinton in her 2016 presidential bid) seriously and shot up the pizza restaurant.
Here’s an example of extreme anti-abortion speech from video evangelist Joshua Feuerstein:
I say, tonight, we punish Planned Parenthood. I think it’s time that abortion doctors should have to run and hide and be afraid for their life. (7/29/15)
After the Colorado shooting, pro-lifers tried to prop up their position by tweeting about “babies” saved. Yes, pro-life rhetoric can have bad consequences.
How pro-life is the pro-life movement?
Walsh says it goes without saying that he was shocked by the shooter’s actions.
It goes without saying because, for one thing, we’re pro-life.
No, you’re pro-birth. How about being pro-health care? Or working to improve the society into which these babies are born? And isn’t it inconsistent when most of those who oppose abortions also accept the death penalty?
For another, there’s no logic in it.
Wrong. You went on and on about the deaths of “over 50 million babies.” That’s nonsense, of course—there’s a spectrum of personhood across the gestation period, and a single cell isn’t a baby, a human being, or a person—but it is quite logical to kill a few lives to save many. You can’t argue that abortion is murder but then claim that murder to reduce abortions is illogical.
The lives that were snuffed out in the front of the building weren’t any more or less human than the lives exterminated in the back. Our humanity does not exist on a spectrum.
Walsh imagines that Homo sapiens DNA is all that makes someone human, but with this he invents single-celled humans. Indeed, humanness does exist on a spectrum. A single cell isn’t very human, while the trillion-cell newborn nine months later is. (If you’d prefer a better word choice, say that the single cell isn’t a person while the newborn is.)
Why shoehorn gestation into a binary situation? Drop the ridiculous idea that a single cell is a “baby” or “person.” Say that the single cell isn’t a person, the newborn is, and it’s a spectrum in between.
[A pro-choice advocate outraged at pro-lifer vitriol is] like a Nazi standing up at Nuremberg and scolding society for hating him.
Nope. The Nazi was on trial for crimes against humanity. Planned Parenthood kills a fetus that isn’t yet a person. Walsh would predictably respond that it will be a person if given time, but this simply becomes the Argument from Potential—it isn’t inherently worth protecting now, but it will be—which is no argument at all.
Walsh rejects the shooter’s actions, but he chafes at this obligation.
We’re the ones who have to be seen condemning murder, as if there’s any reasonable question at all about where we stand on the subject?
You demand that moderate Muslims apologize for Muslim violence, don’t you? If so, you can appreciate how we’d like some assurance from the pro-life community that they reject the shooter’s actions that they might have triggered, but there’s still an asymmetry in your favor. The Friendly Atheist blog noted how Muslims were treated after terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 and how much better anti-Planned Parenthood activists are treated.
Unlike the seemingly endless stream of demands and condemnations [aimed at Muslims] that followed the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, no one has suggested that churches in which Planned Parenthood are routinely depicted as the devil’s spawn be closed; no one has demanded that Evangelicals who believe performers of abortions are committing crimes against humanity should be issued with special identity cards; and no one has called for arresting or deporting the inciters who exploit such incidents to whip up hate (and garner more votes).
No, conservative churches and ministries that inspire Christian terrorists are safe. They’re still able to get outraged at women seeking treatment for unwanted pregnancies while denying any responsibility for the consequences.
Concluded in part 2, where the Christian author works himself into a righteous lather.
— Oscar Wilde
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 12/4/15.)
Image from sandy Poore, CC license