Which Is Worse—an Abortion Clinic Shooter or the Clinic Itself?

Which Is Worse—an Abortion Clinic Shooter or the Clinic Itself? February 21, 2020

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.

It failed.

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.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.
— Oscar Wilde


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

Image from sandy Poore, CC license

"I have this site full of new arguments backed by scientific facts...Where is this site ..."

Games Creationists Play: 7 Tricks to ..."
"On these forums I also noticed many creationists do not know the difference between peer-reviewedI ..."

Games Creationists Play: 7 Tricks to ..."
"Sooooooo...they didn't know what they were talking about? Or perhaps they did but they were ..."

BSR 6: All Religions Lead to ..."
"are you fascism or communism loverI see you have ceased responding to me since I ..."

Games Creationists Play: 7 Tricks to ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jim Jones
  • eric

    …abortion enthusiasts…

    I’m not sure anyone is an “enthusiast” of having an invasive medical procedure. Or their spouse, girlfriend, daughter, sister etc needing one either.

    Which is why the pro-choice side works so hard to improve sex ed and access to birth control; because these things reduce the rate of abortions. Prevention, when you can accomplish it, is much preferrable to treatment.

    • Michael Neville

      Ever notice that the forced-birthers are also against comprehensive sex education and easy access to contraceptives? The forced-birthers are more concerned with controlling women than with savin’ da babbies.

      • epeeist

        The forced-birthers are more concerned with controlling women than with savin’ da babbies.

        Well that’s because women aren’t really persons and babies are (apart from the female ones that is).

        • Michael Murray

          They aren’t that bad. Female babies may be bearers of boys at some point in the future.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Another argument-from-potential angle!

          It’s almost as though all dogmatic theists have is that card and the generic special-pleading card. (“You can’t prove I don’t have a triune omniomni Creator best friend!”, et al.)

    • BertB

      An old saying from my childhood:
      “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

  • RichardSRussell

    “Pro-life” is short for “proliferators”.

  • Maine_Skeptic

    “And isn’t it inconsistent when who oppose abortions also accept the death penalty?”

    The so-called “pro-life” culture…

    enthusiastically supports the death penalty
    prevents the teaching of sex education and birth control
    opposes universal health care
    opposes even modest gun control
    supports every war
    and voted overwhelmingly in favor of a lawless president with no conscience or human decency.

    • Michael Schaefer

      How many of the 100M plus pro-lifers in this country do you know? Stereotype much?

    • Michael Murray

      The Catholic Church has been increasingly opposed to the death penalty while also, of course, vehemently to abortion and birth control. Not sure the situation is quite as clear as you suggest but as I don’t live in the US I guess I wouldn’t really know.

      • Maine_Skeptic

        “…Not sure the situation is quite as clear as you suggest…”

        It’s never as simple as rhetoric, but in the US, the most vocal and influential parts of the anti-abortion movement are white conservative Evangelical Republicans. In some Republican-controlled states, patients are forced to undergo unnecessary medical procedures, which serve no purposes other than to shame the patient, increase the expense, and slow the process by days. In some Republican controlled states, doctors are required by law to lie to their patients about non-existent links between abortion and breast cancer. Viewers of Fox News and listeners to religious broadcasting believe, overwhelmingly, that family planning clinics are getting rich performing abortions and selling “baby body parts” to…? Who knows who. Their lies are so shallow they don’t even have to be self-consistent. Any moderating or decent elements of the US anti-abortion movement are drowned out by self-righteous, raging lunatics who cheer every act of cruelty heaped upon patients and abortion providers. They voted for the 45th president overwhelmingly, and they are willing to welcome any atrocity against actual people in order to protect human matter without the capacity to think or feel pain.

        • Michael Murray

          Thanks. Being raised as a Catholic in Australia leaves me continually surprised by how crazy American Protestants are!

        • Pofarmer

          American Catholics are working to catch up.

        • Michael Murray

          I noticed when I was over at Strange Notions the larger number of contributors there (i.e. the ones writing the articles) who had converted from Protestantism.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah. Catholicism right now is prone to the Extremists. There’s a Catholic Priest on Patheos, Longenecker, who converted from a liberal protestantism, to another protestantism, and finally to Catholicism. He’s a real piece of work.

    • bill wald

      Then I have conscience or human decency, intend to vote for President Trump a 2nd time. He’s the first “America First” president since Reagan. The rest have been “U.N. First.”

      • I marvel that so many Christians are eager to vote for human flotsam like Trump. For all the points you like, is there anything you despise? Or is it only when those traits are in a Democrat (or atheist) that you see them as bad traits?

        • TheNuszAbides

          Ah, brand[ed] loyalty!

  • persephone

    Forced birthers.

    Walsh is a Catholic. The Catholic church didn’t get anti-abortion until sometime in the 19th century. Walsh has his wife popping out child after child, but he admits he doesn’t like spending time with his kids, and thinks he should have his own suite to keep separate from the annoyances.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Not that I doubt you, but do you have a link for his kid disdain?

      • persephone

        Sorry. It was a tweet of his several months ago, bemoaning not having a decent man cave. The whole thing was just as whiny as you could imagine.

        Quick search looks like tweets from May 3, 2018

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Thank you! I’ll go digging 🙂

    • NSAlito

      The Catholic church didn’t get anti-abortion until sometime in the 19th century.

      Back when I was a questioning Catholic, I wondered how the Church went from its historic obsession with people’s souls to caring about their earthly bodies.

      • TheNuszAbides

        They finally figured out that serious disdain for (practically mortification of) the flesh wasn’t much for evolutionary fitness?

        Or they just outmaneuvered the severe ascetics, anchorites etc. Shame they held onto the general spite for arguably the most consequential* feature of humanity/animality, i.e. the reproductive system.

        * perhaps a near-tie with cognition? The former can clearly be had without the latter, (thus far reliably demonstrated), but vice versa, not so much (again, AFAWK)

        • NSAlito

          Mortification of the flesh was a winning strategy when it had temporal power and not only could hold onto existing members but brutally apply it to “convert” more populations through colonization. Once they lost both physical territory and influence (edged out by capitalism and literacy), I think they just obsessed with maintaining control by growing their existing population (no birth control).

  • Phil Rimmer

    Abortion is always more moral than having kids. To bring a life of potential misery into the world without their consent is less moral.

    Now begin the discussion.

    • Person223

      To end it without their consent is even less ethical. Ending a life is irreversible.

      • (((J_Enigma32)))

        So you’re opposed to the death penalty, right?

        Also, you’re a fine one to talk. You think crossing an imaginary line is all it takes to justify stripping a person of their human rights. What business do you have to talk about causing harm and being ethical when you support an administration that both causes harm and is entirely unethical?

        • bill wald

          I would substitute a life sentence in solitary with the minimum of creature comforts. Save lots of tax money.

      • Michael Murray

        So why does God cause some 70-80% of conceptions to never be born ?

        • al kimeea

          Yep, the bestest abortionist there is

      • Phil Rimmer

        At the typical maximum age of termination not only is there less than 10% of a brain formed but virtually no synaptic coupling in grey matter has been begun and white matter (the long range myelinated connections is months away from starting . This is a brain astonishingly remote yet from personhood. Major neural regions are not yet begun let alone functioning.

        No-one is home. Only the potential for a person and a potential for suffering once that person begins to emerge, once a lot more still absent brain structure is formed. Compared to a terminal patient in a persistent vegetative state who was a person once, with likes and loves and once suffered, we are well past that moment of turning off a life support machine.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Mindless parasites don’t HAVE consent, because they’re mindless.

      • Michael Neville

        The only consent required is that of the woman involved. You probably know the woman as the “mobile incubator” who you think has fewer rights than a non-sentient clump of cells.

      • NSAlito

        Ending a life is irreversible.

        By “life” are you concerned with (1) biologically replicating cells or (2) a person’s life that society only considers to exist with a functional cerebral cortex?

        If it’s the first, then we can get into discussion of the constant turnover of eukaryotic cells in the human body. We can add into that the life of human-descendant cells that are cancerous or even self-sustaining. We can also discuss the very large numbers of naturally failing fertilized cells (zygotes), ectopic implantations, anencephalia.

        If it’s the second, then what rational problem is there with aborting non-persons?

      • Rudy R

        A fetus is not a sentient being, so is not a free agent capable of making decisions.

      • I’ve ended the lives of mice, which is also irreversible. Is that a problem?

  • Otto

    Maybe if these guys worked really hard at making the world a better place to live in, especially for women and children, (i.e. affordable health and child care, etc.) people would want to bring children into the world. I know…it is crazy talk.

    I will find my own way out now…

  • bill wald

    Theology test? I, personally, don’t think my God would create billions of souls that would never be born to live as humans.

    • Raging Bee

      He might…how do you know your parents didn’t go to H3ll for not having enough sex?