Charles Rulon: Anti-abortion rhetoric fuels domestic terrorism

By | January 18, 2011

Moral zealotry and violence

To moral zealots, a dis­a­greement is more than just a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion; it can be an attack on their core worth. As a re­sult, they have been known to lie, dis­tort, mis­quote, libel their oppo­nents and en­gage in censor­ship or repression. For ex­trem­ists, any setback is the “be­gin­ning of the end”. Religious extremists, writes Rabbi Robert Wol­koff, never need a poli­ti­cal purpose, since they “identify with divine power in annihilating the forces of chaos”. They believe they are engaged in an apocalyptic war between light and dark­ness. Their role in this cosmic conflict is to demonstrate the des­tructive power of the One True God against Evil. There is little room for com­pro­mise, since human laws are irrelevant next to “God’s Laws.” The opposition, writes Wolkoff, “is sym­­bolic of the forces of evil and chaos to be de­stroyed.”[1]

Abortion clinics and domestic terrorism

Since 1980 the National Abor­tion Federation has identified more than 10,000 reported acts of terrorism against lawful repro­duc­tive rights sup­porters in the United States. There have been thousands of abor­tion clinic block­ades. Clinic workers have been regularly stalked. There have been hundreds of clinic arson attacks, bomb­ings and even anthrax scares. There have been kidnap­pings and shootings. Nine abortion providers have been mur­dered. The latest assassination took place in 2009 when Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor who specialized in late term abortions, was shot to death while attending church. Dr Tiller’s clinic had been repeatedly vandalized over the last 35 years and in 1993 Tiller had been shot in both arms.[2]

In 1998, alone, about 25% of 351 clinics surveyed experi­enced severe violence in some form. In Jan­uary, a bomb exploded just outside a Birming­ham, Alabama repro­ductive health clinic, killing an off-duty police officer and critically injuring a nurse. In April, a gaso­line bomb dam­aged the Pacific Beach Clinic in San Diego, Calif. In May, foul-smelling butyric acid (which causes sick­ness and des­troys carpets and furnish­ings) was thrown into eight Florida repro­duc­tive health clin­ics. Several people required hos­pital treatment. In July, butyric acid was again thrown into eight Texas and New Orleans reproductive health clinics. In September, two Women’s Medical Clinics in Fayetteville, N.C. were firebombed. In October, bombs were found at two repro­ductive health clinics in N.C. and a sniper killed abor­tion pro­vider, Dr. Barnett Slepian. From November 1998 to March 1999, over 50 abortion clinics were evacuated and countless staff decon­tami­nated after receiving “anthrax” letters.

Inflammatory words fuel terrorism

Behind all this domestic ter­rorism has been the inflammatory “baby-killing” rhe­toric of the anti-abor­tion­ists. Their leaders, Christian ministries and pam­ph­lets have cried out that Amer­i­cans have mur­der­ed mil­lions of innocent pre-born babies. Activists have picket­ed abortion clinics and homes of clinic doctors with signs read­­ing “Blood Thirsty Child Killer,” “Baby Butcher” and “Death Doc­tor.” They’ve fol­lowed abortion providers to rest­au­rants scream­ing “mur­der­er” and “baby kil­ler.” They’ve passed out litera­ture equat­ing doctors who per­form abor­tions to those who ran the gas chambers in Nazi Germany. They’ve posted “Wanted Dead” posters and the names and addresses of clinic workers and doctors on hate-oriented web sites that cele­­brate violent actions. And even though the Bible is completely silent regarding elective abortions, some Christian fundamentalists have quoted scripture to prove that God’s will is being done when abortion doctors and staff are killed.[3]

Prior to the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, Randall Terry of Operation Rescue had repeatedly called Tiller a “mass murderer” who was doing something that was “literally demonic.” And cable TV personality Bill O’Reilly had been fulminating about “Tiller the Baby Killer” on over 25 of his cable TV shows. O’Reilly attacked Tiller repeatedly as someone who would “kill a baby a half-hour before the baby is supposed to be birthed for no reason what­soever other than the mother has a pain in her foot”. This was blatantly false. Furthermore, only one percent of abortions occur after 21 weeks and almost always because something has gone horri­bly medically wrong with a wanted pregnancy. (After the murder, O’Reilly publicly stood by his “facts”.)

Denial of responsibility

So, who’s to blame for inciting the last several decades of anti-abortion domes­­tic violence and terror? The answer, of course, is anyone who has supported, encour­­aged, or tacitly con­doned the use of inflamma­tory words and phrases. They must all share the blame for the bomb­ings, murders and other acts of domes­tic terrorism. Christian Right leaders and various mem­bers of Con­gress have been demonizing and dehuma­ni­zing legal abortion pro­viders for over 30 years. Yet they continue to vehe­mently deny having played any part in fanning the flames of this domestic ter­ror­ism. They deny that their “baby mur­­derer” rhetoric is in any way re­spon­sible. Yet, throughout history people and entire nations have been incited by in­cen­diary propaganda and speech to dehuma­nize other humans because of their skin color, religion, sex­ual orienta­tion and so on.

Abortion doctors are disappearing

The number of abortion providers has been falling for decades. Many of them are near or past retirement age; they still remember the intense suffer­ing of women back when abor­­tions were illegal; they often wear bulletproof vests and live behind bulletproof windows; they are pick­eted and often shunned by their neighbors. Because of the constant in­flammatory rheto­ric, intimidation, acts of terrorism, plus feelings of isolation, poor pay and endless legal barriers erected, these older doc­tors are not be­ing replaced. Today, only 7% of hospitals now provide abortion services nationwide, down from 80% in 1974, the year after Roe v. Wade. Today, 87% of all counties in the U.S. no longer provide abortion services. Today, it’s not un­usual for medi­cal stu­dents to com­plete four years of medical school without even having to discuss abor­tion, let alone to perform one or observe a proce­d­ure.[4] To further exacerbate matters, many financially strapped hos­pitals have been taken over by Catho­lic-run institutions, which refuse to provide even Emer­­gency Contracep­tion for rape victims. So even though abortion still remains one of the most com­mon surgical procedures among U.S. women, abortion choice is increasingly becoming a legal right in name only.

[1]Wolkoff, R., “The Clash of Dark­­ness and Light,” L.A. Times, 3/3/94. B8.

[2]For further updates on anti-abortion terrorism check . Also google [Abortion Terrorism], or check and .

[3] “Who­ever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Gen­esis 9:6). “If any­one takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death” (Leviticus 24:17; Exo­dus 21; Num­­bers 35; Deuteronomy 19).
These leaders conveniently ignore the fact that the “Don’t Kill” Commandment didn’t protect those who were caught collecting firewood on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14-15; 35:2), brides who were found not to be vir­gins on their wedding night (Deut. 22:13-21), and disobedient child­ren who cursed their parents (Exodus 21:17; Lev.20:9; Deut.21:18-21). They were all to be put to death. This Old Testament god also vigor­ously demanded that all heretics be killed. Wives, children, brothers and close friends who tried to divert the faithful from this tribal god were to be stoned to death (Deut.13). The people of Samar­ia rebelled against this god and had their children “dashed to the ground” and their preg­nant women “ripped open” (Hosea 13:16).

[4] Fighting back is a national organization known as Medi­cal Students for Choice (MSFC) which now has chap­ters in over 100 medical schools and represents more than 3000 med­ical students nation­wide. There is also an organization called Phy­sic­ians for Repro­ductive Choice and Health ().

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