Many prolifers are shocked at the killing of the abortionist George Tiller. They simply cannot conceive how someone who is for protecting the life of unborn children could gun down another person in cold blood. How does someone go from wanting to protect life to taking life?
In the New Republic there is a very good article which discusses why there was a rise in abortion-related violence in the 1990s (that is, violence apart from what goes on each day inside abortion clinics). The author, Jon Shields, posits that it is a result of political actions taken by the government to protect the “right” to abortion. In a nutshell, here is his argument:
- In the 1960′s, prolife activism was relatively mild, and confined to political activism at the state level.
- With Roe v Wade‘s overturning of all state restrictions against abortion, such activism was no longer possible, so direct activism (i.e. “rescue”) became the way many prolifers channeled their opposition to abortion.
- The success of rescue in the late 80′s/early 90′s gave even the most fringe prolifers an outlet for their anti-abortion beliefs.
- With the unraveling of the rescue movement in the early 90′s (due to the passing of FACE and other factors), most prolifers simply stopped their anti-abortion activities. However, the fringe element of the movement (and every movement has a fringe element) no longer had any outlet for their beliefs, and went into their own dark corners and began to advocate violence as a method to defeat abortion. This led to a rash of violence in the 90′s against abortionists and clinic workers.
As someone who was very involved in prolife activities in the early 90s, I can tell you that this is an accurate accounting of what happened. I do have two problems with Shields’ article, however:
- Shields does not explain why there was a decade-long gap between the violence of the 90s and this week’s shooting. He acts like there has been a constant rise in violence since the early 90s, when the fact is that after the late 90s, we have seen no violence until this week.
- Shields mentions prolife heroine Joan Andrews (now Joan Bell) and implies a link between her and violent elements of the prolife movement. I have worked with Joan and I can tell you that she is a living saint who would not harm a soul.
I also noticed that the first comment to the article at the New Republic website seemed to indicate that Shields is justifying violence in response to the shutdown of the rescue movement. This is ridiculous. Reporting why something happened is not justifying it, it is simply reporting the facts.
Do read the whole New Republic article – it is a relatively accurate accounting of the origins of violence within the fringe of the prolife movement.