Anthrax Suspect May Have Targeted Daschle and Leahy as “Bad Catholics” Because of Abortion Views

Scott Swenson

Extreme right-wing rhetoric on abortion issues is now linked to the anthrax mailings in 2001 to two Senators. The Bush FBI turned up the evidence, NPR reports.

National Public Radio
is reporting that the "pro-life" views of Bruce Ivins may have contributed to his targeting certain political figures with anthrax tainted letters in 2001.

In an unusual presentation Wednesday, the Justice Department went public with evidence
it says shows that Ivins was the man behind the anthrax mailings that
killed five people and sickened 17 others. Ivins committed suicide last
month, so there will be no trial to prove their allegations and no
opportunity for Ivins to defend himself.

Ivins and his wife were
both practicing Catholics, and their children had attended and
graduated from a Catholic high school in Frederick, Md. His wife, Diane
Ivins, according to an e-mail Ivins wrote in 2002, was president of the
Frederick County Right to Life, and the couple had connections to many
other anti-abortion groups. In a July 10, 2002, e-mail cited in the
affidavit, Ivins wrote: "I’m not pro-abortion, I’m pro-life, but I want
my position to be one consistent with a Christian."

In 2001,
the Catholic anti-abortion movement was openly critical of Catholic
members of Congress who voted in support of abortion rights for women.
Two of the more prominent lawmakers who fell into this category were
Daschle and Leahy. The Ivins affidavit mentions an article in the
September/October 2001 issue of the Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati
newsletter that singled out Daschle, Leahy and Sens. Edward Kennedy and
Joseph Biden for criticism because of their abortion rights votes.

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article was part of a longer dispatch by the leader of the
Netherlands-based International Right to Life, Dr. John Wilke. The
small article, titled "Pro-Abortion Catholic Senators?", ended with:
"We should stop labeling these men Catholic, for anyone who directly
aids abets or gets an abortion, by Catholic teaching, excommunicates

The affidavit stops short of saying that Ivins read
the article. But officials close to the case say the newsletter was
found in a search of his home. Given his longstanding connection to
Cincinnati (he attended college there), his wife’s role in the
Frederick Right to Life Chapter, and his own beliefs about abortion, it
is not implausible to have found the article in Ivins’ home. Officials
close to the case said that they believe Ivins’ right-to-life fervor
was at least part of the reason he would target Daschle and Leahy.

also said Ivins did a great deal of mailing under pseudonyms and from
various cities other than his hometown of Frederick. Much of that
letter traffic involved anti-abortion or Right to Life activities, they


It is fascinating to watch this story unfold, knowing that our government tried to make it seem like this was being done by fundamentalist terrorists abroad in 2001, when it appears it may have been an act of domestic terrorism inspired by fundamentalist rhetoric at home.

Progressive ideas about sexual and reproductive health promote privacy, evidence-based sexuality education, responsibility and prevention of unintended pregnancies and disease, and the right to make your own important medical decisions.

Social conservative ideas about these issues increasingly seem to motivate a very different world view.

Perhaps it is time we choose a less divisive and violent approach to rhetoric on sexual and reproductive health issues, one that is not born of the extremism of the right wing, and focuses on health care issues.

It seems the right doesn’t realize how their extreme rhetoric impacts people.


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Freedom of the press is under direct threat by the Trump Administration. Now more than ever, we need evidence-based reporting on health, rights, and justice.

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