There is no “both sides” when it comes to the violence over
a woman’s right to choose if and when she gives birth. The unfortunate and tragic murder of
anti-choice protester James Pouillon gave a mainstream media eager to use the
“both sides” narrative their chance, and they took it,
no matter how little relationship anti-choice tales of victimization had to
But there really is no “both
sides” here. The only murder of a
protesting anti-choicer has come at the hands of Harlan Drake, a man who had
exactly no relationship with the pro-choice movement, no strong opinions on
abortion rights that anyone can discern, and only shot Pouillon for the same
reason that spree killers pick all their victims—mainly because he was
convenient and it was easy for Drake to rationalize the murder. Drake also murdered another man in a
completely apolitical killing, and had plans to do so to another for equally
Contrast that with a long string of murders of abortion
providers and bombings of clinics at the hands of people deeply entrenched in
the anti-choice movement, and continually supported by their anti-choice buddies.
For instance, take Scott Roeder, the man accused of shooting and killing Dr.
George Tiller while Dr. Tiller was attending Sunday services in his Wichita, Kansas
church. Roeder not only relied on
anti-choice stand-bys Operation Rescue for information on how to stalk Dr.
Tiller and moral reinforcement for his choice to murder, but after the murder,
he continued to enjoy the moral support and confidence of many prominent
anti-choice militants, many
of whom continue to visit him in jail.
And now the militant anti-choice activists are going a step
further in their adoring love of Scott Roeder, and providing financial support to the man accused of the
latest anti-choice homicide. Dave Leach of Iowa,
a militant anti-choice activist, is organizing an eBay auction so
that fans of murdering your political opponents can buy souvenirs and help pay
for Scott Roeder’s defense. Leach
publishes a newsletter that supports killing abortion providers, and took
the time to visit Roeder after Roeder made a name for himself in domestic
getting arrested on explosives charges in 1996. Leach’s visit was while coming back after visiting Rachelle
"Shelley" Shannon in prison after she was convicted for attempting to
kill Dr. Tiller in 1993.
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The eBay auction speaks to the love of misogynist,
anti-choice kitsch that thrives in the anti-choice community. Anti-choicers who fall into the less
militant camp (by not overtly calling for murder of providers) love their fetus
geegaws that imply that fetuses have personalities and violent imagery that
refuses to acknowledge existence of pregnant women’s bodies and personalities, but
the militants apparently prefer knick-knacks of a bolder, more sadistic
sort. Here are some items they’ve
announced were for sale:
bullhorn signed by Regina Dinwiddie.
the Washington Post of hugging Roeder in glee after she read a
statement advocating violence against abortion providers.
Army of God manual, which has more moral support for would-be murderers.
cookbook by a woman doing time in prison for bombing a clinic.
drawing Scott Roeder has done in prison.
A veritable cornucopia of kitsch for the right wing nut that
loves murder and hates women’s rights.
The question is
why does the anti-choice side produce violent criminals and their conspirators,
while the pro-choice side does not?
It’s not impossible for the left to get militant and violent, but it
simply isn’t happening in the abortion debate.
Eliminationists by David Neiwert gives us some clues. Neiwert explains
what kind of rhetoric gears at least some of a group’s members to commit
violence, highlighting especially the use of dehumanizing language (such as
calling your opponents vermin), being absolutist, and suggesting that the only
way to deal with opponents is to wipe them out.
On the third, the most obviously guilty offenders are the
militants that Roeder associates with, such as the Army of God. But on the other two points, the larger
anti-choice movement thrives on that kind of rhetoric.
Abortion providers are dehumanized by anti-choicers on a
level that would make the people who wrote the The Protocols
of the Elders of Zion proud.
It’s not just that providers are accused of murdering for fun and
profit, though that would probably be enough. Anti-choicers accuse doctors of stabbing born babies in the
head, and of eating
fetuses. Lurid accusations
that providers engage in child sex rings are common. Rush Limbaugh claims that there are feminists out there who
want to abort every pregnancy possible.
Planned Parenthood is accused of pushing young women to have sex they
wouldn’t otherwise, so they can make the money off abortions. All these accusations are about
convincing anti-choice followers that their opponents aren’t really full human
beings, because these behaviors so differ from anything human beings would
And that’s just with providers. With women who have abortions, the dehumanizing goes to the
level of rhetorically erasing them altogether, starting with insisting that the
only question at hand is “when does life begin”, which implies that a fetus
floats around in space, and there’s no question of a person’s rights and
interests that may conflict with it.
This extends to visual representations
of pregnancy that imply there is no woman involved.
Then there’s the absolutist rhetoric: “Abortion is never the answer,” is a common refrain
amongst anti-choicers, while pro-choicers by definition believe that every
person’s situation is different and those differences deserve respect. Anti-choicers believe that it’s a full
human being from conception (and sometimes before, it seems) on, whereas
pro-choicers subscribe to a more nuanced view, where a fetus slowly turns into
a baby over a pregnancy, and at each stage, it deserves more moral
consideration, and remembering that women are human beings who deserve moral
consideration as people.
Most anti-choicers use this sort of rhetoric to steel
themselves for minor moral transgressions, such as harassing people trying to
get medical care, invading privacy, and of course, supporting laws mandating
childbirth for the unwilling. But in a few cases, this sort of rhetoric is
going to compel some to violence, as we have seen all too often.