Saturday, December 5, 2015

Is the Religious Right Being Disingenuous About the Planned Parenthood Rampage?

America is still reeling from the November 27th mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Emerging details about the shooting suspect, Robert Dear, paint a picture of a violent, maladjusted man. The shooting comes at a time when Planned Parenthood is being besieged by right-wing lawmakers and anti-abortion activists, to the frustration of reproductive rights advocates.

Anti-abortion voices from the Religious Right were quick to condemn the rampage. For example, Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, called the mass shooting "evil" in a November 28th statement.
"Our prayers and concern are with the victims today of the Colorado Springs shooting, people who did not deserve such violence. We are heartbroken for the families grieving the loss of their loved ones, especially during this time that is supposed to be one of national Thanksgiving and family celebration. We categorically condemn this violence. While we don’t know all the details of this horrific event, we know that it was an evil act, one condemned by pro-life Americans nationwide."
In an e-mail to LifeNews, National Right to Life insisted that it opposes the use of violence to combat "the violence of abortion".
"National Right to Life, which represents 50 state affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, unequivocally condemns  unlawful activities and acts of violence regardless of motivation.  The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and increase respect for human life.  The unlawful use of violence is directly contrary to that goal.”

The National Right to Life Committee has always been involved in peaceful, legal activities to protect human lives threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.  We always have and will continue to oppose any form of violence to fight the violence of abortion.  NRLC has had a policy of forbidding violence or illegal activity by its staff, directors, officers, affiliated state organizations, and chapters.  NRLC’s sole purpose is to protect innocent human life.

NRLC will continue to work through educational and legislative activities to ensure the right to life for unborn children, people with disabilities and the elderly.  NRLC will continue to work for peaceful solutions to aid mothers and their unborn children. These solutions involve helping women and their children and do not involve violence against anyone."
Operation Rescue president Troy Newman condemned the use of violence against abortion providers, insisting that it advocates for the use of "peaceful channels" in its activism. (::groans::)
"Operation Rescue unequivocally deplores and denounces all violence at abortion clinics and has a long history of working through peaceful channels to advocate on behalf of women and their babies. We express deep concern for everyone involved and are praying for the safety of those at the Planned Parenthood office and for law enforcement personnel. We pray this tragic situation can be quickly resolved without further injury to anyone..."
Other, more broadly focused Religious Right organizations condemned the Planned Parenthood rampage as well. Focus on the Family president Jim Daly called the shooting "tragic and deplorable" in a November 27th statement.
"Today’s violence at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility, just miles from our ministry headquarters, is tragic and deplorable. It is to be condemned.

“Our hearts break for the families of the three individuals killed, a University of Colorado police officer and two civilians. As a community, we share in their sorrow and in their grief.

“I ask that you please join me in praying for all victims and law enforcement personnel affected by this tragedy."
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins condemned the shooting as "deplorable" in a November 27th statement, urging anti-abortion activists to resist abortion through peaceful means.
"While the investigation into the shooting at the Planned Parenthood center continues, regardless of what the motive is determined to be, we strongly condemn this violence.  As the target of domestic terrorism inspired by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the staff of the Family Research Council empathize with all the victims of this violence.  All of us at the Family Research Council join with the pro-life movement in praying for the injured officers and victims of these deplorable acts.

Only through peaceful means –not violence— can we truly become a nation that once again values all human life, born and unborn ..." 
In a November 27th media statement, Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance insisted that the gunman was not "pro-life" and rejected "vigilante violence" as an anti-abortion strategy.
"There is nothing remotely ‘pro-life’ about vigilante violence against another human being. We do not yet know the motive of the shooter in Colorado Springs, but we are glad he is in custody.

We at Concerned Women for America condemn this heinous behavior and are grieving with those impacted. As a pro-life organization, we are against the taking of any innocent life no matter their age. Our prayers are with the police and others in Colorado."
The Religious Right can play the "no true Scotsman" game all it wants, but the fact remains that its corrosive anti-abortion rhetoric shapes the attitudes of extremists. For years, anti-abortion figures have likened abortion to human sacrifice and the Holocaust, accused abortion providers of serving Satan, harassed clinic staff, and taken part in smear campaigns. By demonizing abortion and reproductive health care providers, anti-abortion activists depict their opponents as both dangerous and fundamentally evil, driving men like the Colorado Springs shooter to take extreme action.

While anti-abortion rhetoric did not cause the Planned Parenthood shooting, it did create a toxic atmosphere in which anti-abortion violence was more likely. As much as the Religious Right recoils from the Colorado Springs rampage, it cannot ignore the role of its language in  fomenting anti-abortion extremism.

In future posts, I'll explore how some political candidates and right-wing commentators have used the Colorado Springs tragedy to mock abortion providers, minimizing the horror of the attack. To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Friendly Atheist: Conservatives Must Acknowledge How Dangerous Their Anti-Abortion Rhetoric Really Is

Love, Joy, Feminism: No True Christian: Robert Dear and Christian Terrorism

The Guardian:  Violent anti-choice rhetoric must end, or anti-abortion violence never will


  1. It is disingenuous. And that is the kind way to say it. The anti-abortion rhetoric of the far right has grown so inflammatory and divisive over the past several years that it is bound to inspire violence, especially from someone who appears to be mentally unstable … and there are many people who fall into that category.

    1. Agi Tater -- I find it hard to believe that they don't understand the connection between anti-abortion violence and their vicious rhetoric. The vitriol of anti-abortion activists over the years has been shocking.

  2. Ah, the smell of mendacity in the morning...


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