Upon hearing about the tragic shootings in Colorado Springs, I issued a statement on behalf of various pro-life leaders saying that because we do not yet know the motives for this violence, we should not jump to conclusions that it had to do with opposition to Planned Parenthood or abortion.
But for the abortion industry, that doesn’t seem to matter, nor has it ever mattered.
The statement issued by Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, likewise pointed out that the motives of the action are yet unknown. But her statement went on to say, "We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country."
So who are these “extremists” and how are they “creating a poisonous environment?”
All life is interconnected, and all respect for life is interconnected. Allowing child-killing as a solution to a problem only makes it easier to think that ending the life of an adult can solve a problem. That’s the poison to our moral and legal environment.
Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), was more explicit in her statement to blame the pro-life movement for Friday’s incident, stating, “Although anti-abortion groups may condemn this type of violence when it happens, the way that they target and demonize providers contributes to a culture where some feel it is justifiable to murder doctors.”
We’ve been down this road before. In the first few years of my work as a national leader in the pro-life movement, in the early 1990’s, several shootings took place at abortion facilities by people who were in fact trying to stop abortions. The pro-life leaders unanimously and swiftly condemned each and every one of these acts of violence.
But never was this enough for the abortion advocates. Sure, we didn’t pull the trigger or advise others to do so, they acknowledged. But we created a “climate of violence” by our “extreme rhetoric,” calling abortion “child killing.” I have been on the receiving end of such criticism myself, when in 2001, various abortion groups in New York held a rally against me and National Right to Life when that organization gave me their annual award at the Waldorf Astoria. The charge: I promoted violence through my aggressive rhetoric against abortion, and National Right to Life was only encouraging me.
After the murder of abortionist George Tiller in 2009, Ellen Goodman wrote an editorial called “The Myth of the Lone Shooter.” She repeats the standard line of the abortion industry: “The pro-life community reacted with shock ... No doubt. But …were they also shocked by the everyday mainstream rhetoric that casually refers to abortion as murder?”
Though this response is characteristic of the abortion lobby, it didn’t originate with them. It is seen also in the letter that eight clergymen wrote to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. complaining about his protest activity and the tension it was creating. Dr. King responded as follows in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail":
“In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God -consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the Federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.”
We in the pro-life movement do not apologize for the tension created by the abortion controversy, nor for speaking the truth, which various abortionists also speak, that abortion is in fact the killing of a child. And we go one step further. We point out that it is not those who want to protect human life who are “creating a poisonous environment.” Rather, it is precisely those who say that sometimes killing the innocent is the solution to a problem. They weaken the moral fabric of a civilization based on the principle that the innocent must always be protected.
Nor are we alone in that assertion. At her speech to the National Prayer Breakfast on February 3, 1994, Mother Teresa of Calcutta challenged abortion supporters, and the whole nation by asking, "If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?"
The Planned Parenthood statement quoted above uses the word “environment,” and we are reminded of Pope Francis, who in his recent encyclical on the environment pointed out, “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?” (n. 120)
Indeed, all life is interconnected, and all respect for life is interconnected. Allowing child-killing as a solution to a problem only makes it easier to think that ending the life of an adult can solve a problem. That’s the poison to our moral and legal environment.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a leading abortionist and founder of the abortion industry, turned away from abortion on scientific grounds. He was an atheist, but eventually became a Catholic.
I was privileged to accompany him on that journey. At a talk I moderated at a conference in California on April 9, 1994, he explained, "Lecturing to pro-life audiences . . . I began to feel an infusion -- and that's the only way I can describe it -- of love and spirituality coming from these audiences, from all of you, into me . . . And gradually the hard shell of atheism began to crack."
That was one of the greatest tributes that pro-life activists have ever been given. Those activists continue to endure the rash judgment and slander of the leaders of the abortion industry today. But that’s because they have not come to know us like their founder did.
Father Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life and Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. He is president of the National Pro-life Religious Council and Pastoral Director for Rachel's Vineyard, the world's largest ministry of healing after abortion. He travels throughout the country, to an average of four states every week, preaching and teaching against abortion.