Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Violence and the anti-abortion movement

Mississippi's Republican Sen. Roger Wicker spoke to the big anti-abortion protest in Washington this week, as reported by Human Khan and Amy Bingham, Activists at March for Life Rally Demand Tougher Abortion Laws, Overturn of Roe v. Wade ABC News 01/24/2011:

"We are here because Roe v. Wade is bad law. We are here because we believe it was wrongly decided," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. "We believe Roe v. Wade has led to a three-and-a-half decades-long holocaust in the United States of America, and it amounts to a stain on our national conscience, and it's time for it to end."

The last elected official to compare abortion to the holocaust was heavily criticized. In 2007, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told a gathering of conservatives that "we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973."

Most recently, anti-abortion activist Randall Terry launched a 2012 presidential bid in front of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., but received little attention.

Wicker, who for years has attempted to pass his "Life at Conception Act," today announced that he will reintroduce the bill in the Senate Tuesday. The legislation would establish that human life begins at conception and calls for legal protection for fetuses.

"It's time for the 14th Amendment protection to be afforded to the unborn," he said. [my emphasis]
Randall Terry acquired a national reputation as head of the radical-right Operation Rescue. In the early 1990s, he played an important role in promoting the Patriot Militia movement. he has not changed his basic political course since then.

I doubt very seriously that Huckabee is the only elected official who used the abortion-as-Holocaust metaphor since 2007! Because it seems to have become common as dirt among anti-abortion activists and has been for years.

This is a real problem presented by the antiabortion movement. Even apart from the emotionally-charged Holocaust comparison, the "abortion is murder" framing of the issue can't avoid giving validation to people who attack abortion clinics and medical providers. As Vicki Saporta reports in Violent Rhetoric Has Consequences—Just Ask Abortion Providers Women's Media Network 01/21/2011:

While some people purposefully use violent rhetoric to incite others to action in order to advance their own agendas, others do so without considering the consequences of their actions. In a civilized society, there is no room for political rhetoric or imagery that encourages and incites others to commit acts of violence. Those in politics and the media have a responsibility to use their influence to foster civil dialogue and debate.
Ed Kilgore wrote about this aspect of the antiabortion movement last year in Abortion and the Tea Party The New Republic 09/16/2010:

Perhaps because the national media tend to be secular, we are persistently underestimating the role that abortion plays in right-wing politics.

... it is worth remembering that the RTL [right-to-life] movement considers abortion analogous to the Holocaust, and pro-choice pols to be enablers of monstrous evil—at worst conscious advocates of genocide.

... For all the endless and interminable talk about "constitutionalism" on the right, it's rarely acknowledged that lurking in the background is wrath about Roe v. Wade. The same is true with the rage about health care reform; if you read a lot of right-wing blogs, as I do, you'd note that fear about Obamacare producing a massive expansion of publicly-funded abortion was a major motivator of right-wing opposition.

More generally, the anger associated with the entire Tea Party movement is, I suspect, traceable among many activists to endless frustration of its desire to end the "genocide" of legalized abortion, to which the GOP "establishment" has given little more than lip service. [my emphasis]
There are alternative ways that the antiabortionists could frame the issue. But they're not likely to listen directly to my suggestions.

Still, as long as they present abortion as "murder" and even as a Holocaust against innocent babies, as long as they attack abortion providers and counselors as "baby-killers", that rhetoric will encourage the more violent and fanatical in their circles of influence to follow the examples of Dr. George Tiller's assailants by Shelley Shannon and Scott Roeder. That would be the man that Bill O'Reilly called "Tiller the Baby-Killer" on his FOX News show.

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