‘Inflammatory’ pro-life rhetoric: Sometimes telling ugly truths is necessary

Given the Planned Parenthood shooter’s recent outbursts in court, declaring himself to be “a warrior for the babies” among other references to abortion, it seems clear that Robert Dear was motivated at least in part by specific animus toward the abortion provider he targeted. Of course, his mental instability suggests that analyzing his motivation in logical and linear terms may be giving him too much credit, but whatever mental process led him to that Planned Parenthood office was probably informed by anti-abortion rhetoric. Which raises a tough question: Were those whose words probably influenced Dear’s actions in any way responsible for those actions?

The aftermath of the shooting has seen a flood of condemnation for “deeply irresponsible” pro-life rhetoric which is blamed for all of the relatively rare attacks against abortion providers in recent decades. Because the pro-life movement calls the abortion industry evil, the reasoning goes, they are collectively responsible whenever someone decides to fight the evil of abortion with the evil of extrajudicial violence. Though the pro-life movement consistently denounces violence against abortion providers, many on the left argue that pro-lifers should still be held accountable for the choices of those who may have been influenced by their condemnation of abortion.

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If #ShoutYourAbortion wants to talk about it…

The campaign to defund PP “relies on the assumption that abortion is to be whispered about.” #ShoutYourAbortion

On Saturday, a tweet from writer Lindy West created the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag to encourage women to talk about their abortions. Her hope was that open conversation would help to overcome the stigma of abortion. As she explained in an article in The Guardian,

The fact that even progressive, outspoken, pro-choice feminists feel the pressure to keep our abortions under wraps – to speak about them only in corners, in murmurs, in private with our closest confidantes – means that opponents of abortion get to define it however suits them best. They can cast those of us who have had abortions as callous monstrosities, and seed fear in anyone who might need one by insisting that the procedure is always traumatic, always painful, always an impossible decision. Well, we’re not, and it’s not. The truth is that life is unfathomably complex, people with uteruses own their bodies unconditionally, and every abortion story is as unique as the person who lives it.

My opposition to abortion stems from concern for the people within uteruses–the children for whom the idea of “living” an abortion story is sickly ironic. But while I am appalled by Ms. West’s sentiments, I do agree with one of her opening observations: “Not talking about our personal experiences with abortion wasn’t conscious.” No, the extreme reluctance of almost everyone on the pro-choice side to actually talk about what abortion is and does, as illustrated by the media’s allergic reaction to the recent Planned Parenthood undercover videos, is not at all “conscious.” If Ms. West wants to start a conversation about abortion, I am all for it.

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