Choice News

Friday Femorandum: The Fallout

One week ago, anti-choice evangelical, clinic vandal, and domestic abuser Robert Lewis Dear entered a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and started shooting, ultimately killing three people and injuring nine others. All week, commentators, politicians, and both sides of the abortion “debate” have been trying to explain what the shooting means, at times in ways that reflect their individual agendas. Here’s a by-no-means-complete roundup of the editorial and political fallout from last week’s shooting, as well as some of the latest news out of Colorado.

Before we get to the analysis, let’s take a moment to appreciate the clarity of this widely-distributed New York Daily News cover, a response to all the anti-choice politicians who responded to the shooting by suggesting not compr
ehensive gun regulations or a rational response to domestic terrorism, but “thoughts and prayers”:Front page of the New York Daily News for December 3, 2015 about mass shooting in San Bernardino, California - GOD ISN'T FIXING THIS

Mother Jones, the New York Times, and Salon all have roundups documenting the history of attacks on women’s health clinics over the years, which demonstrate a disturbing pattern of escalation that coincides with the escalation in anti-choice rhetoric after the release of the fraudulent Center for Medical Progress videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal body parts. (Planned Parenthood has been cleared of any wrongdoing in all the states that launched investigations after the videos were release in July, including, this past week, Florida.)

“In the four months following the release of the videos, there have been at least foursuspected arsons that targeted abortion clinics, compared with just one in all of 2014 and none in 2013,” Mother Jones reports. “There have been at least five cases of vandalism since August. In comparison, there were 12 total cases of clinic vandalism in all of 2014 and just five cases in 2013.”

And this, from Slate: “Dear’s killing spree does not invalidate criticism of Planned Parenthood. (Though I’d argue that most of the criticism is invalid for other reasons.) But it defies common sense to insist that there is no connection between political rhetoric and political violence—to insist, essentially, that there is no such thing as incitement—particularly when there is a history of anti-abortion murder that goes back more than 20 years.”

At the New Statesman, Laurie Penny explains why the “lone wolf” narrative is nonsensical, and says the real problem is not “just that a forced-birth fanatic attacked a clinic, but that abortion providers across America are obliged to work as if they might, at any time, be attacked by forced-birth fanatics whose right to own a small arsenal of firearms is protected by Congress.” We couldn’t have said it better.

ThinkProgress contributing editor Igor Volsky got tired of listening to politicians’ calls for “prayers” instead of action, and became an instant Internet phenomenon when he started retweeting their prayerful tweets, alongside the exact amount of money they had received from the NRA and other relevant information. The Observer reports on the overwhelming (and largely positive) response to Volsky’s hypocrisy-unmasking tweets.



The AP and Elle Magazine‘s Rachel Sklar published excellent primers on what constitutes domestic terrorism, and why Dear’s actions might meet the criteria.

[W]e didn’t need a statement from the shooter to classify this as domestic terrorism. Nor did we need to know that Dylann Roof had written a manifesto, met with white supremacist groups, or posed with the Confederate flag, though those facts are surely probative,” Sklar writes. “We don’t need to build a case or write impassioned articles. It’s actually a very simple test.”

At Cosmopolitan, Jill Filipovic lays out how violent anti-choice rhetoric became mainstream among “pro-life” activists and politicians, many of whom now feel comfortable comparing abortion to the Holocaust and Planned Parenthood to Nazi eugenicists, and points out the direct line between that rhetoric and violent attacks on abortion providers:

These folks tell us abortion providers generally, and Planned Parenthood specifically, are brutal genocidal killers that must be stopped. They tell us abortion — a procedure that is legal and centuries-old, that has brought with its legality unprecedented freedoms and advances for women, that is a standard and necessary part of women’s health care — is evil, selfish, murderous. They tell us that the people who perform abortions are monsters. 

And then they act surprised when someone picks up a gun and decides to try to stop them. 


Widening the lens a little, Rebecca Traister, at New York magazine, wonders if abortion rights can become a winning issue for Democrats in the wake of the recent escalation in clinic violence. With the Supreme Court taking up a law in Texas that could force the closure of all but ten abortion clinics in the state, Traister writes, “at least some on the long-ambivalent left have decided that fighting for better access to abortion is an issue on which they can actually win.”

Let’s hope so.


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