Playing with Murder

An anti-abortion siege is under way in Albuquerque, and activists there are using tactics and rhetoric we’ve heard before — tactics and rhetoric that have a marked history of getting abortion providers killed. I’m detailing the pro-life strategy of violence in Salon:

That is the anti-abortion ecosystem. It gives the more mainstream players plausible deniability when violence occurs, while allowing the radical actors to keep pro-choice activists and clinic workers in a state of fear. It’s a multi-pronged onslaught that dismantles abortion rights and terrorizes providers out of working. It’s not a handful of crazies shooting doctors, bombing clinics and blocking health care access. Shooting doctors, bombing clinics and blocking health care access are all necessary parts of the bigger picture.

Wichita is a good example. The Summer of Mercy brought out pro-lifers en masse, and a lot of them never left. Doctors were genocidal Nazis guilty of crimes against humanity. Wichita was “Auschwichita.” In 2003, Operation Rescue moved their headquarters there to continue the assault. Today, Operation Rescue operates out of a building owned by the group “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.”

Dr. George Tiller’s clinic was the primary target of the Summer of Mercy; two years later, he was shot. His clinic was picketed by anti-abortion protesters for the next decade and a half. He was listed on anti-abortion groups’ “most wanted” lists. In 2005, Kansas’s anti-abortion attorney general Phill Kline began investigating Dr. Tiller, eventually charging him with 30 misdemeanors; they were all thrown out by a judge. Kline’s successor filed 19 more charges, of which Dr. Tiller was universally acquitted. Operation Rescue and its policy director (and convicted felon) Cheryl Sullenger followed the case closely, giving information about it to anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder. Kline’s investigation of Dr. Tiller was so overly-zealous and politically-motivated that Kline was tried before a Kansas Supreme Court ethics panel, and a disciplinary panel recommended he lose his license to practice law because of his “dishonest and selfish” actions. Dr. Tiller was also the subject of 28 segments on the right-wing television show The O’Reilly Factor, with Phill Kline as an occasional guest, where Dr. Tiller was repeatedly referred to as “Tiller the Baby Killer.” U.S. Representative Robert Dornan also used the phrase “Tiller the Baby Killer” on the floor of Congress.

In 2009, Scott Roeder gunned down Dr. Tiller in church. Cheryl Sullenger’s phone number was found on the dashboard of his car. The same anti-abortion groups that compared Tiller to a mass murderer and complained that the U.S. legal system wouldn’t prosecute him quickly wrote his murder off as “vigilantism.” Bill O’Reilly said that Dr. Tiller’s murder should be condemned, but added that “Every single thing we said about Tiller was true, and my analysis was based on those facts.” Robert Dornan, having lost re-election, went on to work at the American Life League, one of the largest pro-life organizations in the United States. Sullenger and Operation Rescue went after Tiller’s successor, Dr. Ann Neuhaus, exploiting a loophole in Kansas law that allows anyone to file a complaint against a doctor; they nearly bankrupted her.

With lessons learned from Wichita, Sullenger, Operation Rescue, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust and a variety of other pro-life groups are now in Albuquerque. They’re picketing at Albuquerque’s Holocaust Museum, demanding that it add an exhibit dedicated to American genocide (no, not the real one). They’re calling Albuquerque “America’s Auschwitz.”

Just as they did with Tiller and other assassinated abortion providers in advance of their murders, activists are passing out fliers with the faces of Albuquerque abortion providers on them, with the text “Killers Among Us.” Naturally, these activists deny they’re courting violence.

But here’s the thing: If anti-abortion groups actually believe what they say, then vigilante violence is a logical response. How many of us wish that someone would have taken Hitler out when they had the chance? Would many people argue that it would be wrong for private citizens to off Nazis, especially given that the German government supported them and they committed their crimes legally?

The full piece is here.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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7 Responses to Playing with Murder

  1. Lolagirl says:

    Great piece, Jill. The truth needs to be told about what anti-choice groups like Operation Rescue are really all about with these tactics. And it isn’t old school proseletyzing or grass roots activism they are on about, bottom line.

    • Bagelsan says:

      Which is why them calling it “using our First Amendment rights!!1″ is particularly noxious and dishonest; they’re trying to terrify and subdue an entire population with threats of violence. That’s not “speech” in my book, and I don’t think they’d be satisfied with just plain speech anyways. When they’re asked to back away from terrorist tactics they know that they’ll lose the debate, so they stick with violence (not reason or persuasion) to achieve their ends.

      • matlun says:

        Well, it is clearly speech and it is a free speech issue. However…

        There are reasons that many countries have hate speech laws in one form or another. Even in the US for example speech that incites a crime and true threats are illegal (AFAIK – IANAL), and there are other exceptions such as .

        In other words: Saying it is a “free speech issue” does not end the discussion. Some limitations on free speech are justified.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Oh, goody, the terrorism thing! Again!

        Ambliwhateverhescallinghimself may have tried to paint me into a corner of supposed ignorance as to how the First Aendment and hate speech works, but that was all smoke and mirrors. Because the Courts have never, ever decreed that all speech is free speech, especially when it involves fighting words and words intended to foment violence. There are limits and conditions upon one’s freedom from the government regulating one’s speech. And once one use their words to plan stuff like violence, arson, or murder, the First Amendment stops providing one shelter to say whatever one wants.

        There is plenty of evidence that groups like Operation Rescue have engaged in activities like racketeering, conspiracies to commit arson and violence, cold blooded murder, and yes, even terrorism. We Americans need to stop making excuses for terrorism under the guise of expressing Christian outrage over abortion or anything else, because it’s flat out bullshit apologism.

      • Bagelsan says:

        If they were only “speaking” then I’d have no problem with it. But when they combine this speaking with murdering… it’s a whole ‘nother issue. The violence is the problem, not the peripheral bits of talking they do to justify and cover for said violence.

      • Lolagirl says:

        And you know, Bagelsan, they try to parse their bullshit in such a way that they can then argue that it was all talk. But going down the road of, someone needs to take out these abortion doctors, and here are their names and addresses, and their daily movements, and by the way here is the make, model, and license plate number of their car, and if only someone could get them alone when they go to church next Sunday between the hours of 11am and 12pm? Yeah, that’s longer just talking, or trash talking, or whatever.

        It’s planning a fucking murder.

        And systematically going about terrorizing a group of people, targeted for their profession, or even because you disagree with them exercising their Constitutionional right to have an abortion, with threats to their physical safety on a daily basis? That might just qualify as terrorism.

  2. sb says:

    Stochastic terrorism at its worst. Ugh.

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