Ever since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe vs. Wade legalizing abortion, conservative Republicans especially evangelical Christians, have practically dominated right-wing media about their commitment to pro-life values. They claim that they are so interested in preserving life they are willing to do everything in their power to overturn or at least neutralize the legal effects of Roe v. Wade. In fact, some even use the 6th Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” to demonstrate their unwavering loyalty to the pro-life agenda. But, are these conservative Republicans really committed to preserving the sanctity of life, or are they speaking with a “forked tongue?” To answer that question, let’s examine the record.
Anti-abortion violence (or pro-life violence) is violence committed against individuals and organizations that provide abortion. Incidents of violence have included destruction of property in the form of vandalism; crimes against people including kidnapping, stalking, assault, arson, bombings, attempted murder and murder. While most of these incidents are stunning, this article will focus on attempted murder and murder by right-wing radical conservatives.
From mid 1984 to mid 1994, Pensacola, Florida, was a focal point for anti abortion crime. For example, in March 1993, Michael Griffin assassinated Dr. David Gunn outside an abortion clinic. Griffin was convicted and given a life sentence. In July 1994, Paul Hill, a former Presbyterian minister and leader in Defensive Action, assassinated a physician and bodyguard outside an abortion clinic. He also wounded the wife of the bodyguard. He was sentenced to both life imprisonment on federal charges, and execution on state charges. The Defensive Action sponsored by the Army of God, a right-wing, religious extreme group of pastors, has the following statement on its website:
“We, the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all godly action necessary to defend innocent human life including the use of force. We proclaim that whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child. We assert that if Michael Griffin did in fact kill David Gunn, his use of lethal force was justifiable provided it was carried out for the purpose of defending the lives of unborn children. Therefore, he ought to be acquitted of the charges against him.”
In July 1995, Paul Hill, a Presbyterian minister and then owner of the Army of God website, shot and killed Dr. John Britton, the physician taking Dr. David Gunn’s place, as well as James Barrett, Dr. Britton’s armed security escort. Paul Hill was executed on September 3rd, 2003 at Florida State Prison.
Dr. George Richard Tiller was a physician from Wichita, Kansas, and gained national attention as the medical director of Women’s Health Care Services, one of only three nationwide clinics that provided late term abortions. During his tenure with the center, which began in 1975, continuing the medical practice of his father, Tiller was frequently targeted with protest and violence by anti abortion groups and individuals. After his clinic was firebombed in 1986, Tiller was shot in both arms by anti-abortion activist Shelley Shannon in 1993. On May 31, 2009, Tiller was shot through the eye and killed by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, as Dr. Tiller served as an usher during the Sunday morning service at his church in Wichita. Roeder was convicted of murder on January 29, 2010, and given the maximum penalty allowed under Kansas state law.
Recently in Des Moines, Iowa, David Leach stated publically that, “It will be a blessing to the babies” if someone shoots the people who recently reopened a Kansas abortion clinic. Leach posted the comments on YouTube and includes a recorded phone conversation he had with Scott Roeder. Leach has previously suggested that other men were justified in killing other abortion providers. He notes in the video that Tiller’s old clinic was recently reopened by a new abortion agency. “If someone would shoot the new abortionists, like Scott shot George Tiller, hardly anyone will appreciate it but the babies,” he says. “It will be a blessing to the babies. Everyone else will panic.”
Leach is an Iowa anti-abortion activist and publisher of the extremist newsletter Prayer & Action News and web site The Partnership Machine. His publications support the doctrine of justifiable homicide for abortion doctors, the same doctrine cited by Prayer & Action News subscriber and contributor Scott Roeder. Prior to the assassination of Dr. Tiller, Leach reprinted the Army of God manual, which lists ways to damage abortion buildings from putting super glue in locks to two simple bomb recipes, in the January 1996 issue of his magazine. The manual had previously been published only anonymously and mailed anonymously to pro-life leaders and news reporters. Leach’s reprint was the first printing that was not anonymous.
Consistent with this radical justifiable homicide theory, a law under consideration in South Dakota in February 2011 would make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation passed House Bill 1171 out of committee on a nine to three party-line vote. No final action has been taken on this bill at this writing.
The sixth Commandment states specifically that “thou shall not kill” and does not contain any exceptions as some conservative Republicans suggest. The position they take is that life of an unborn fetus is much more important than the life of an individual and is consistent with God’s Commandment. In addition, this extreme right wing component of the Republican Party not only rejects established law including the decision of the highest court in the land, but even assesses a guilty verdict and death punishment on individuals without “trial by jury.” Remember, this is a party that publicly embraces the Constitution while completely ignoring the Sixth Amendment that sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions. Moreover, the Supreme Court has consistently applied the protections of this Amendment to the states through the due process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.
I believe that it would be unconscionable for this radical constituency to honor the provision of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. That phrase exemplifies the “unalienable rights” with which human beings are endowed by their creator. It is apparent to me that the wing-nut element of the conservative Republicans many of them say that they are “Christians,” are not “pro life” but “pro death” when it comes to implementing their radical agenda, but that’s just my take.