On Friday, a man armed with a long gun and several propane tanks* killed three people and injured nine more at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. The shooting guy** said to police, “No more baby parts,” and made rambling, hostile comments about Planned Parenthood, which we can only assume are unrelated to the Planned Parenthood clinic he was shooting up. Indeed, we have absolutely no idea why he committed this horrific crime, and we may never know.
In all seriousness, even if Robert Dear’s motive, in the end, actually were to prove unconnected to Planned Parenthood, the fact remains that workers at Planned Parenthood clinics and other clinics like it are under ongoing threat. (On Twitter, @ClinicEscort has collected 100 threats, bombings, incidents of arson, shootings, stabbings, and acid attacks against Planned Parenthood and other abortion-providing women’s health facilities. I suppose we can argue that motives for the not-terrorists yelling things like “Don’t kill any more babies!” remain unclear.) At the Guardian, Jessica Valenti outlines how violent “pro-life” rhetoric leads to incidents like this one.
Words matter. When we dehumanize people — when we call them demons, monsters, and murderers — we make it easier for others to do them harm. Let’s not pretend that we don’t know that.
How we talk about abortion matters. We know it, and anti-choice extremists and politicians know it. Anti-abortion activists are not making WANTED posters or revealing doctor’s addresses for fun. They’re doing it to harass and intimidate, and they’re doing it knowing the long history of violent fanatics using their rhetoric to justify crimes against providers and clinics.
When people describe abortion as a holocaust, the person who blows up an abortion clinic becomes a hero. When an abortion provider is called a murderer, a baby-killer, the person who kills them is doing so in the righteous defense of the innocent. In his attack on the Colorado clinic, Dear killed three adults and left six children without a parent — but those lives are just collateral when heroic radical “pro-life” guardians of the pre-born are doing so at any cost.
In the last six months, Planned Parenthood has been assailed with unsubstantiated accusations that in providing fetal tissue to researchers, they’re actually “selling baby parts” for a profit. Misleadingly edited hidden-camera videos purport to support these accusations by carefully removing clear evidence that such sales are simply not happening, and others cobble together stock footage to characterize Planned Parenthood as the kind of gruesome, savage organization that a self-appointed (or other-appointed) champion for good would be justified in firebombing. Or shooting up in the name of “no more baby parts.” Because Planned Parenthood is the monster.
No medical professional should be taking their life into their hands just by showing up for work in the morning. But then, there aren’t rogues galleries of cardiologists and dental hygienists with photos and home addresses putting them in the literal crosshairs. It’s time to stop pretending, to the extent that people ever did, that murderers-monsters-butchers-demons is just harmless characterization for dramatic effect. Not when the “murderers” are getting murdered themselves. Not when the “pro-lifers” who strongly, strongly — like, really strongly — condemn shootings and bombings can’t be bothered to take a sip of water before echoing and reinforcing the inflammatory sentiments of the ones with the rifles and the propane tanks.
Y’know. For whatever reason.
*who is almost certainly just a shooter or a gunman and not a terrorist
**who was a 57-year-old, armed white guy who wounded five police officers and actually killed one and is now alive and in custody