As a pro-life leader at the national level, I oppose the shooting of abortion providers as happened for the third time on July 29, 1994.
It bears too much resemblance to abortion itself. The abortion mentality says that death is a solution. It sees killing a child as a way to solve a pregnant woman's problems. The shooting of abortionists also puts forth death as a solution to the problem of abortion. Neither assertion is correct. Neither the solution to a woman's problems nor the solution to abortion comes from a deadly weapon. Furthermore, even if problems were solved by killing people, such killing would still be wrong. We may never do evil that good may come about (see Romans 3:8). The end does not justify the means. That applies to both pro-life and pro-abortion people.
The abortion mentality also holds that some lives are less valuable than others. Thus they say that if it is too burdensome for a woman to bring a child to term, that child's life and rights are less weighty than those of the woman.
This same mentality fuels violence against abortionists. Some may think that the abortionist's life is less valuable because he/she does abortions. It is not. What the abortionist does is evil; his/her life is still precious. We do not eliminate the evil by eliminating people, but rather by calling them to conversion.
Why are people angry that three people were shot on July 29? Presumably, they are angry because human life deserves protection. Violence against human life is an injustice that society cannot tolerate. Precisely. That's the whole point of the pro-life movement. To object to violence against human life precisely proves our point. If a person is truly "pro-choice," he/she would not be angry at the killings, but would rather support the "choice" of one who "in sincere conscience" believed that what he was doing was right. The "choice" mentality is very dangerous. As Mother Teresa asked in Washington, "If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?" (Prayer Breakfast Speech, Washington D.C., 2/3/94).
Only authentic pro-lifers are truly consistent. We reject violence against all human beings, whether in or out of the womb. The authentic "pro-choicer," however, rejects violence against some human beings (those outside the womb), while condoning violence against an entire segment of the population (those within the womb).
The consistency of pro-lifers is reflected in their track record. There have been 22 years of anti-abortion protest since Roe V. Wade, and there were years of protest prior to it as well. Yet in all that time, how many have pulled a trigger? Three persons. And how many victims have there been? Three have died and two have been wounded. Does the infrequency of this make it right? Absolutely not. I repeat, we oppose this violence and mourn these deaths. The point is, if the description of the pro-life movement as violent is true, where is the evidence upon examining the whole track record? Even those who blockade the doors of abortion mills do so under a strict, signed pledge of nonviolence, which reads in part, "I commit to be peaceful, prayerful, and non-violent in both word and deed." In fact, nobody can even be associated with an Operation Rescue event without making this pledge. Those who are arrested are not arrested for violence. They remain totally passive.
But look at the track record of the abortion industry. Since Roe V. Wade, some 30 million innocent babies, almost 100% of them healthy, have been dismembered, crushed, killed and thrown in the garbage. Thirty million. Furthermore, there are hundreds of women who have been killed by so-called "safe and legal" abortions. (I will send a list of names to anyone who wants to speak up for them and mourn their deaths.) Make no mistakes. Their lives were not more valuable than the lives of the abortion providers who were shot. But the point is that if abortion supporters mourn the deaths of those who were shot but are silent about the women and children killed by abortion, they are being hypocritical and inconsistent.
Nor are abortion supporters free of the accusation of violence against pro-lifers. There are over 2,000 documented cases of violence (including fatal violence) by pro-abortion people against pro-lifers. These include destroying vehicles, beating people with baseball bats, and running people over with a truck. You probably never heard of these incidents in the news.
The shooting of abortionists is wrong. It is also unnecessary. We do not need guns to fight abortion. The weapons we have are truth and love: the truth which reveals the dignity of life and the ugliness of abortion, and the love which provides life-giving alternatives to mothers tempted to have abortions. Pro-lifers use these weapons every day, and they work. Statistically, for every 50 hours of one person's pro-life work, a life is saved.
Yet there is much frustration. The truth about abortion is not broadcast on the media. The American public has never seen an abortion procedure on national television. People argue, but have never even seen what they're talking about. The public is not exposed to the harmful, devastating effects of abortion on the woman, as reflected in the 1100 personal testimonies I have on my desk and the abundant research of such organizations as the Elliot Institute. Over two-dozen studies confirm a link between abortion and breast cancer. The truth is not being heard.
The government, furthermore, is against the pro-life movement, and in some instances, passes laws even against peaceful pro-life activities.
Those who provide alternatives to abortion find silence from the media, no cooperation from government, and hostility from so-called "pro-choice" groups who even bring crisis pregnancy helping centers to court and have them fined and closed!
There is much frustration. This does not excuse violence, but it will lead some people to do it. We need an increase in peaceful pro-life action, to help women and to educate the general public. Those who turn to violence have forgotten the power of truth and love. They have forgotten that peaceful, direct action does work. The problem is that too few people are doing this peaceful activity to bring an end to abortion. The inactivity of many good people opens the door to the action of violent people. Again the comment of Edmund Burke is verified: "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing."
I am also saddened by the shooting of abortion providers because I keep thinking of several special people I know who used to provide abortion but have stopped doing so and have repented of their evil deeds. They have turned to God, asked forgiveness, and now speak out against abortion. They could have never had the joy of conversion if they had been shot.
Joy Davis provided abortions for twelve years in Alabama and Mississippi. When she came to see the wrong of her actions, to whom did she turn? She went to the very people who demonstrated in front of the abortion mill. When I asked her why, she told me, "I knew that they know my pain, and really cared about me." It wasn't bullets. It was care.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a leading abortionist turned away from abortion
on scientific grounds. He was an atheist. He no longer is. In a talk in Irvine, California on April 9, 1994, he explained, "Lecturing to pro-life audiences . . . I began to feel an infusion -- and that's the only way I can describe it -- of love and spirituality coming from these audiences, from all of you, into me . . . And gradually the hard shell of atheism began to crack." Love did that, not bullets.
I can cite other examples as well. Joe Scheidler's Pro-Life Action League has regular gatherings of former abortion providers who have seen the light and speak out at these conferences.
All violence is wrong. The response to the July 29 tragedy is not to further protect the abortion industry, but rather to reject all violence, including abortion itself. The response is for America to rise up and bring an end to the 4400 tragedies a day which we call abortion. The response is simply to choose life.
Fr. Frank A. Pavone is the National Director of Priests for Life.
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