People in the anti-abortion camp need to borrow a page from the pro-Confederate flag folks and realize that their inflammatory symbols and rhetoric have devastating consequences.
That was the case Friday when a gunman at a Planned Parenthood women’s clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., opened fire, killing three persons and wounding nine others. The suspect, who was taken into custody, was 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear. After he was arrested he said “no more baby parts.”
The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood provides health services for women, including abortions.
Anti-abortion activists in July in another city released so-called undercover videos, which people opposed to abortions say show Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating for the sale of fetal organs.
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Planned Parenthood refutes the allegation. However, the symbolism surrounding the tapes on the Internet and picked up by some news media in addition to the rhetoric and charges, though untrue, have been used by some Republican candidates running for president in 2016.
The controversy also has resulted in debate in the House and Senate over legislation to cut Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. Anti-abortion conservatives want Republicans in Congress to force a government shutdown over the issue. The Republican-controlled Congress must act before Dec. 11 on whether to keep the government open.
The political dysfunction, however, has profound and fatal consequences when combined with hate and mental instability. Dear was reported to be a recluse who avoided eye contact, hid food in the woods, warned neighbors about government spying and handed out literature against President Barack Obama.
Hate-filled, incendiary language does nothing but fuel more terrible actions with horrible consequences. That’s why authorities in South Carolina after decades of resisting efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state Capitol gave in this summer after a 21-year-old white gunman who had been pictured with the Stars and Bars entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17 in Charleston, S.C., and gunned down nine African American parishioners inside.
People throughout the country had resisted connecting the Confederate battle flag to racism and hatred for African Americans until then. They had embraced the offensive flag as a symbol of their history and heritage until the gunman, now charged in the deaths of innocent people, blew up that myth. The Confederate battle flag as a result has come down in other places.
People in the anti-abortion camp need to learn from that Confederate battle flag example and understand that the terrible words they use against Planned Parenthood have irreversible, unforgivable consequences. Among them were the persons killed in the Friday senseless assault.
Those who were killed were police officer Garrett Swasey and two civilians, Ke'Arre M. Stewart, a 29-year-old former soldier and Iraq war veteran, and Jennifer Markovsky, 36, a mother of two who was married to an Army veteran. Imagine surviving Iraq only to be slain at home.
Sam Keen co-produced the award-winning, mid-1980s PBS documentary “Faces of the Enemy.” He notes that vitriolic words first create the enemy. “The enemy is always a demon, the aggressor without regret,” the film says.
That is how the anti-abortion people have depicted Planned Parenthood. We’ve seen this happen before — closer to home — with Scott Roeder of Merriam gunning down Wichita abortion provider George Tiller inside Reformation Lutheran Church on May 31, 2009.
That case came up again this year, involving issues over sentencing in Roeder’s first-degree murder conviction. Fortunately he will be subject to a “hard 50” sentence when he is resentenced.
What’s clear is that the problem over abortion, a legal procedure, will continue to recur unless politicians and others tone down their foul language, which incites some to violence.