Shelley Shannon was correctly labeled a terrorist by the federal judge who sentenced her for firebombing abortion clinics in the 1990s.
Shannon is a free woman again, having been released this week from prison after serving 25 years. Pray that she doesn’t go back to terrorism.
Shannon is a rabid activist, the type federal authorities had in mind when they passed a law to keep people from chaining themselves to clinics to prevent women from accessing them.
Shannon believes in the justifiable homicide of those involved in abortions, to keep them from killing babies. Yes, I am against abortion, but I am also against the type of self-righteous twisting of the Bible by people like Shannon who believe they are soldiers of God.
It’s how she rationalized shooting the infamous Kansas abortionist George Tiller, wounding him in the arms years before Scott Roeder — who visited and befriended Shannon in prison — shot and killed Tiller in 2009.
While Shannon was locked up, abortion in America underwent profound changes: Abortion rates are lower, and more restrictive laws have been enacted. Between 2010 and 2016, states passed nearly 340 new abortion restrictions.
Iowa just passed the strictest law ever on abortion, outlawing it after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks. The law is both an attempt to rile up voters for the midterms and a route to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The Trump administration is weighing in, too. It just announced the “domestic gag rule” taking Title X federal family planning funding from clinics if they merely mention abortion.
That’s extreme, the type of move that can wind up undercutting one of the reasons that abortion rates are dropping: better access to contraception.
One has to wonder if making it harder to get contraceptives is intentional. If so, expect consequences.
After all, the abortion rate declined 25 percent between 2008 and 2014, with fewer occurring among all demographic groups, including for the first time in two decades among very poor women.
You might think that all the legislative victories restricting abortion would have placated the extremists, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The kinds of violence and criminal acts that Shannon engaged in have spread along the fringes.
Death threats made to abortion providers nearly doubled between 2016 and 2017, from 33 to 62, according to data compiled by the National Abortion Federation. Trespassing more than tripled. Incidents of people obstructing the business of clinics grew from 580 to more than 1,700. And more than 78,000 incidents of picketing were recorded in 2017.
Harassing comments are being noted, not for increasing frequency but for becoming more personal and graphic, such as the YouTube user who said of abortion doctors, “They should be dragged until nothing is left of them but a red stripe along the highway.”
The Midwest has long been a hotbed for such activity. The Summer of Mercy, which launched Shannon into prominence, saw more than 2,600 arrested in Wichita in 1991. Overland Park will host the National Right to Life convention in late June, and it’s a good bet that these issues will be debated.
At least one can hope, because it’s dangerous not to see the full scope of what is occurring with abortion in America. You can cheer fewer abortions but remain highly conscious of those who will stop at nothing, not even the murder of doctors and other violence, in the cause of “life.”
America is faced with a choice when it comes to contentious issues like this. We can either fight for convictions peacefully, through legislatures and at the ballot box, or go the route of Shannon. It’s really not much of a choice.
The nation appears to be moving along both continuums, and it’s time that the pro-life movement and federal officials begin to take notice.