The Myth of “Pro-Abortion Violence”
by Joyce Arthur (copyright © April 2003)
The Internet is rife with anti-abortion sites proclaiming an "epidemic of pro-abortion violence,” alleged crimes committed by abortion providers and other pro-choicers. Apparently, incidents of “pro-abortion violence” outnumber incidents of anti-choice violence by an astounding margin of 314 to 6! What are we to make of this bizarre claim, which much to the annoyance of its purveyors, has been completely ignored by the mainstream media.
As might be expected, there's actually a kernel of truth underneath the claim, thereby giving free rein to anti-choicers to hugely exaggerate and distort the facts in order to serve their political agenda.
It’s actually not that uncommon for patients’ companions, passers-by, or even clinic staff or volunteers to end up in physical altercations with anti-choice protesters outside abortion clinics. By their very nature, anti-choice protests tend to be confrontational and offensive, and heated verbal exchanges sometimes break out. Accessing abortion services is a very private matter, and most people are understandably frightened or angered when they experience protesters interfering in their private lives. Common actions of protesters include taunting or slandering clinic staff and volunteers, taking pictures of patients and staff, accosting patients, blocking or limiting their path, shouting or screaming at them, thrusting unwanted literature in their faces, preaching or reading the Bible to them, and loudly judging them—all on public sidewalks. Of course, many protesters don’t “accost” people at all. They just stand there holding signs with hurtful and inflammatory slogans, and lurid posters of aborted fetuses and other grotesque images (such as genocide pictures)— in full view of traumatized patients and shocked and outraged passers-by, including children.
Faced with such rudeness and gross invasion of privacy, emotions can run high for people entering abortion clinics, setting the stage for a possible escalation to violence. But assault is assault, regardless of provocation. If clients and the public are not shielded from confrontational anti-choice protests, people can get hurt when tempers are lost and ordinary pro-choice "people-in-the-street" risk having serious criminal charges filed against them. Ironically, since the protesters invite the safety risk to themselves and others, and generally refuse to mitigate it, clinic staff and volunteers are forced into the difficult position of having to protect the protesters, as well as protecting everyone else (while steeling themselves) from the emotional upset and any impulsive reaction that may accompany it.
Any resulting “pro-choice violence” actually benefits anti-choicers because it enables them to portray themselves as martyrs and victims, and paint pro-choicers as the evil vicious ones. This is a pious fraud of course. A predictable anti-choice practice is to try and press criminal assault or harassment charges whenever a clinic staff member or volunteer so much as touches a protester (e.g., by brushing past him). This occurs not infrequently at U.S. clinics and in Canada as well—last autumn for example, a female protester at the Morgentaler clinic in New Brunswick called police to report harassment after an escort "accidentally almost touched her" (a clinic staffer's words) when the protester tried to hand a brochure to the patient.
Whenever someone physically interacts with a protester in any way, accidental or not, the anti-choice movement exploits it for PR value, publicizing it as yet another example of "pro-abortion violence." The incident gets added to their lists of thousands of "crimes" (see footnote) that may have been committed somewhere against somebody by people who happen to be pro-choice. In other words, most of the items listed don't relate to the abortion issue at all and were not even done to anti-choicers. Be assured that when the pro-choice community puts together its own lists of anti-choice terrorism, it does not tally every right-wing wife-beater, pedophile priest, and conservative shoplifter. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop anti-choicers from comparing the rates of actual anti-choice terrorism to their wildly inflated rates of “pro-abortion violence” and concluding that pro-choicers are (gasp) far more violent than anti-choicers.
Although the lists do include alleged violent crimes against anti-choicers, many other listed "crimes" are simply abortion complications! Some other examples of alleged “pro-abortion violence” include cases of medical malpractice, flashing bare breasts to anti-choice demonstrators, defacing churches with graffiti, being anti-Semitic, and getting caught at an airport with sado-masochistic magazines.
Finally, the reliability and accuracy of the vast majority of the listed incidents are extremely dubious, especially considering the political agenda behind their compilation. Most items are very brief, are not sourced adequately or at all, and are often only alleged, rendering them worthless as objective data.
The terrorism carried out by anti-choice extremists against abortion providers has no similarity to alleged “pro-abortion violence.” Terrorism is pre-meditated violence, motivated by hate, specifically targeted to one group, and designed to instill fear into the targeted group. In contrast, the trumped-up lists of “pro-abortion violence” represent a feeble and desperate attempt to whitewash anti-choice terrorism. It’s no wonder the mainstream media ignores such pathetic propaganda.