Right to Life

Ambulances wait to be directed near intersection of Centennial and Fillmore near a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27,
Ambulances wait to be directed near intersection of Centennial and Fillmore near a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. A gunman opened fire at the clinic on Friday, authorities said, wounding multiple people. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Another terrorist on the loose, another mass shooting. Seemingly another religious extremist who thinks he knows what God wants done, and picks up a gun to do it. Only this time, it's an American and the religious extremist is most likely a right-wing Christian. And the shooter had help. He had help from an entire movement that has carelessly labeled abortion as "murder" and "baby-killing." Killing abortion providers flows logically from the moment you call abortion "murder" and this labeling has to stop. Now.

Am I a Christian? You bet. Have I read the Bible? Many times, and carefully. Graduated from Yale Divinity School with a Masters in Divinity. Ordained in the ministry in 1982, in the United Church of Christ. Still an active member of the church. Jesus never said a word about abortion, and the only way anti-choice activists twist the Bible to their side is to take a few lines from a Psalm or a few words about "spilling seed" out of context. There are entire books debunking the pro-life movement as resting on shaky theological grounds, so I won't waste time recapping all the arguments here.

The political reality is this: the Republican Party into the 1960s was not against abortion, and many Republicans, including Barbara Bush, were on the boards of their local Planned Parenthood groups. But after Roe v. Wade, condemning abortion became a convenient way to get votes from otherwise left-leaning working-class Catholics and Protestants, and so the Republican Party has made convenient use of the misuse of scripture ever since. But the abortion issue has always been more fraught with emotion. It was never the same as condemning, say, high taxes, or generous welfare payments for the poor. The use of the word "murder" is incendiary, inciting to violence, and it must end.

This would not be the first time an abortion clinic was targeted by a violent Christian extremist. And it won't be the last time, unless the so-called pro-life Christians, the ones who call all abortions "murder," repudiate this immediately. And the only way to honestly repudiate this, is to back down from the extremist position that human life begins at conception, and therefore any abortion is outright murder of an innocent human person. Because it is completely logically consistent for a person to rationalize attacking abortion providers with lethal force, as long as they are convinced that abortion is murder.

It is one thing to consider abortion a moral failing, a sin, something that would require repentance, and another entirely to consider abortion "murder." Every time the phrase "abortion is murder" is used, it sows another little seed for potential violence against abortion providers.

The logic is simple: if you consider yourself a moral person, then how could you tolerate abortion? How could you go about your business, buy your Christmas presents, live a normal life, knowing all the while that innocent babies were being killed down the block? If I thought people were killing actual babies, who had developed brains, and could feel pain, I might be out on some picket line or marching in some protest every day! But since I am convinced by the same scientific evidence that the Supreme Court was convinced by in Roe v. Wade, I don't consider abortion to be murder any more than the Supreme Court Justices did in that landmark case. But if I listened to right-wing radio, and watched Fox News, and attended Republican rallies for presidential candidates, I would be hearing over and over again that abortion is murder, the taking of an innocent life.

Words matter. Words have consequences. So I call on everyone in the anti-abortion movement to change their rhetoric going forward. Call it a sin, if you see it as such! Call down your God's wrath in prayer against those who have abortions and those who provide them. But stop calling abortion murder, stop calling 12-week-old fetuses the size of a finger "babies," stop lying about how many abortions are performed on fetuses that are near to term, stop showing pictures of fully formed babies on your billboards. Just stop. Because every time you portray abortion as murder, you are throwing gas on a fire. When the violence erupts, it may be one lone gunman pulling the trigger, but it's an entire country full of anti-choice activists who are offering him ammunition.