It’s time we acknowledge — and time for conservatives to acknowledge — that the radical rhetoric of the pro-life movement isn’t just hyperbolic; it isn’t just dishonest; it isn’t just fanatical; it’s dangerous.
When presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina misleadingly says she “watch[ed] a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain’,” that’s dangerous. When politicians like Mike Huckabee suggest that abortion is worse than the Holocaust, that’s dangerous. When people like Ben Carson equate abortion to slavery, that’s dangerous.
Why? Because some people take those lies, those exaggerations, that extraordinary rhetoric seriously.
Decades of highly emotive murder charges and deliberate deception will not — cannot — fail to have an impact. Screaming “murder,” comparisons to the Holocaust, calling Planned Parenthood staffers “organ traffickers,” waving around images of miscarried late-term fetuses, and sharing doctored videos are not just clever ways for conservatives to score political points, and we’re seeing that in the wake of the shooting in Colorado Springs.
This extremist rhetoric will inevitably lead to suffering and death through two channels: The first is the more sterile, polite, and legal channel, where politicians and religious zealots slowly but surely eradicate the rights of pregnant women. It’s dangerous for pregnant people, when one in nine hospital beds is in a Catholic owned or affiliated facility, and those establishments argue that they have a religious right to refuse a dying patient life-saving care because they’re at a “pro-life” institution. It’s dangerous to the lives and health of women everywhere when a prominent political party (and politician after politician from that party) refuses to acknowledge a pregnant woman’s basic right to health and life, when they want to ban abortion when it’s required to save the mother’s life. It’s dangerous because these people aren’t noting a personal preference for letting women die; they’re boldly declaring that they want to make such a preference the law of the land. And people, fueled by these lies, support their efforts — often enough, without a thought to the suffering they’re actually enabling (as it so often happens out of sight, behind hospital doors), and full of zeal to protect babies from organ harvesting Hitler-wannabes.
And then there’s the other, more jarring, channel: Domestic terrorism. I say “more jarring” because we have an easier time accepting death when it happens in a controlled setting, outside of our sight. It should horrify us that institutions charged with saving lives will preference regressive, misogynist theology over a woman’s life. The fact that many of these institutions get taxpayer dollars should be a game changer.
But there’s still something undeniably disturbing about a gunman breaking into a women’s health clinic and opening fire. Of course, that’s the primary goal of terrorism, even more than taking individual lives. To shock. To terrify. And each time, every few years, when one of these bouts of anti-abortion terror occurs, we’re surprised.
Why? We shouldn’t be. Pro-life forces have been so intent on stopping abortion and birth control use, and depriving women of the right to reproductive choice, that their use of language has gone from bad to worse to off the rails. Not once in a while, but with shocking and alarming regularity. It seems that no one bats an eye anymore when writers like popular anti-abortion zealot Matt Walsh say things like this on the topic of abortion:
It’s time for all of us to understand that we are at war, and lives are at stake.
The enemy — the self-worshipping death cult known as modern liberalism — has become increasingly vile, violent, and deceitful, and so we must become increasingly bold, fearless, and aggressive in our response.
All abortion advocacy is extremism. It is impossible to be moderately in favor of abortion, just as it is impossible to be moderately opposed to it. Seeking a middle ground on abortion is like searching for a middle ground on slavery or genocide. It doesn’t exist, and those who wish to find it will inevitably end up in favor, and those in favor of murderous atrocities are always extremely in favor of murderous atrocities. Your acceptance — however moderate — of a deep and depraved evil, will color your soul in blackness, and send you barreling into a darkness that will utterly distort your moral compass, leading you to bow at the altar of the Culture of Death, where abortion is the highest sacrament.
And that’s all from one post — albeit one that’s notable for how off-the-rails it really is. But this sort of thing extends far beyond a blogger and writer for The Blaze. Just consider the recent hysteria surrounding the highly edited fetal tissue videos to see how mainstream this rhetoric has become among conservatives. Because, let’s face it, when you have presidential candidates flat-out lying about Planned Parenthood taking the brains out of living babies, demonizing legal tissue donations as an illegal organ trade, etc., are we really shocked to learn that the gunman who attacked a Planned Parenthood in Colorado had a mission that included “no more baby parts“?
The fact of the matter is that language matters. When pro-lifers refer to abortion and birth control use as a second Holocaust, that’s not meaningless. Sure, many people will recognize it as the despicable manipulation it is — likening the termination of non-sentient fetal or embryonic tissue, or the prevention of human egg fertilization, to the dehumanizing circumstances and ultimate mass murder of millions of sentient human beings — but many won’t. The continued popularity and mainstreaming of the comparison demonstrates that the emotional appeal of this imagery is very persuasive to many. The Holocaust was a tragedy, a crime of almost incomprehensible magnitude, and it’s recent enough for comparisons to carry a heavy weight. So while it may be politically advantageous to pull a Godwin, the implications should not be overlooked.
So is it surprising that some people are willing to pick up a gun to prevent what’s constantly billed by pro-lifers as government-sanctioned murder? Is it surprising that people celebrate these terrorists as “heroes”? They believe these terrorists prevent the mass scale butchery of babies, the harvesting of organs from living children, or, hell, Satanic abortion rituals.
It doesn’t matter that these accusations are unfounded. It doesn’t matter that investigation after investigation of Planned Parenthood has turned up empty-handed. It doesn’t matter that comparing abortion to slavery or the Holocaust is a grotesque mischaracterization of both.
Conservative pro-lifers lie often and convincingly enough to persuade their audience.
And it’s no exaggeration to say that that spells death. Not the death of non-sentient human tissue, but the death of real, living, feeling people. Whether it’s women who die because of the “pro-life” doctrine that convinces caregivers to deny life-saving care to pregnant women, or women’s health care providers who are murdered in church, or police officers gunned down while trying to protect Planned Parenthood from an attacker worried about “baby parts”… the ceaseless campaign against women’s fundamental right to reproductive choice, particularly when framed in the extreme, hyperbolic, and flatly dishonest language employed by the anti-choice crowd, has historically proved, and will continue to prove, deadly.
It’s time for conservatives to come to the table like grown-ups, to deal with the facts, and to stick to the truth. It’s not enough to refrain from screaming “HITLER!!!!” every time a woman chooses not to become a mother. It’s time conservatives recognize the harm they cause in employing such juvenile, dishonest tactics.
If they have a case for denying women the right to reproductive services or life-saving care that extends beyond “My preacher told me so,” let’s hear it without lies, violent rhetoric, and threatening undertones.
But something tells me that’s not going to happen. Because if they had a valid case to make, they never would have had to resort to such awful lengths.