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Violent means to end abortion?

By reading the daily newspapers and watching the evening news, most Americans come away with the wrong impression of pro-lifers and their position on the use of violence to end abortion. Pro-Life America is 100% opposed to the use of violence to end abortion -- and 99.99% of other pro-life organizations and activists are also opposed to the use of violent means to end abortion. Given this fact, why do a tiny handful of people resort to violence? Read the words of John F. Kennedy and Joseph Sobran for their perspective.


by Joseph Sobran

(October 27, 1998)

WASHINGTON -- "Those who make peaceful change impossible," said John F. Kennedy, "make violent change inevitable."

It would seem, then, that violence against abortionists should be blamed not on the pro-life movement, which seeks peaceful change, but on their opponents, who have made peaceful change impossible. In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court declared all state laws regulating abortion -- even the most liberal laws -- unconstitutional. It should not amaze us that some people have responded to this outrage with violence.

The court's ruling in Roe vs. Wade was a clear example of judicial usurpation. The court's liberal majority was imposing its own will on the country; they favored legal abortion and used a flimsy constitutional pretext to circumvent the normal legislative process. And they knew the states -- and the majority of the American people -- were too weak to do anything about it. As Byron White wrote in his angry dissent, it was an exercise of "raw judicial power."

Abortion had recently become a liberal cause. Before the sexual revolution of the '60s, it had never been mistaken for a constitutional right. All 50 states had assumed the power to control it. No dissenting minority had challenged this power. No Supreme Court justice or legal scholar had ever questioned it.

But the liberal court had learned that it could operate without restraint, striking down the traditionally reserved powers of the people and the several states in the name of "rights," even if those "rights" had never been heard of before. The court's tortuous and self-serving reasoning alarmed even conscientious liberal scholars, such as Alexander Bickel, Raoul Berger and John Hart Ely.

Underlying the old laws against abortion was a deep moral consensus. The worth of an unborn child was unquestioned. Pregnant women were held in special respect. Nobody was more despised than the abortionist.

Today we are asked to despise the "fetus" and to respect the "abortion provider." In the new language of abortion, unborn children are no longer "killed"; unwanted pregnancies are "terminated." Nobody is "pro-abortion"; some people are merely "pro-choice." Plain language has become taboo; those who use it are "extremists" who want to "impose their views."

A good cause, with a good conscience, should show itself in good faith. It shouldn't need evasions and euphemisms to describe its own position; on the other hand, it shouldn't have to assail its opponents with lurid accusations.

The news media, supposedly neutral, have consistently adopted the terminology of the abortion advocates. The media's cooperation with the pro-abortion forces isn't just a matter of language. It extends to imagery and symbolism. The media never show pictures of aborted children; they don't even describe the horrifying techniques of late-term abortions; they treat slain abortionists as martyrs.

Perish the thought that a man who performs abortions may be committing violence on the helpless out of ruthless greed. Judging from media coverage, such men are dedicated, one and all, to helping women exercise their constitutional rights. Money has nothing to do with it. Somehow an allegedly "complex issue" always comes out as moral melodrama, with the abortionist wearing the white hat.

Only one side of this controversy gets on the airwaves. Worse yet, that side's perspective subtly shapes the way journalists portray the issue, even when they really think they are being fair. The bitter national conflict over abortion is implicitly blamed on those who merely want to restore the laws that existed before the Supreme Court arbitrarily turned a revolting crime into a "right."

Women who get abortions rarely talk about them, and even more seldom recall them with satisfaction. Men who pressure their wives or girlfriends to get abortions don't brag about it. This is a "right" people aren't proud to exercise. Nor do they express affection, in retrospect, for the "abortion provider."

After tens of millions of "procedures," has America lost anything? Another Edison, perhaps? A Gershwin? A Babe Ruth? A Duke Ellington? Nobody looks like a genius in the womb, but if this "right" had existed earlier, we might all be whistling in the dark, with fewer tunes to whistle. As it is, we will never know what abortion has cost us all.

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