History of Roe V Wade and rise of Anti-abortion Activism and Violence
This is not about abortion per SE, but the dangers inherent in religion and one party rule legislate our lives and values
At sixty-two years old I watched the transformation of Roe V Wade go from being accepted by Moderate minded Republicans and Democrats of all ages both in KS (before Reagan and George W Bush when the Evangelical Christian movement reared it’s ugly prejudicial head) and around the U.S. Later social and political changes began to threaten ‘abortion rights’. Although most Republicans in Kansas and elsewhere wanted restrictions on abortions there was wide spread bi-partisan consensus among voters in both parties that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, incest, if it had been proven the infant would be born in a vegetative state, or if carrying a child to term would endanger the mother’s life.
In the mid nineteen-eighties fundamentalist religious groups, churches, and advocates began forming a grassroots anti-abortion movement spearheaded by Evangelical Christian Ralph Reed, who had been mentored by televangelist Pat Robertson of 400 Club fame. Reed and Roberts used right wing Christian doctrine and biblical law as a vehicle by which to try and end abortion and eventually get Roe V Wade overturned.
One of the earliest right to life protests took place in Wichita, KS, in 1991 and was called the “summer of mercy”. Organized by then Operation Rescue president, Dr. Keith Tucci and advocate Randall Terry, approximately 25,000 activists from across the country gathered at a local football stadium for a rally, then dispersed to abortion clinics across the city,with the largest group going to Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. Tiller was murdered eighteen years later on May 31, 2009, while handing out church bulletins for Sunday service. Protesters chained themselves to light posts and signs, each other, vehicles, or laid down in mass so that women and staff could not enter the clinic. The police struggled to arrest protesters who chained themselves together, to light poles and vehicles.
Women seeking an abortion were accosted with gory images of ‘so called’ aborted fetuses, were cussed at, or had dolls that cried ‘mama’ shoved in their faces. I was there accompanying a friend who was terrified to go alone with the protests, and saw it first hand. Never a person to be intimidated, I shouted back that God would be my judge not some religious fanatic who has no idea about what God thinks.
It wasn’t until several years later it was revealed that several thousand of the protesters were homeless and low income adults from across the country hired and paid to help make the group appear larger. The ploy worked, drawing increasing media attention to the Right to Life Movement in Kansas and across the country. Terry later held a press conference trying to convince the public that ‘pro-abortion’ forces lied about his having hired people to join the movement, although there was quantitative proof showing otherwise.
Pat Robertson, the Christian broadcaster, former Republican presidential candidate, and creator of the ‘Christian Coalition assured protesters that God is on their side and called those who were arrested for the anti-abortion cause heroes. “Those who stand for life are trying in no way to interfere with a woman’s reproductive rights or her sexual behavior. What we are trying to do is protect the lives of innocent human beings from the money-grubbing forceps of men who masquerade as men of medicine.”
Violence and the anti-abortion movement
An increasing number of violent anti-abortion acts erupted during the early 1990's quickly escalated into a series of calculated and deadly events across the country by anti-abortion militants. As cited by the National Anti-Abortion Federation, “murdering providers is the only way to stop abortion”. The first known abortion provider that was murdered was Dr. David Gunn, on March 10, 1993. Prior to that most of the violence was directed at burning and bombing abortion clinics as far back as 1978, primarily by Evangelical Christians.
Extremist organizations and individuals in the Right to life movement stand by the premise that God’s law supersedes state and federal laws, and justify taking the law into their own hands. In one incident a gentleman charged with setting a clinic on fire told the District Attorney he was “a warrior for God and innocent babies and shouldn’t be prosecuted for doing God’s work”. The man who murdered Wichita, KS abortion provider George Tiller also used a similar excuse to justify his actions.
The internet reaches millions of Right to Life groups and activists
AbortionDocs.org is a project of Operation Rescue. This site is a clearing house for information gathered by activists…
In the nineteen nineties radical anti-abortion groups, anti abortion organizations, Evangelical Christian organizations, and others began using the internet to get their message across while rallying their base in new and more deadly ways. An expanded mission of Operation Rescue, as cited by the organization states “their searchable data base places documents such as health code violations, abortion injuries, malpractice claims, disciplinary action, and criminal conduct by abortion providers at the fingertips of the public.”
Some websites post the personal and private information of not only clinics and providers, but of their wives and children as well, including schools, home and work addresses,where they attend church, and more. The sniper who murdered Jewish obstetrician and abortion provider, Dr. Barnett Slepian on October 25th, 1998, in Buffalo NY got his information from an anti abortion website that distorts the facts contained in the Nuremberg trials of WWII as they pertained to abortion. Afterwards, a red line drawn through Slepian’s name appeared on the site. During the same time period a small number of Canadian abortion providers had been threatened with violence or killed, as well.
Operation Rescue and some other organizations have ‘voiced no opinion either way,’ which as far as I am concerned makes them equally culpable in the continuing violence that has taken place not only in the U.S. but in Canada, as well. All legal attempts to have the websites shut down as “inciting violence” have failed with state and federal judges writing that the groups are exercising their first amendment rights to free speech.
The politics of the Anti-Abortion Movement
It wasn’t long before Conservative political candidates across the country jumped on the Right to Life bandwagon and thrust abortion into the forefront of the political arena. In Kansas, 4th District Republican Conservative candidate, Todd Tihart ran on an anti abortion platform in 1992, taking the seat from Moderate Democrat, Dan Glickman. There were signs throughout the fourth district touting Tihart as supporting the right to life movement although prior to seeking political office, he had no affiliation with Kansas for Life. Catholics, Evangelical Christians and other fundamentalist church told their congregations that Conservative Republicans would lead them into battle for the soul of Christianity. Ralph Reed, leader of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and televangelist Pat Robertson continue to strengthen the position of right wing religious extremism politically.
And in 2013 Ralph Reed created the Faith and Freedom Coalition to heavily fund Conservative and Tea Party political campaigns with the admitted goal of bringing ‘religion and Christianity back to government’ by promoting traditional marriage, re-instating the sanctity of life, and putting judges o the bench and in the U.S. Supreme Court who would interpret the constitution as it was intended. And while voters were busy going after the other party, Evangelical Christians were busy promoting candidates who would further their religious causes for president, both Houses of Representatives, and the judicial system.
And with Donald Trump and Conservative Leaders, Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson have found their champions.
Under President Trump and Conservatives, whose campaigns are still being greased with Evangelical Christian dollars there is a national grassroots drive to get more Conservatives elected to the U.S. Congress and Senate in the upcoming mid term elections, and to either keep or make states like Kansas red.
Voters of all ages and across a wide spectrum including Moderate Republicans who support a woman’s right to choose, need to step up soon and mobilize activists nationally to stop the right wing extreme push to legislate religion. Especially now that Trump is readying to choose a replacement for retiring SCOTUS, Kennedy, his second U.S. Supreme Court Judge.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290916348_Anti-abortion_Extremism_and_Violence_in_the_United_States The PDF on anti-abortion extremism and violence in the United States can be downloaded here.
https://prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/violence/violence-statistics-and-history/ The National Abortion Federation has been compiling statistics on incidents of violence and disruption against abortion providers since 1977. Their comprehensive database is an invaluable tool.
http://www.teii.org/women-their-unborn/operation-rescue-civil-disobedience-and-civil-obedience/ Although a theological website the author exposes Randal Terry’s hypocritical thinking and that of other anti-abortion groups and how they distort bible verses and biblical teachings