The reason I’m writing this post is because I don’t want Lindsey to have to. She’ll be talking to you tomorrow about good news — some steps some states are taking to increase access to birth control — so hold tight for that. But today I want to talk about the dangers of rhetoric and the dangers faced by the good people who work at Planned Parenthood locations across the country. I know we’ve had another mass shooting since, but I wrote this two days ago and it’s still worth posting.
The danger to Planned Parenthood workers isn’t limited to the kind of shoot-em-up tactics we saw in Colorado Springs last week. Over at mic.com we have just a few examples from one woman who worked at two Planned Parenthood locations: people pouring gasoline under the door, people releasing harmful gasses, people firing guns through the window after hours, literally hundreds of threatening phone calls.
Let me be clear on this: these are acts of terrorism. America is filled with terrorists.
Terrorism is the use of violence to (a) achieve political, religious, or cultural change, or (b) to make a political, religious, or cultural statement, through fear. That’s where the word comes from: they are acts of violence that terrorize people into changing the way they think or act.
When Dylan Roof shot up a black church in Charleston this summer, he committed it as an act against black people. He terrorized them. When Frazier Glenn Miller shot three people at a Jewish retirement home and a Jewish community center, he committed it as an act against Jewish people. He terrorized them. When Wade Michael Page killed six people at a Sikh temple, he committed it as an act against Sikh people. He terrorized them. These men — and they are men so very, very often — wanted something, a world in which a particular Other did not exist, and they used violence to try to create it.
And some people in America are using violence to try to enact a similar change. These men — and they are men so very, very often — want something. They want a world in which abortion is an obvious moral wrong, instead of the moral grey area it occupies today. They want a world where women can’t access birth control and apparently have to ask for a man to take care of it. They want a control they’ve always had over women that is now finally slipping away. And they’re using violence to get it.
This is terrorism.
Today, somewhere in America, someone who works on behalf of women’s health will be terrorized because of the poisonous rhetoric coming from the leadership of the anti-abortion movement. This rhetoric is directly responsible for in some cases creating and in most cases nurturing this violence. It glosses over the grey areas we’re trying to debate, and makes the people who work at Planned Parenthood — most of whom are just trying to help women stay healthy — into “the enemy” which any madman can aim at. By recycling and hyping this animosity over and over in the news, by chanting it over and over at rallies and broadcasting it in bellicose political speeches, we are giving fertilizer — in the form of justification — to a needless hatred that is already growing in America.
If you’re against abortions, that’s okay. I think you’re wrong, for many reasons we can get into if you’d like, but it’s okay to be wrong in America. From the years I’ve spent here, I’ve learned that to be the case. But please, if you’re against abortions, speak out against the lies being spouted by those on the anti-Planned Parenthood crusade.
Tell your Congressperson that while you don’t like abortions (and indeed, the same can be said of many a pro-choice activist as well), that nevertheless 97% of the work done by Planned Parenthood isn’t abortions, and that none of the funding the government gives it goes to that purpose. Tell your Congressperson that increased access to birth control prevents abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies. Tell your Congressperson that increased socioeconomic status prevents abortions. Tell your Congressperson that better sexual education in schools prevents abortions. Tell your Congressperson that the responsible way to deal with abortion in America is to eliminate the demand for it rather than the ability to access it or, god forbid, the people who provide it.
Waging rhetorical war on Planned Parenthood only fans the flames of extremism in this country. It makes the insecure angry, and the angry violent. If you’re pro-life, tell your friends about all the good things Planned Parenthood does. Tell the political candidates who wish to speak on your behalf that inflammatory rhetoric isn’t the way to go.
Words have power. I urge you to use yours for good.
Richard Ford Burley is a writer and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.