Former Operation Rescue Spokesperson Calls Out Anti-Choice Rhetoric For "Unintended Consequences" Of Violence

Former Operation Rescue Spokesperson Calls Out Anti-Choice Rhetoric For "Unintended Consequences" Of Violence

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A prominent anti-choice activist has written that fellow activists in the movement should examine their rhetoric and to speak in ways that would "reduce the possibility of further risk to human life."

On November 27, a gunman attacked a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, killing three and injuring nine. The alleged Planned Parenthood attacker in police custody, Robert Lewis Dear, is reported to have told police "no more baby parts" - which may have been a reference to repeated use of that term, and other heated anti-choice rhetoric that has been repeated extensively in right-wing media since release of the deceptively-edited videos smearing Planned Parenthood.

Extremist anti-choice Operation Rescue's president Troy Newman is also a board member for the Center for Medical Progress, which is behind the release of the videos. Rev. Rob Schenck is a former spokesman for the Western New York State affiliate of Operation Rescue, and wrote that he was haunted by the accusations of murder he made to Dr. Barnett Slepian, an abortion provider who was later murdered by James Kopp. Schenck is still an anti-choice advocate, but in a December 2 op-ed for Time, citing Slepian's widow partially blaming his rhetoric for the doctor's death, he wrote, "It is time for pro-life activists to examine the unintended consequences of our often over-heated rhetoric": 

Throughout the 1990s, I served as an organizer and spokesman for the Western New York State affiliate of Operation Rescue, which staged demonstrations and sit-ins at abortion facilities around the country. Our local group was one of the most active and effective expressions of that movement.

A major focal point of our efforts was Buffalo GYN Womenservices, Inc., where Dr. Barnett Slepian worked as a physician. I led numerous large-scale blockades of the clinic, on several occasions personally confronting Dr. Slepian. I denounced him to his face for "the killing of unborn children," and accused him of "murder."

[...]

During those 10 years, I did a lot of soul-searching. My activism had taken a toll on me and on my family. I sought spiritual and psychological help in repairing my interior life and my relationships. Through that process, I discovered my own propensity for treating others with contempt. That's what I did with Barnett Slepian, and it was expressed in my language. Speaking about it now is a form of confession, and it's good for my soul.

It is time for pro-life activists to examine the unintended consequences of our often over-heated rhetoric. The Bible warns against using language as a weapon, "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Proverbs 12:18) The past 15 years have demonstrated that there are plenty of James Kopps out there, and contemptuous words feed their murderous fantasies.

Being pro-life means pro-actively protecting and promoting the sanctity and dignity of every human life. Doing so includes the speech we employ and the way in which we deliver it. If there is any way to reduce the possibility of further risk to human life, pro-lifers like me should be the first to embrace it.

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