March 10, 2004,
Today is the annual National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, founded in honor of abortionist David Gunn, who was shot and killed in Pensacola in 1993. But since the shooting of Buffalo abortion doctor Barnett Slepian in 1998, the specter of anti-abortion violence has faded dramatically.
At its apex, the national media devoted hundreds of stories a year to harassment and violence surrounding abortion clinics and, naturally, almost nothing on the routine violence happening inside. Violence committed against abortionists or clinic personnel inspired more than 500 network television stories from January 1992 to mid-1995.
Now, thanks in part to aggressive prosecution by pro-life Attorney General John Ashcroft who has delighted the abortion lobbyists who opposed his nomination by enforcing the law against James Kopp (Slepian's shooter), Eric Rudolph (believed to be responsible for a Birmingham clinic bombing), and Clayton Waagner (convicted of mailing anthrax threats)-the prospect of gravely endangered abortionists just doesn't pack much punch.
Planned Parenthood's attempts to round up frightening incidents in their "Eye on Extremism" page don't exactly sound terrifying. It's so slow on the abortion-violence beat that they list incidents like receiving "graphic fetus postcards," being targeted by "antiabortion caroling events," and clinic volunteers receiving "anti-abortion mail published by Human Life International (HLI) at their homes." There's also this report from New York: "Randall Terry and his current wife picketed a Planned Parenthood location for about an hour, drawing modest media attention, good police response, and a chocolate cream pie thrown at him (by individuals not associated with Planned Parenthood)."
You would never know this from the direct-mail abortion lobbyists are still sending out, playing dishonestly on the same old horror-movie scenarios. NARAL Pro-Choice America sent out an envelope last fall asking, "Should we let bombings and daily blockades deny women access to their Constitutional right to safe and legal abortion?" It doesn't seem to matter that bombings haven't exactly been common in the last five years (Katie Couric would have let you know about any of those), and clinic blockades are illegal. Clinics call the cops if the mere whiff of a blockade surfaces. But it makes better direct-mail copy than "Should we let the threat of graphic postcards and anti-abortion caroling events impede our rights?"
Inside the envelope, a letter from outgoing NARAL boss Kate Michelman strangely claimed: "It is frightening that nearly 30 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, young women today face more obstacles in exercising their right to choose than their mothers did a generation ago," including this item: "Bombings, break-ins, vandalism, harassment, and even anthrax mail threats at women's health clinics continue, while assaults and murders of courageous health care providers remain an unacceptable hazard."
This goofy line is repeated on page 3: "Bombings, threats, and daily harassment unleashed by anti-choice forces are now so commonplace that these assaults are barely considered 'news' any more. Doctors wear bulletproof vests every day. Their families are stalked. Nurses are harassed in their cars, their homes, and even at the grocery store. Even worse ... the threat of violence accomplished exactly what our opponents intended. Doctors are often terrorized out of the business of providing needed abortion services. And continuous, feverish attacks obscure the fact that the anti-choice movement wants to do more than outlaw abortions. They want to control women's childbearing decisions."
Then, after all the sleazy scare tactics about "daily blockades," Michelman turned around and boasted, "We led the successful effort in Congress to pass the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Law, which makes it illegal for protesters to blockade women's health clinics." Why won't abortion lobbies acknowledge the dearth of anti-abortion violence or, at least, lay off the topic? It's probably safe to assume effective fundraising by trumping the fear factor beats out truth telling on a priority scale.
This is not the only stunning inconsistency in the NARAL mail. Its outer envelope demanded to know: "Should a small, vocal minority impose its political will on all women?" Its suggested petition to Congress began: "I am outraged that a woman's Constitutional right to choose is under continual attack by a small, vocal minority." But Michelman's letter acknowledged that a majority serves on the pro-life side of the aisle: "Yet anti-choice politicians who believe the decision is theirs have taken control of both houses of Congress, the White House, and a majority of state houses."
Direct-mail fundraising is generally seen as having much more elastic standards of accuracy than your common radio or television ads. But the plague of anti-abortion violence has largely vanished from the land, and that needs to be acknowledged. It's too bad we can't say the same thing about the plague of daily violence doled out by the abortion industry.
Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center.