I’ve been thinking about fear lately. People who offer any kind of abortion care do that ~ we contemplate the danger, weigh the risk, and decide how willing we are to continue providing care based on our personal logarithm for safety.
The shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado shifts the balance. The vandalism at EMW clinic here in Louisville shifts it a bit more. We all have to recalculate. Some of us do it quickly, others may struggle. But we haven’t lost escorts – in fact, many new people are volunteering. Clearly, we won’t be scared off.
So I’ve been thinking about fear, and talking about it with other people who provide abortion care. As a therapist, I believe that when we are anxious or afraid, we are usually overestimating the risk of the danger and underestimating our ability to deal with it. I ponder how that applies.
I know there are different types of fear. We can fear for our physical safety or fear for our emotional safety. Those dangers can be realistic or not, but we each have our own tipping point for what’s safe and what isn’t.
If you’re afraid of flying, you may be afraid the plane will crash and you’ll die. Or you may be afraid that you’ll have a panic attack on the plane and (obviously) not be able to get off the plane and that will be horrible. The actual risk of either of those things happening aren’t what determines whether or not you fly – a whole range of other factors influence it.
It’s the same with escorting. We can be afraid that some rabid anti with nothing to lose will detonate a bomb or drive by and start shooting. We can be afraid that our family and friends who are anti-choice will reject us. But regardless of the actual danger, escorts typically have deeply held beliefs that lead them to choose to take the risk.
I’m not usually a worrier. This, however, gives me pause: The Abortion Vigilante Worksheet. Created by American Right to Life (not to be confused with the National Right to Life group that we’re all familiar with) the worksheet is a masterpiece of double talk.
American RTL publishes this worksheet to help Christians think through the issue of vigilantism regarding the intentional killing of abortionists. Our directors and leaders at the summit which launched our organization (including the director of Operation Rescue National/OSA, the Rev. Flip Benham) have spent months incarcerated in jails for peaceful civil disobedience by blocking abortion clinic entrances and in defense of Christian liberties.
Disclosure: Prior to using this worksheet, ARTL would like the reader to know our own position:
1) Governments have the authority to use lethal force in more circumstances than do civilians.
2) The Bible’s escalation of force principle prohibits civilian use of lethal force if less force could suffice.
3) Civilians may use lethal force defending innocent life against threats of imminent harm.
If true, these principles do not prohibit the use of civil disobedience to prevent abortions. This worksheet, however, concludes that those who kill, advocate, or even defend the intentional killing of abortionists are morally wrong. Some of those who defend such killings complain that others are unwilling to seriously address their position. To any such, this challenge goes out: take the time and courage to answer these questions, and then email your answers and contact information to…
It seems to me that they’re saying, “Yes, it could be morally justified to kill an abortion provider, no, we’re not saying we think that, but there sure is an argument for it, and maybe you think it’s ok.”
It ends on a similar note, which I won’t bother quoting.
In-between, along with a zillion supposedly logical, ethical questions which supposedly will help you think through the ethical dilemma of whether or not it’s ok to kill abortion providers, is this chart:
Note: The following table presents the casualties of actual known U.S. abortion vigilantes:
Anti-Abortion Violence (non-regulatory)
Perpetrator -Date- City -Victims -Death or Injury -Their Title or Role
Scott Roeder 5/31/09 Wichita, KS George Tiller Death Abortionist
Paul J. Hill 7/29/04 Pensacola, FL John Bayard Britton Death Abortionist
” ” ” ” ” ” James H. Barrett Death Bodyguard, clinic ‘escort’
” ” ” ” ” ” June Barrett Shot twice Clinic ‘escort’
James Kopp 10/23/98 Amherst, NY Barnett Slepian Death Abortionist
Eric Robert Rudolph 1/29/98 Birmingham, AL Robert Sanderson Death Security guard, off-duty cop
” ” ” ” ” ” Emily Lyons Critically injured Clinic nurse
John Salvi 12/30/94 Brookline, MA Shannon Lowney Death Clinic receptionist
” ” ” ” ” ” Leanne Nichols Death Clinic receptionist
” ” ” ” ” ” Anjana Agrawal Shot twice, bullet by heart Clinic ‘counselor’
” ” ” ” ” ” Antonio Hernandez Collapsed lung, more Accompanied wife to clinic
” ” ” ” ” ” Brian Murray Bullet tore up insides Accompanied friend to clinic
” ” ” ” ” ” Jane Sauer Shot twice Clinic bookkeeper
” ” ” ” ” ” Richard J. Seron Shot arm, shoulder, hand Security guard
Rachelle Shannon 8/19/93 Wichita, KS George Tiller Shot in both arms Abortionist
Michael Griffin 3/10/93 Pensacola, FL David Gunn Death Abortionist
Dec. 1, 2015 Update: As results of the criminal investigation become public, and the motive of the mentally-ill pothead Robert Lewis Dear, the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood murderer, is known, we will update the above chart if need be.
That chills me!! This chart, the Colorado shooting, and the vandalism at my own clinic (with limited concern or action from the police) hit my tipping point. I have to re-examiine my own logarithm for physical safety.
How scared is reasonable? How high is the risk – realistically? Ok, I have a lot better chance of dying in a car wreck than getting killed by an anti at the clinic, but this feels scarier. What is that about?
Is it the malevolence? If I die in a car wreck, it’s an accident. If someone targets me and kills me because I’m an escort, it is intentional and personal. That does feel different.
Is it because I’m choosing to do this thing that puts me at risk? I couldn’t really survive without getting in a car, but I choose to escort. Does that make it easier to “blame the victim?” Maybe. Maybe that makes it feel different, but I totally reject that. Choosing to support reproductive health isn’t punishable by death.
So how scared should I be? I have no idea. Mostly, I am not scared. Mostly, I like to remind people that if I get killed on the sidewalk, I expect to become a martyr and for the escorts to at least get a buffer zone out of it. Taking time to think it through just increases my appreciation for all the providers of abortion care ~ doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, receptionists, medical assistants, and escorts ~ who won’t let fear stop them either.
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