Homeland security measures allow trial by tribunals, assets seizure and closure of terrorist websites. We all want our government to resolutely prevent a repetition of Sept. 11. But for those monitoring civil liberties, a concern has been that, by twisting the meaning of “terrorist,” these measures might someday be used against citizens whose only crime is political incorrectness.
We didn’t have to wait long for our concerns to start materializing. In the Dec. 17 Newsweek, Anna Quindlen draws first blood in her column “The Terrorists Here at Home.” What “terrorists” does she refer to? Abortion opponents, whom she characterizes as ultraviolent. Quindlen writes: “There’s no real ideological difference between these people and the people who flew planes into the World Trade Center. One of the leaders of Operation Rescue once sent his followers a letter that concluded ‘Return to the training so that God may use you.’ Sound familiar?”
Quindlen thus takes one sentence, about serving God, out of context to associate Operation Rescue with the Islamic terrorists who flight-trained before Sept. 11. By blurry implication, she tars the entire pro-life movement as violent, informing Americans that we have an erroneous image of it: “There’s that vague feeling that anti-abortion fervor is largely the purview of principled human beings, women with rosaries and strollers who pray on the sidewalks across from clinics.” Not so, she says: “Here are some of the principles involved: Arson. Assault. Molotov cocktails. Nail bombs.”
She tells us that abortion clinic workers face “a single-minded cadre of men who believe that their religious convictions justify violence, destruction and the murder of those whose choices they abhor.” At the National Right to Life Committee, America’s largest pro-life organization, the president, board chairman, and over 60 percent of the staff are women, but Quindlen’s word “men” hints that opposition to abortion is the province of male chauvinism.
To back her claim that murder and mayhem are “principles” of the pro-life movement, Quindlen gives three specific examples, starting with Clayton Waagner. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had him on their most-wanted list for carjacking and bank robbery. For years, Waagner had never been involved with any pro-life organizations or activities. Nobody in the pro-life movement had even heard of him. Then, in 2001, he reportedly said he would kill 42 abortionists and sent fake anthrax letters to abortion clinics. For Quindlen, this makes Waagner pro-life’s poster boy.
Second, Quindlen mentions the Army of God, a fringe underground anti-abortion group which she reports has a manual that “offers recipes for plastic explosives and the kinds of bombs used in Oklahoma City.” No one knows who wrote this manual – it could even have been created to discredit the pro-life movement. Both Waagner and the Army of God are repudiated by Operation Rescue and all major pro-life organizations, but Quindlen doesn’t mention this.
Third, she cites the 1998 murder of abortion doctor Barnett Slepian, allegedly by abortion protester James Kopp. Kopp has not yet been convicted of the crime, but for Quindlen, “alleged” is good enough.
Reprehensibly, there has been occasional violence against abortionists. But it is shameless exploitation of World Trade Center victims to equate these abortionists to them. Nearly 3,000 died in one day at the WTC. In all, seven people employed by the abortion industry have been killed since Roe vs. Wade was enacted in 1973. From that statistic, one could argue that working in an abortion clinic is no more dangerous than attending public school or working at a 7-Eleven. If Quindlen wants Americans to know what the pro-life movement thinks, why not quote its true major voices – who categorically denounce violence – such as the National Right to Life Committee or American Life League? Judie Brown, president of the latter, states: “There can be no violence tolerated in the pro-life movement, since by its very nature, the philosophy of the pro-life movement would prohibit us from ever perpetrating any type of violent activity.”
Does anybody think that Osama bin Laden represents all Muslims? That all Italians are Mafiosi or all Irish in the IRA? The Nazis used a single act – assassination of a German official by a Jewish man named Grynszpan – to justify Kristallnacht. By selecting a criminal lunatic, bizarre fringe group and an unresolved murder to portray abortion protesters, Anna Quindlen employs a similar innuendo. This is expected in pro-choice pamphlets, where pro-lifers are used to seeing themselves savaged as “terrorists.” But when such polemics hit Newsweek, civil liberties are nationally on trial.
From beginning to end, Quindlen’s column links abortion opponents with “the men who hit the Trade Center and the Pentagon.” How long before someone asks us to connect the dots: Since pro-lifers equate to al-Qaida, shouldn’t we deprive them of due process, freeze their assets and close their websites? What a convenient way to suppress dissenting views!
A few years ago, the new means of trying to silence politically incorrect people was: label them “extremists.” It exemplified what George Orwell called “Newspeak.” Suddenly, anybody was an extremist if they simply advocated the moral values prevalent in the 1950s (making nearly all our grandparents extremists). But since it’s hard to convict people for being extreme, the “e” word has now been replaced by the “t” word – that new, improved buzzword: “terrorists.” Will it stop with pro-lifers? Soon any group that’s simply conservative or Christian may get tagged “terrorists.” After all, you can always find, on the fringes of any movement, a few violent people to indict the multitude.
Despite her expressed indignation, Quindlen doesn’t hold the moral high ground, for there are millions of victims of violence she discounts: the unborn children who, in abortion centers, have had their bodies pulled apart with suction and forceps. Quindlen euphemizes this as “reproductive services” in “family-planning clinics,” which is a little like calling Auschwitz a health spa. If a baby is born prematurely at seven months, and someone strangles it in the hospital nursery, this would be ruled homicide. Yet if you kill that very same infant at seven months in the womb, this is “choice.” Certainly people should have a choice – but isn’t the time to make it before having sex?
“I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” The author of these extremist words? That infamous “terrorist,” Mother Teresa.
Americans must scrutinize the anti-terror measures this nation legislates. Only individuals committing or planning violent acts should be targeted – never individuals who are nonviolent but hold some kindred views. Guilt by association is tyranny’s scythe.
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