Who's Violent?

Brian Clowes
Reproduced with Permission

People tend to overestimate the risk of a rare, catastrophic event, and to underestimate the probability of a much more common, yet equally lethal, incident. For example, many people - especially after 9/11 - believe that it is safer to drive a car than it is to fly in an airplane, although 500 Americans die in cars for every one who dies in flight. And many individuals lead sedentary lives and enjoy fatty and sugary foods, while worrying about avian flu and mad cow disease - yet three quarters of a million Americans die each year of heart disease and diabetes, while nobody in this country has yet succumbed to avian flu or mad cow disease.

A similar disproportion is evident on the abortion issue: Many Americans believe that the average "reproductive care center" is under constant siege by "anti-abortion fanatics" who might pull the trigger at any moment. This is an utterly false impression, and it has drastic real world consequences for the future of unborn human life. The abortion struggle in the United States has already lasted more than three decades, and one of the greatest obstacles pro-lifers still face is that public perception of the issue has been, in large measure, shaped by such distortions. When the average American believes that pro-lifers represent the most violent social movement of modern times, that can't help but threaten the long term prospects of our movement.

The pro-choice Shuffle

We hear a lot about "anti-choice violence" and an "organized campaign of terror and intimidation against reproductive health centers." Most Americans therefore perceive the struggle over abortion as a vicious and brutal battle, in which all of the violence is committed by "fanatical Anti-choicers." The actions of a handful of irrational individuals are transformed by pro-choice propaganda - and the persistent and monolithic bias of the national media - into the definitive image of the pro-life movement. Third trimester abortionist Warren Hern, who himself makes a living committing the most hideous acts of violence, says that pro-lifers

are, with few exceptions, vicious, irrational, absolutely ruthless, unscrupulous, pitiless, and driven by hatred.... Every anti-abortion demonstrator must now be considered armed, dangerous and a potential assassin until proven otherwise. The anti-abortion movement must be considered the source and spawning ground of a violent, terrorist movement which threatens the social fabric and civil society of laws of the United States.... The general atmosphere is one of survival. Twenty-five percent of the [abortion] clinics have been bombed. This is a highly repressive, totalitarian [pro-life] movement, similar to the Brown Shirts who broke windows in Jewish shops in Germany.1

This ruthless mischaracterization serves a single purpose: to divert attention from the bloody - and very profitable - slaughter of preborn babies. Like all the tired slogans - "You can't legislate morality," "Abortion should be a decision between a woman and her doctor," "If you can't trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?" "Pro-family, pro-child, pro-choice," "Every child a wanted child" - it's an attempt to make you think about anything but abortion.

"Anti-choice violence" is the perfect distraction, and the media are eager to help. Let's start with the facts: Self-described "pro-lifers" have murdered seven people and have seriously injured ten others. We know all about these cases, because the media love to focus on them.

Now let's ask some questions: Have you ever heard about a pro-choicer murdering a pro-lifer? Chances are you haven't, because when a pro-lifer is killed, members of the national media consider that beneath their notice.

Do you remember hearing anything from the national media when pro-choice activist Eileen Orstein Janezic shot pro-life activist minister and radio talk show host Jerry Simon through his living room window? After killing Simon, she held police at bay with a pistol for six hours while spouting quotes from Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible. In 1994, a jury found her guilty of murder and sentenced her to life in prison.2

Do you remember hearing anything when pro-choicer Byron Looper shot pro-life Tennessee state senator Tommy Burks in the head with a large caliber handgun? After he murdered Burks, Looper boasted that "I did it, man, I did it! I killed that dude." Looper was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.3

Why didn't you hear about these murders? Because when a "pro-lifer" goes on a rampage, it fits the story the media want to tell. But when pro-choicers murder pro-lifers or other people - or when a woman dies of a botched legal abortion - that complicates the story, and the media ignore it.

This pro abortion bias has been repeatedly documented. The people who work for major media outlets are overwhelmingly pro-choice. They routinely portray pro-lifers as crazy ideologues, and pro-choicers as calm and rational thinkers; they report only pro-life violence, never pro-choice violence; they ignore the gruesome details of abortion, while portraying realistically the horrors of mangled bodies during wartime.

The Lichter-Rothman studies on media bias found that 95 percent of motion picture leaders, 97 percent of television leaders, and 90 percent of newsmedia leaders call themselves "pro-choice."4 The Newspaper Guild, the nation's newspaper employees' union, adopted a resolution that reads: "[The Newspaper Guild] reaffirms a woman's fundamental constitutional right to make private and confidential decisions regarding reproduction. We oppose any re-examination of the court's decision at attempts to restrict these rights."5

This helps us understand why, when a pro-lifer commits a crime of any kind, the media make absolutely certain everyone knows that he is associated with the pro-life movement - but when an abortionist murders someone, the fact that he or she performs abortions usually goes unmentioned. To take one example, John Baxter Hamilton choked and beat his wife, then smashed a hole in her skull with a brick, murdering her. Not a single article in the national press mentioned that he was Oklahoma City's most prominent abortionist, although local newspapers mentioned his occupation many times.6

Dead abortionists are headline news for weeks or months, while violence committed by the same abortionists - even apart from the actual abortions - is simply ignored. When James Kopp murdered abortionist Barnett Slepian at his home in 1998, the national media headlined the story for days, and they still do stories about it years later. But when Slepian seriously injured a pro-lifer by beating him on the head, back, and arms with a baseball bat, not only did the news media completely ignore the attack, but local pro-choice leaders actually applauded him!7

Even pro-choicers acknowledge the bias. Susanne Millsaps of NARAL pro-choice America has said that "the media has been our best friend in this fight. They claim objectivity, but I know they're all pro-choice."8

And the pro-choicers use this advantage to the hilt. When one "pro-lifer" commits an act of violence, groups like the National Organization for Women and NARAL pro-choice America imply, or claim outright, that all pro-lifers are violent - or at least potentially violent. The worst propagandist is the National Abortion Federation, or NAF, the abortionists' trade union. Its website keeps track of incidents of what it calls "Anti-choice violence and disruption."

Let's take a look at the NAF's numbers on pro-life violence. As of January 1, 2007, the NAF claims that pro-lifers have committed a very impressive (and, as always, very round and very undocumented) 126,000 incidents of violence and disruption.9 But a closer look at these statistics is very revealing: Eighty-six percent of these incidents of "violence and disruption" were actually picketing. Perhaps we should not be surprised that "pro-choicers" lump picketing in with violent acts, since they believe that their "right" to abortion is so sacrosanct that it is violated even by the mere exercise of First Amendment rights (which, incidentally, predated the "right" to abortion by nearly two centuries). Another nine-percent of the incidents of "violence" were "hate mail," "harassing phone calls," and "e-mail or Internet harassment." Trivial matters indeed: Some of the activities NAF undoubtedly includes in this category are Christmas cards from pro-lifers, because there have been incidents when pro-lifers have actually been arrested for sending such cards to abortion mills. Other categories that most people would not consider violent - in the sense of harmful to actual persons - include "clinic invasions" and trespassing, burglary, vandalism, and stink bombs, which account for a total of only three percent.

What this means is that 98 percent of the 126,000 incidents listed by the National Abortion Federation are not really violent at all. Only about two percent could be called true violence, including the seven murders we all know about, plus the total of 45 actual and attempted arsons and bombings at abortion mills from 1996 to 1999.

Shut Up, They Say

According to pro-choicers, abortion is such a basic human right that nobody can be allowed even to question it in public. As Faye Wattleton, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), has said, "We need to remove the abortion issue forever from the legislative arena. We need a universal recognition that our civil liberties are off limits to partisan debate!"10

In other words, then, there is no such thing as a legitimate pro-life activity. The pro-choicers seek to stigmatize all pro-life opposition as either "violent" or "harmful" in some way. The first thing abortionists would love to do is prohibit all pro-life street activity, because it's bad for business. They say that pro-lifers must not peacefully block clinic doors to save preborn children from death, because, as one of them has put it, this is "committing direct violence against women."11 We may not picket, because that is "Cromwellian fanaticism."12 We can't do sidewalk counseling, because the women "have already made their minds up, and any interference will just cause them pain and distress." And we mustn't pray quietly in front of the clinics, because this "offends and hurts women."13

But that's not all: They also want to ban all behind-the-scenes activities by pro-lifers. They say we should not be allowed to offer real help to women through crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which NARAL calls "fraudulent and deceptive clinics." These CPCs, of course, must never give women factual biological information on fetal development, because this constitutes a "propaganda tool for the anti-abortion position."14

Adoption is off limits, too, because - in the words of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) - it is "misogynist" and "devastating."15 Pro-lifers must not try to enact any kind of restrictions on abortion, even if they are massively supported by public opinion, because such activity is "a violation of the wall of separation between Church and State." We can't lobby Congress, because this is "partisanship."16 We can't organize, because such activity is a "conspiracy." We cannot try to convince others to embrace our position, because that is "shoving our philosophy down other people's throats." (One pro-choice group, evidently lacking a sense of irony, calls it "spiritual battering."17)

Pro-life clergy must never mention abortion in their sermons or have a Sanctity of Life Sunday, because this may cause "frustration," "guilt," and "anger" within the flock.

18  [Back]

Catholic bishops cannot even ban pro-choicers from the bishops' own property, because, as CFFC has said, this amounts to "controlling public practices."19

Pro-choice groups would even deny pro-lifers the right to express their belief that preborn children are human beings, because this encourages "terrorism."20 In fact, CFFC is so extreme that it claims that the Catholic Church cannot even refuse to donate money to groups it believes to be promoting abortion - such as UNICEF - because this constitutes "intimidation," "strong arm tactics," and a "dirty little war" against "every good thing."21 pro-choicers have even condemned such pro-life programs as Project Rachel - which attempts to help women through the aftermath of abortion - as "offensive" and "dumb."22 pro-lifers' offers of money and other aid to pregnant women to help them through and after their pregnancies are dismissed as "questionable," "manipulative," "unethical," and "dangerous."23

So what are pro-lifers allowed to do, according to the pro-choicers? One pro-choice activist has said, "I support the right of people to pray, anywhere, anytime, so long as they do so inside their heads and make no audible sounds."24

Pro-life and Pro-choice: The Violence Compared

When we put the incidents of pro-life and pro-choice violence side by side, we see a vivid contrast: pro-choice violence is directed against people, and pro-life violence is directed against things. Let's look at deadly and extreme crimes against persons, such as murder, manslaughter, infanticide, attempted murder and manslaughter, kidnapping, torture, rape, incest, violent sexual crimes against women and children, mayhem, and malicious wounding. Human Life International has documented 2, 132 such crimes by pro-choicers on its website (http://www.abortionviolence.com). The National Abortion Federation claims just 27 such crimes by pro-lifers (and none at all since 2000). In other words, for every act of extreme violence committed by a pro-lifer, there are 80 committed by pro-choicers.

When confronted with evidence of their movement's violent nature, pro-choicers react the way they always do when faced with an unpleasant truth: They simply deny that the problem exists. (Just as they still claim, e.g., that partial birth abortions don't exist, and that thousands of women died of illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade.) Joyce Arthur, president of Canada's pro-choice Action Network (P-CAN), claims that pro-choice violence is a "myth," a "pious fraud," and "pathetic propaganda."25 On P CAN's website, Arthur callously dismisses as "simple abortion complications" the deaths of 360 women, including those cases where abortionists were found guilty of murder because they abandoned their patients to die.

In her world, someone like abortionist Brian Finkel, who sexually molested more than 100 women and is now imprisoned, cannot exist. The same goes for abortionists like Bruce Steir, who was convicted of manslaughter after letting Sharon Hampton bleed to death; John Baxter Hamilton, who was convicted of murder after beating his wife to death with a brick; and Alicia Ruiz Hanna, convicted of murder after killing Angela Sanchez and trying to stuff her dead body into the trunk of her car in full view of her Sanchez's four children.26 In the tidy little pro-choice universe, all women smile happily after their abortions, all "Anti-choicers" are dangerous fanatics, and all abortionists are distinguished heroes, incapable of anything but the most noble of actions and thoughts.

As I mentioned above, in the entire history of the struggle over abortion in the United States, irrational "pro-lifers" have murdered seven pro-choice activists (including three abortionists). As a result, we have been treated to a torrent of manufactured grief and fear for the cameras among pro-choicers, who have held massive rallies and written tens of thousands of pages of outraged prose condemning the violence. We have seen melodramatizing abortionist (and convicted serial sex molester) Brian Finkel of Arizona boast that he carried a pistol and wore a bullet proof vest for his protection. The Justice Department has even established a National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers, which offers detailed tips on personal security.27

So just how much danger do abortionists face, compared to members of other professions? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 hairdressers were murdered on the job during the same time period in which all the pro-choicer fatalities occurred (1993 1998).28 Granted, there are many more hairdressers than there are abortionists, but where are the rallies and the propaganda for the hairdressers? According to the Bureau ot Labor Statistics, between 1993 and 2001 there have also been 735 cashiers and sales counter clerks murdered on the job; 558 taxi drivers; 266 truck drivers: janitors; 106 auto mechanics: and 78 bartenders.

When was the last time you saw a bartender posing for the cameras with a bulletproof vest and a Glock? Why are federal marshals not out there protecting janitors and truck and taxi drivers? Why are there no heavily publicized task forces for them?

The isolated instances of violence perpetrated by fringe pro-life characters have been demagogued to obscure the fact that the pro-life movement is by far the most peaceful social in history. But look at the pro-choice movement. As already noted, Human Life International Website outlines hundreds of crimes committed by pro-choicers in the United States alone. And look at Nicaragua. A person from a pro-choice group in Managua revealed a document that outlined a pro-choice plot to "wipe out" bishops, priests, and laymen who were leading a 2001 Catholic campaign in the country against the legalization of abortion. As a result, Nicaraguan president Arnoldo Aleman ordered police to provide special protection for Cardinal Miguel Obando of Managua and several of the country's Catholic bishops who were targeted for extermination. The document indicated that the assassination plot extended to religious and lay leaders of the pro-life movement in other Central American nations.29


The pro-choice resort to violence should not surprise us. The abortion movement is, in its essence, a pro-violence movement, one based on the dehumanization of its victims. "Who has a greater right to dispose of the fruit than she who carries it in her womb?" a noted French philosopher once asked. "To interfere with the usage a woman chooses to make of it is stupidity carried beyond any conceivable extreme." The author of these sentiments, one Marquis de Sade, is not much cited today by pro-choicers. but he might with justice be described as their ideological father.30

Veteran pro-lifers, meanwhile. are weary of being labeled violent fanatics by the press and pro abortionists. and sometimes even by their family members, friends, co-workers, and fellow churchgoers. It is far past time to set the record straight and expose where the true violence lies, both inside and outside the abortion mills. If you would like to read about real violence, visit Human Life International's website, www.abortionviolence.com which documents more than 7,000 incidents of pro-choicers' violence. The next time anyone shows you a pretty map or fancy graph of "Anti-choice violence" and demands that you condemn it, tell him or her that the apology must be mutual; if you are going to apologize for violence you were not involved in, he or she must also apologize. But don't hold your breath waiting for the apology.

Most of all, don't be intimidated, because that is exactly what they want. As Pope John Paul II said, "Faith involves risk." You have to risk taking action, risk being persecuted, risk being unpopular. "Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12).


1 January 1995 Special Report by abortionist Warren Hern of Boulder, CO, prepared for JoAnn Harris, Director, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice (drhern.com/jdrptl95.htm). [Back]

2 World Magazine, September 18, 1993; "pro-life Leader, Pastor Murdered by Avowed Satanist," Life Advocate [Advocates for Life Ministries, Portland, Oregon], November 1993, p. 7. [Back]

3 Mary Jo Denton, "Looper Enters Not Guilty Plea," Tennessee Herald Citizen, February 6, 1999; ibid., "Looper Quoted: "I Killed that Dude," Tennessee Herald Citizen, November 24, 1998. [Back]

4 S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Linda S. Lichter, The Media Elite: America's New Powerbrokers (New York: Hastings House, 1990). [Back]

5 Todd Ackerman, 'Newspaper Union Support of Abortion Spells Trouble," National Catholic Register, September 10, 1989, p. 1. [Back]

6 "Doctor Leaves Jail for Funeral - Obstetrician Permitted to Attend Wife's Services," The Oklahoman, February 21, 2001. [Back]

7 Paul Likoudis, "Buffalo Abortionist Attacks pro-lifers with Baseball Bat," The Wanderer, December 15, 1988, p. 1. [Back]

8 Washington Times, March 13, 1991. [Back]

9 National Abortion Federation Web site at http://www.pro-choice.org/pubs_research/publications/ downloads/about_abortion/violence_statistics.pdf. [Back]

10 "Reproductive Rights Are Fundamental Rights," The Humanist, January/February 1991, p. 21. [Back]

11 Ellen Carton, New York executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), quoted in "Gazette," Conscience, May/June 1988, p. 17. [Back]

12 Annie Lally Milhaven, "Fatherly Fanaticism," Conscience, July/August 1988, p. 6. [Back]

13 Frances Kissling has said that "protesting or praying outside women's health centers by cardinals and other church leaders, no matter how non violent it appears, offends and hurts women." Quoted in Cathleen Falsani, "Abortion Foes Gather to Pray: Cardinal Bernardin Leads Mass at Chicago Clinic," Daily Southtown, June 27, 1999, pp. 1, 10. [Back]

14 Richard Doerflinger, "Who are Catholics for a Free Choice?" America, November 16, 1985, p. 313. [Back]

15 Mary Jean Wolch, "An Open Letter From a Catholic Birth Mother," Conscience, Autumn 1996, pp. 25 28. [Back]

16 "Gazette," Conscience, May/June 1988, p. 17. [Back]

17 Letter by Rev. E. L. O'Hickey, Conscience, May/June 1988, p. 19. [Back]

18 Margaret Conway, "State Updates," Conscience, July/August 1989, pp. 16, 17. [Back]

19 "In the News: Not in My Building, You Don't," Conscience, January/February 1991, p. 22. [Back]

20 "In Brief," Conscience, Spring/Summer 1995, page 57 ("If religious leaders sincerely want to deter the terrorists, they must disavow one premise, . . . that there is no sign)ficant difference between the human life of the unborn and human life of the born human being"). [Back]

21 Frances Kissling, "The Vatican's Cheap Shot at UNICEF," Conscience, Winter 1996/1997, pp. 36, 37. [Back]

22 Annie Lally Milhaven, Inside Stories: 13 Valiant Women Challenging the Church. Excerpted in Conscience, September December 1987, pp. 29 37. [Back]

23 Various pro abortionists, interviewed by Lisa M. Hisel and Patricia Miller, "Bribery or Benevolence: pro-choice Leaders Examine the Generosity of a Scottish Cardinal," Conscience, Winter 1999/2000. [Back]

24 "No Place for Prayer," American Atheist Magazine, August 1995, p. 37. [Back]

25 Joyce Arthur. "The Myth of 'Pro Abortion Violence,'" April 2003. Downloaded from the website of the pro-choice Action Network, http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/not-violent.html, on June 16 2003. [Back]

26 Documentation for all of these acts of violence is on Human Life International's Abortion Violence website, http://www.abortionviolence.com. [Back]

27 Department of Justice, National Task Force on Vioience Against Health Care Providers http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/faceweb.htm. [Back]

28 These numbers are from the website of the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. [Back]

29 "Nicaraguan President Orders Protection for Church Leaders," Agencia EFE via COMTEX at http://www.efe.es, Document ID #FA20010501910000306, May 1, 2001. [Back]

30 Marquis de Sade, "Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen," Juliette (New York: Grove 1968 reprint). pp. 336, 782, and 783. [Back]