See also other RH Reality Check reporting on this issue.
The National Right to Life’s website promises the following: “Right to life issues including abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. Tracking pro-life legislation including stem cell research and cloning.” Infanticide? Interesting. What about homicide? Is murder a right-to-life issue?
As Mother Jones reports, South Dakota’s state legislature will soon vote on a bill that would make it okay to kill someone in order to prevent him or her from “killing” or inflicting “great personal injury” upon one’s family member OR the unborn child of one’s family member. (Hat tip to Choire Sicha at The Awl.)
The bill is described as “An Act to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to provide for the protection of certain unborn children.”
This marks a fascinating departure from the Personhood approach to anti-abortion legislation—proposing bills that define a fertilized egg as a person—and helps clarify the tactics of the “pro-life” movement: unambiguous intimidation and violence. The pro-life movement, once (maybe?) a measured philosophical position, is now dominated by tyrannical ideologues whose threat to their opponents is quite literal.
How did a movement that purports to value life from the moment of conception get so fixated on violence? Kate Sheppard in Mother Jones reminds us that eight abortion doctors have been murdered since 1993; the latest doctor-killer, Scott Roeder, came to the pro-life movement just a few years before he murdered Dr. George Tiller. Before his involvement with church-based anti-abortion activities, he was part of the anti-government, anti-bank Freemen. After he killed Tiller, his wife said that Roeder “wanted a scapegoat.”
It is not uncommon for extremist assassins to cycle through “philosophies,” or causes, seeking an outlet for their disappointment, sadness, or rage, but also seeking a community. So what about the pro-life community, most of whom will not resort to violence? Presumably, the legislators supporting the Justifiable Homicide amendment are in this group. But is their opposition to abortion any more coherent than Scott Roeder’s? These South Dakota conservatives want the government to keep its hands off their guns, their income, and their wasteful, morally abhorrent system of providing (that is, not providing) health care, but they demand that the government intervene on behalf of fertilized eggs everywhere.
This is not a new story, of course: the religious right has been inconsistent and morally baffling at least since the rise of the pro-life movement and political Evangelicals in the 70s. But what I’m most interested in as South Dakota legislators propose that we condone “pro-life” killings is the true source of these legislators’ anger. Abortion providers, I’m convinced, are only a scapegoat. South Dakotans, what makes you so angry that you would spend taxpayers’ money writing this totally insane law? Are you angry at the women who get abortions? Why? Or are you angry that life is confusing and difficult, and no one can find a job, and America is on the edge of some sort of abyss?