A Crackpot Clouds the Issue

Please don't misunderstand what I'm about to say: There is no excuse for shooting or killing abortionists or personnel at abortion clinics. For several reasons. First, Christians can't resort to violence to save lives—except under official auspices or in a just war. Second, violence is counterproductive: When anyone assaults abortion providers, all prolifers are liable to be denounced as terrorists. Third, violence doesn't save any babies. It only makes abortion clinics all but impenetrable to peaceful protests. Having said this, I want to stress something else we all need to keep in mind: There can be no moderate debate about abortion in America until the reigning elite understands why some people are being driven over the edge. Some people like Paul Hill in Florida are being driven over the edge because they think the abortion debate is closed to peaceful change. And they've got a point. Ever since Roe v. Wade in 1973, federal judges have slammed the door to political reforms on prolife advocates. And today, Republican leaders are talking about abandoning their party's long-standing pledge to support a Human Life Amendment. And now there is John Salvi, the man suspected of murdering two abortion clinic employees and shooting three others in Massachusetts, and of firing into another abortion clinic in Virginia. Unlike Paul Hill, though, the evidence already suggests that John Salvi is just a nut. Yet President Clinton and Bob Dole are saying federal agents should guard abortion clinics. This is an hysterical overreaction. Let me suggest why. Friends of Salvi say he was desperate to gain "recognition" for himself. Others say that on Christmas Eve Salvi walked to the altar of his Catholic church, ranted against Catholicism, and had to be escorted from the building. But "recognition" isn't the goal and disrupting worship isn't the conduct of a pro-life advocate. And neither is murdering abortion-clinic employees, or firing wantonly through a clinic door. Well, John Salvi has gotten his recognition—by thrusting himself into the abortion-debate spotlight. Other crimes seem insignificant by comparison. On New Year's Eve, for example, an uninvited guest at a party in Roanoke, Virginia, gunned down five innocent people. But you haven't heard that man's name since the first report appeared. His "recognition" is over—because abortion wasn't involved. This is why hysterical overreaction to John Salvi's alleged acts would be so dangerous. Abortion clinics have become the targets-of-choice for the demented—for people who are desperate for attention. Of course the shootings are tragic, terrible, dreadful. But the media frenzy about Salvi can only inspire other nuts who want to see their names in headlines. And it can only besmirch the efforts of peaceful prolife protesters. When somebody walks into a post office and shoots several people—as happened several times last year—federal agents aren't dispatched to every post office in the country. But if crackpots like John Salvi can prompt that kind of response at abortion clinics, there will be an open invitation to every nut with a gun to come out shooting. If that happens, blame somebody. But don't blame the prolife movement.


Chuck Colson



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