Pro-life voices across the country are singing in unison as they condemn the actions of a man who opened fire at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last week. The only and best description of such violence perpetrated against helpless bystanders and a noble police officer is evil. As the result of this atrocity, three families are entering this holiday season with unspeakable sadness.
In recent months, we have witnessed a number of shootings across the country, and perhaps because of the politicized air we breathe, people from different political camps have been outrunning each other to turn each tragedy into a weapon to advance their own causes. The shooting at Planned Parenthood is even more explosive – igniting the tinder of our country’s ongoing abortion debates.
What does this do for “the cause?”
That is a question that presents itself to both pro-life and pro-choice people following last Friday’s rampage. Pro-choice people will be tempted to seize the opportunity to strike a blow for a woman’s “reproductive health” and use the shooting as a way of painting all abortion opponents as violent religious extremists. Pro-life people will feel the weight of that question from the other side, wondering how this might serve as a setback in advocating justice for the unborn and the protection of human life at all stages.
I believe the question about how these events impact “the cause” only adds to the weight of the tragedy. Our concern is not for a cause but for the people that cause represents. If, when we see the violence of last week’s attack, we first wonder about its impact on the broader pro-life movement, we resemble our pro-choice opponents who, when confronted with grisly videos of underground trafficking in fetal remains, fall back on the righteousness of their “cause” and suppress any doubts that something unethical may be taking place. No, our concern cannot be first about the impact on a cause, but the impact on the families of the victims.
Over the weekend, a pro-choice friend of mine commented on how pro-life people should be even more upset about the attack, considering one of the victims was an evangelical police officer who was also a pro-life pastor. In other words, One of the victims believed like you. As if political and religious agreement would make the death of that victim more tragic.
This logic makes sense from a pro-choice perspective, but not to a consistently pro-life person. Had the police officer had been an activist for abortion rights, we would still mourn his death because we deplore any and all violence against others. All three deaths are tragic because all three people bore the image of God. Their lives were sacred. One’s political persuasion, opinion, background, ethnicity, or disability does not change the intrinsic value of every human life. In fact, the very idea that one’s life is more valuable than another’s is what we so forcefully oppose when we stand up for the rights of the unborn.
We should not be surprised to see pro-choice cheerleaders among the mainstream media and Planned Parenthood’s well-endowed politicians exploiting this tragedy, weaponizing the tragedy against the wider pro-life movement and painting all pro-life people as wild and zealous fanatics.
But our response should be different. We should grieve with those who grieve, mourn the loss of innocent life and consider the victims – the families who will pass through the weeks, months, and years ahead with a sense of loss and longing that will far surpass the volcano of words in our 24-hour news cycle.
My pro-choice friends pin the blame of last week’s attack on the renewed wave of activism in light of the recent Planned Parenthood videos. That is a simplistic and unprovable assumption, one that is directly countered by the example of selfless officer who, while deploring the abortion industry, raced inside to rescue its employees.
It also fails to reckon with an uncomfortable and grisly truth: in the aftermath of every abortion, there is a dead human body. Indeed, the question of what to do with the corpses of the unborn has led to our most recent debates – whether the outcry in Great Britain over aborted fetuses being used to aid in the heating of buildings, or the American outcry over dissecting and selling fetal remains.
What do we do with the bodies?
That may be a controversial question, but only because it goes to the heart of the American conflict over the morality and legality of the abortion procedure. Is this a question of women’s rights or human rights? Are all human beings persons? What is the unborn? What do we do with the unborn after we have stopped their beating hearts?
These questions will not go away in the aftermath of the Colorado Springs shooting. As long as there are people who believe in human rights for all, the pro-life movement will insist on asking such questions. Because all human life is sacred, we oppose the violent outburst against Planned Parenthood last Friday, as well as the violence that goes on against helpless victims every day their doors are open.