The FBI has requested public assistance in investigating a series of attacks against pro-life centers.

Jane’s Revenge, an abortion rights organization, has enacted a nationwide campaign focused upon vandalizing and destroying pro-life centers.

The first occurred on June 7, when a fire bomb was deployed against a facility in Buffalo, New York.  Other attacks have taken place in Washington, Massachusetts, Oregon, Illinois, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

The group has vowed to attack any pro-life organization that does not close its doors and is promoting riots if SCOTUS overturns Roe.  Their calling card has been the slogan, “To our oppressors: if abortions aren’t safe, you’re not either.”

The violence does not just stop at clinics. Shortly after Politico published a leaked draft of a possible majority opinion for Dobbs, some abortion rights groups began calling for more direct and confrontational action to protect a woman’s right to abortion.

One group, calling itself Ruth Sent Us, published what they claimed were the addresses of the six conservative Supreme Court Justices in preparation for what they called a “Walk-by Protest” outside the justice’s homes

On June 8, a protester was arrested outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home carrying a 9 mm handgun with the expressed desire to kill the justice for overturning Roe.

Such actions and rhetoric feel like a page out of the Right to Life’s playbook, a movement that has been associated with attacks on abortion clinics and staff for decades, murdering physicians providing abortions and harassing innocent women seeking an abortion.

Attacks on abortion clinics and providers happened regularly in the 1990s.

In 1994, John Salvi broke into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts, shooting at people with a .22 caliber handgun and wounding five before shooting others at Preterm Health Services later that day.

In 1998, a Birmingham abortion clinic was bombed, killing the security guard and wounding a nurse. And we cannot forget Eric Rudolph, the 1998 Atlanta Olympic bomber who previously bombed several abortion clinics.

As recently as May 2022, an arsonist burned a clinic in Casper, Wyoming, which would have become the states only abortion provider.

Sadly, violent tactics have been used by individuals and groups on both sides of the issue.

This is not how responsible citizens should engage issues, even those that bring up strong emotions. This does not, and has never been, our nation’s tradition of reasoned debate.

Such approaches are best described as argumentum ad baculum (“argument to the stick”) – an argument by threat. Like argumentum ad hominem (“argument to the person”), or red herring fallacies, they are a distraction from the real issue.

Ad Baculum arguments do not move us forward to compromise legislation. They stoke fear, but they do not change minds – and, more often than not, such violence entrenches people in their views and turns off those who are “on the fence.”

Right to Life supporters learned this in the 1990s, realizing that violent tactics turned off the public. Violence does not change public opinion it just breeds social discord.

With that being said, it should be emphasized that the vast majority of people on either side of the abortion debate do not use violent words or actions to advocate for their position.

Both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” supporters have deep-felt convictions about abortion. Every meeting I have ever had at a Planned Parenthood Clinic and at a Crisis Pregnancy Center have been cordial, informative and productive.

Over the years, my opinion on the moral permissibility of abortion has evolved due to these productive encounters.

One important lesson from these meetings is that we must stop thinking that the other side is filled with evil people. Both sides are populated with people of conviction.

We may disagree, but we should respect the level of conviction. We may promote a different agenda in the state legislature, but we can still be respectful towards one another.

While the use of violence or political threats by either side has been the exception not the rule, it should be clear that this approach has not been productive in resolving the abortion debate.

We need to stop calling each other murders, oppressors, misogynists and terrorists. This has not gotten us anywhere, so it is time to do something different: reasoned, fact-based public debate.

Whatever SCOTUS decides on Dobbs will not be about making abortion illegal nationwide. Rather, it will change the debate and push the issue back to the state level.

If this is what happens, I hope we will see a manner of civility in the forthcoming dialogue and decision-making processes that shows respect for people of conviction on both sides of this matter.

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