Rhetoric didn't fuel Colorado shooter - and a buffer zone didn't stop him

It’s been only a few days since the murders of Garrett Swasey, Jennifer Markovsky, and Ke’Arre Stewart by Robert Dear at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado. I’ve heard suggestions that “rhetoric” in general and the Center for Medical Progress in particular created a climate of violence. In that fantasy world, people like Dear would never commit murder if only abortion resisters would remain silent and invisible.

Wake up.

Without exception, the rhetoric accusations I’ve read have been written by people who equate peaceful prolife action with violence. I’m reminded of the New Hampshire state rep who said at a committee hearing on the buffer zone that handing a woman a pamphlet could be an act of violence. Now that’s some rhetoric.

That rep made an outrageous claim – but it worked. The buffer zone law is in place, although unenforced thanks to a federal injunction. The reps had a chance to remove the blight from the statute books earlier this year. Nope. They kept it. Buffer zone fans warned that repeal would “send the wrong message” – the message being that the First Amendment is OK even for nonviolent pro-life demonstrators.

Remember that the New Hampshire law was passed without any documentation from law enforcement that client safety was a problem at New Hampshire abortion facilities. It was passed despite the fact that laws against harassment, assault, illegal weapons possession, and trespassing are already in place. The governor and a majority of legislators over two sessions with differing party majorities bought into the fantasy that buffering the First Amendment would somehow protect safety and balance and access where other laws didn’t.

How did that work out in Colorado?

Colorado has a variety of buffer zone law called a bubble zone, if Wikipedia is to be believed. Within 100 feet of a reproductive health facility (sic), it’s illegal to get within eight feet of anyone entering or leaving the facility. That didn’t protect Dear’s victims.

So the zone didn’t work. Laws against trespassing, assault, and illegal use of firearms didn’t work. Must be the rhetoric.

One New Hampshire newspaper recently advanced the rhetoric argument with some rhetoric of its own, citing Republican candidates but implying culpability on the part of all who call abortion what it is.

“Every Republican contender for the world’s top job opposes abortion, and most have denounced the legal medical procedure in harsh or even apocalyptic terms. All are now denying that their rhetoric demonizing abortion providers played any role in inciting the man accused of killing three and wounding nine at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic last week. They’re wrong. Their words may not have directly spurred accused killer Robert Dear to violence,… [b]ut the GOP candidates’ high-profile assault on abortion and Planned Parenthood, the nation’s major provider of health care to women, has done much to create a climate capable of spawning violence.” 

The editorial erroneously and embarrassingly calls PP “the nation’s major provider of health care to women” when there’s a network of Catholic health care providers in the United States including 600 hospitals and 1400 other health care facilities where women are cared for, but leave that aside for today. Consider instead the phrase “high-profile assault on abortion and Planned Parenthood…has done much to create a climate capable of spawning violence.”

Is there any opposition to PP that doesn’t amount to “high-profile assault” in the eyes of PP’s defenders? On that question hangs the credibility of everyone citing rhetoric as a factor in the Colorado killings.

Read the rest of the post at Leaven for the Loaf.