For years I scoffed at the idea of violence outside abortion clinics. Sure, plenty of violence was going on inside the clinics-more than 4,000 babies killed every day. But opponents of abortion are pro-life, I kept saying. We're in this because we oppose bloodshed. Occasionally I'd wince to hear that someone who was Not Clear on the Concept had harmed an empty building, an action that was wrong, risky, and stupid. But the notion that anyone would aim a gun at an abortionist's head and pull the trigger was ludicrous.
Then somebody did it. A year after Michael Griffin shot Dr. David Gunn in the back, Paul Hill did the same thing, spraying bullets inside the cab of a truck and killing not only a doctor, but an elderly man functioning as his chauffeur. Crazy violence, once contained inside the safe-and-legal walls, was bursting out in scary and unpredictable ways.
It was no surprise, then, to see a headline in a recent newspaper: "Man Shoots at Pro-Lifer at Baton Rouge Abortion Clinic." According to police, Ernest Robertson got a gun from his car and pointed it at protester Richard Mahoney, who turned to run away. Fortunately, this time the bullet missed. "It's just a situation where two emotional people were engaged in a confrontation," said police spokesperson Don Kelly.
People have been emotional about the abortion issue for more than 20 years, and perhaps we should be grateful for the restraint that has kept guns out of the picture till now. But with the advent of this new level of bloodshed, finding nonviolent solutions becomes more urgent than ever.
How do you depolarize such a situation? How do you cool tempers down? While the tension of fighting political battles freezes the opposing armies in battle mode, perhaps there are areas outside the political sphere where dialogue can begin. Perhaps when we consider the real troubles that real pregnant women face, we can find some common ground.