- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2001

British King Henry II thunders to his courtiers, "Who will free me from this turbulent priest?"
Thomas a Becket is slain.
In a civil suit for damages brought by Beckets estate, King Henry defends that his fulmination averted a direct call for assassination, and is thus constitutionally protected speech. Beckets slayers insist that the king had indeed authorized or directed murder, an interpretation fortified by Henrys known enmity toward the temerarious priest for protesting the subordination of ecclesiastical to secular authority. Should King Henrys free speech defense triumph?
A modern day carbon copy of Becket recently unfolded before a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette Inc. vs. American Coalition of Life Activists (March 28, 2001). The stakes were as stark for abortion providers as they had been for Becket.
The ill-conceived Roe vs. Wade (1973) abortion decree of the Supreme Court has spawned violence, including murder, by professedly pro-life crusaders. Their cross hairs have frequently targeted abortion providers, for instance, the pro-life John Salvi and the assassin of Bernard Slepian.The murderers believe in their cause every bit as fervently as John Brown preached the godliness of killing in the name of emancipation.
Pro-life veterans are well versed in the post-Roe history of intimidation and violence calculated to frighten physicians from performing abortions. And pro-life activists have no more demonstrated or paraded around the Supreme Court against the violence of John Salvi than has Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat led marches against Hamas or suicide bombers targeting Jews in the West Bank, Gaza, or Israel.
Against this dramatic background, the following Becket-like plot uncurtained. In 1995, the American Coalition of Life Activists unveiled a poster declaring a "Deadly Dozen" of named abortion providers guilty of "crimes against humanity" and offering a $5,000 award for information leading to their arrests, convictions and license revocations. The addresses of the listed abortion criminals were provided as clues to pocketing the bounty.
Later in the year, the ACLA premiered a sequel poster targeting abortion provider Dr. Robert Crist. It provided his home and work addresses and photograph; indicted him for crimes against humanity; and, offered $500 to "any ACLA organization that successfully persuades Crist to turn from his child killing through activities within ACLA guidelines." While the guidelines prohibit violence, that specific taboo was left unprinted and unknown to the uninitiated.
In January 1996, ACLA sallied forth with dossiers on doctors, clinic employees, politicians, judges, and companion champions of abortion rights.The dossiers were labeled the "Nuremberg Files," thus likening their subjects to Nazis corresponding to Joseph Mengele or Adolph Eichmann at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belson, Dachau, Treblinka, etc. Indeed, the ACLA celebrated the files, soon posted on a website, as preparation for Nuremberg-type war crimes trials "in perfectly legal courts once the tide of this nations opinion turns against the wanton slaughter of Gods children." To make graphic the website message, the names of abortion providers killed by terrorists were struck through and those wounded marked in gray.
ACLA thus seems to expect historical moral and legal vindication, like Count Claus von Stauffenberg for his ill-starred July 20, 1944, attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler.
Sinister posters similar to those of ACLA have in the past preceded violence against clinics. The doctors listed by ACLA, in anticipatory self-defense, thus donned bulletproof vests, curtained their home windows,and accepted protection from United States marshals. They also sued ACLA for its allegedly threatening statements in violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994. A jury found in their favor, and awarded $107 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Writing for a unanimous panel in Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Williamette Inc., Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski upended the verdict on the astonishing ground that ACLAs incendiary ranting and raving against abortion providers and virtual road map for violence was shielded from liability under the First Amendment. If the law believes that, as Mr. Bumble said, the law is a ass, a idiot.
Judge Kozinski denied that ACLA had either incited or advocated imminent violence against physicians and others it had listed as Nazilike war criminals and offering their addresses and photographs. He further maintained that the striking of the names of murdered doctors and the graying of the wounded on its web page without a hint of condemnation did not endorse pro-life violence to elongate the lists of terrorist victims. But what else did they endorse or salute, especially when the addresses and photos of candidates for terrorism were volunteered?
The graphics and identifying information about named abortion providers were no call to debate the merits of Roe vs. Wade. They were no summons to non-violence a la Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King. Except to an obtuse pro-life crusader, ACLA was heaping praise and offering glory and money to those who would threaten, intimidate or perpetrate violence against abortion providers guilty of crimes against humanity.
Suppose 1964 Mississippi civil rights martyrs Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney had had their photos, names and addresses publicly posted in Jackson by the Klan coupled with their execration as communists, carpetbaggers, black supremacy fanatics. Wouldnt that have been tantamount to a threat to leave Mississippi or expect violence?
Wasnt ACLAs subtextual message to abortion providers indistinguishable: namely, stop performing abortions or confront violence, whether by us or by our pro-life soulmates?

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide