While law enforcement agencies were steadfastly refusing to comment on the shooter’s motives for the attacks at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, a single official, speaking off the record, revealed that the suspect had, in his rambling, said “no more baby parts.” That was enough for many pro-choice activists to call for an investigation of “domestic terrorism” encouraged and abetted by the rhetoric of pro-life activists. Especially the connection has been drawn, as Katha Pollitt did in The New York Times (12/1), between “no more baby parts” and “the deceptively edited incendiary videos” from the Center for Medical Progress that revealed Planned Parenthood’s involvement in procuring fetal tissue from abortions.
There is of course no justification for the shootings in Colorado Springs; they have been universally denounced, by pro-life leaders as well as by defenders of Planned Parenthood. But by depicting the very existence of the C.M.P. videos as an incitement to violence against abortion providers, pro-choice activists are trying to rule criticism of legal abortion out of the conversation altogether.
Blame-shifting rhetoric—whether from pro-lifers comparing anti-abortion violence to the violence of abortion itself or from pro-choice activists accusing opponents of providing cover for “domestic terrorism”—serves no one. Worse, it draws our attention away from responding to another incident of gun violence made possible by a deeply disturbed individual’s easy access to high-powered weapons. The shooter may have used opposition to abortion as a pretext for his violence, but his violence should not be used as a pretext for rejecting pro-life arguments. And nothing should be used as a pretext for ignoring the need for substantive gun regulation.