Misleading rhetoric contributes to violence against Planned Parenthood

David Dam

When The Center for Medical Progress released heavily edited, misleading videos regarding Planned Parenthood’s alleged selling of aborted baby parts on July 14, Republicans pounced on this controversy, calling for widespread investigations and increased scrutiny of Planned Parenthood. Rhetoric against the organization became extreme as states launched their own investigations, but they have found no wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part.

Since the release of the first video, the FBI reported an increase in attacks on reproductive health care facilities, including cyber-attacks, threats and arsons.  An FBI Intelligence Assessment at the time said that these attacks were “consistent with the actions of lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement.” Reproductive health care providers and their workers will continue to face such attacks.

The latest attack, however, went far beyond arson and vandalism. A gunman walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic, leaving three dead and nine injured. This attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic strikes political undertones due to the recent rhetoric against the organization. Additionally, a senior law enforcement member reported that the shooter mentioned “no more baby parts” in a rambling interview. While many vocal pro-life activists have condemned the shooting, their anti-abortion rhetoric may have contributed to a culture of rabidness around anti-abortion fervor, which the perpetrator may have been inspired by.

While the pro-life movement provides an important perspective to the abortion debate, their callousness is unacceptable. This callous rhetoric contributes to a cultural perception that leads people to think that acts of violence against these centers is acceptable. Business freshman Rachana Jadala said she believes rhetoric inspires one to act.

“Rhetoric shapes reality and influences our perception of the world,” Jadala said. “The rhetoric used by pro-life advocates in the context of Planned Parenthood is violent, that is a fact. It should not surprise anyone that rhetoric that describes Planned Parenthood as excessively violent, destructive, evil, etc. would use violence to combat them.”

Detractors often overlook Planned Parenthood’s many contributions to health care in the United States. Millions of both women and men are provided with sexual and reproductive health care and education by Planned Parenthood. Only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are related to abortions. Despite all of these facts, Planned Parenthood faces threats from some government officials to shut down the organization. Just this Thursday, the Senate passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

Fueling a debate through misleading rhetoric and violence is never the answer. This devolves the debate into a fight based on charged emotions instead of policy. No rational movement wants to be associated with violent extremists who carry out domestic terrorist attacks. While the right embraces its pro-life morals, the culture that results from increasingly violent rhetoric could threaten more lives in the future.

Dam is a linguistic and Spanish freshman from Austin. Follow Dam on Twitter @daviddamwrite.