Willfully Blind
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Tue May 01, 2007 at 12:01:37 AM EST
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Many professed shock after last week's attempted bombing of an Austin women's clinic. Others felt shocked by their shock, since the religious right's thinly disguised rhetoric of hatred has so permeated our public discourse as to have become the norm. But for some it is easier to pretend not to see what is before their faces, far easier to remain willfully blind.

In 1998, nurse Emily Lyons lost her left eye, was partially blinded in her right and sustained other horrific and disabling injuries when another bomb -- similarly packed with nails that flew as deadly shrapnel -- was detonated at a Birmingham clinic by Eric Rudolph.

"Many may find the graphic images of my trauma ... to be offensive. I hope so. Violence is ugly. You should be offended by the senseless damage caused by the attack. It isn't the photographs that are bad; it is the act of hate that created them."

Hers are powerful words. But are Emily's courage [pdf photo link] and Emily's words more powerful than the rhetoric of hate that made them necessary?

Last week, an Eric Rudolph wannabe brought anti-abortion terrorism to Texas. The same type of bomb that killed Birmingham Police Officer Robert Sanderson and maimed Emily Lyons was planted at a clinic in the state's capital. The bomb's construction, as detailed in the FBI's official arrest affidavit [pdf link], leaves no doubt of its deadly potential.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPaul Ross Evans (right) is charged with "using weapons of mass destruction, attempting to damage a building used in interstate commerce and attempting to damage a facility because it provides reproductive health services." Evans grew up in Lufkin, a small East Texas city where signs of the religious right's relentless crusade are all-pervasive.

In 2003, Joe Pojman's Texas Alliance for Life (TAL) was instrumental in drafting and passing the Prenatal Protection Act, making anyone except "the mother of the unborn child" or a physician performing a "lawful procedure" subject to murder charges for the death of "an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth."

In 2004, Rep. Frank Corte's HB 15, AKA the Woman's Right to Know Act made abortion care in Texas after 15 weeks of gestation unobtainable for all but the privileged.

And in 2005, Lufkin teenagers Erica Basoria and Gerardo Flores, desperate to end a twin pregnancy that neither knew how to cope with, resorted to what the state now defines as murder.

"When I was four months pregnant, I began to show and at that time I decided that I should have gotten an abortion," Erica stated in her affidavit.

"About two weeks before the miscarriage, I started hitting myself," she said. "I would do this every other day, and I would use both of my fists when I did this. I would hit myself ten or more times."
[:::]
After Erica's doctor's visit a week earlier, Jerry said, she had decided she didn't want to be pregnant anymore. She'd heard that if someone stood on a pregnant woman's stomach, you could abort the babies. For days, she'd asked Jerry to do it. He didn't want to, but ultimately he gave in.

Erica lay on the bedroom floor, and Jerry, about five foot eight and 180 pounds, stepped onto her stomach, just above the navel. Then he pressed his K-Swiss sneakers into her flesh. Their statements vary as to how often they repeated this process. Jerry said it was two or three times during the week leading up to the miscarriage; Erica said he stepped on her twice in the two weeks prior to the miscarriage.
[:::]
Under a state law passed in 2003, she had just implicated her boyfriend in two counts of capital murder. Under that same law, she was guilty of nothing, since a mother has the right to end her pregnancy.

Gerardo Flores is now serving a life sentence on two counts of murder. Joe Pojman thinks he got what he deserved.

"We recognized the grave importance of this case as precedent and instruction for other courts in Texas ... Our amicus curiae brief shows that Texas' Prenatal Protection Act is on firm constitutional ground. Clearly the U.S. Constitution should allow Texas to recognize unborn children as persons and protect them from murderers."

However, Pojman was quick to distance TAL from any solidarity with the 2004 actions of a Lufkin man who apparently acted on rhetoric such as his.

As reported in the Lufkin Daily News 8/19/04, gun shots were fired at the Lufkin Planned Parenthood. ... The following statement is attributed to Joe Pojman, Ph.D., Executive Director of Texas Alliance for Life:

"The Texas Alliance for Life strongly condemns all forms of violence against humanity. We condone only peaceful and legal activities. The violence that occurred at the Planned Parenthood facility in Lufkin is inexcusable and cannot be justified. Thankfully no one was hurt at the time of the shootings. We trust the police will apprehend the perpetrator and prosecute this person to the fullest extent of the law."

Another group exercising influence at the State Capitol paints Planned Parenthood as "deadly."

The Houston Coalition for Life is participating in the construction boycott of the new Planned Parenthood ... facility in Lufkin, Texas. We will be cooperating ... to identify this deadly project's participants ...  The general contractor is Moore Building Associates. The owner Jerry Moore is quoted in the Lufkin daily news as saying "We believe in the project, Planned Parenthood is a worthwhile organization and we support it completely."
[:::]
Let him ... know that the artificial birth control that they dispense, including the morning after pill, a good portion of the time works to cause an abortion as opposed to working as a contraceptive. He might also be interested to know that Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas killed 6,376 babies ... in 2005.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOnly a month ago, the lawn of Lufkin's St. Andrew Catholic Church was covered in white wooden crosses.

The Rev. Joe Kannampuzha (left) and the Rev. Bill Slight (right) named their display the "Cemetery of the Innocents," memorializing "208 unborn Texans killed every day through abortion." They urge Catholic youth to "fight for the lives of unborn children" from the moment of conception. Slight said, "For the young people it means becoming aware of this important life issue. They need to be prepared to defend life and not get trapped into what the wider society is teaching or promoting."

Still, after years of such polarizing rhetoric, Lufkin residents express shock that one of their own could have been incited to violence.

It was the talk of the barber shop where Lee Tillman got his hair trimmed for a church banquet Saturday. ... Like many in Lufkin -- a city about 120 miles north of Houston that was rocked three years ago by its own attack on a women's clinic -- Tillman, 32, declares himself anti-abortion but decries using violence to express that view.

"It was shocking," Tillman said, to hear that Paul Ross Evans, 27, whose mother is a school counselor in Lufkin, is accused of leaving the bomb.
[:::]
"It wasn't right," said Greg Thompson, 33, a machine shop worker washing his car before church early Sunday morning.
[:::]
Lufkin Police Sgt. Stephen Abbott said he was not somebody known by the 72-officer department.  ... Abbott said Evans hadn't been suspected of being involved with extremist groups.

"We don't really have extremist groups here," he said. "This is the heart of the Bible belt."

The "heart of the Bible Belt," Lufkin has a church for every 500 residents -- and a great number of those are affiliates of the Southern Baptist Convention, whose 2nd Vice President, the Rev. Wiley Drake, partnered with Army of God "Hero of the Faith" Robert Ferguson and openly approves murdering doctors who provide abortion care.

After the 1998 ambush murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, Drake joined other proponents of violence in signing a Declaration of Support for Dr. Slepian's killer, James Kopp, known to his fellow soldiers in the Army of God as "Atomic Dog." Pastor Drake added, "The price of blood is high. Some will pay high, and some will pay low, but pay, we all will for the 40 million babies we have killed. God bless you my  brother as you serve Him, and His little ones."

Talk to Action's Frederick Clarkson writes:

The Declaration of Support for James Kopp is posted on the web site of the Army of God (AOG) -- that's the organization of revolutionary theocrats of myriad stripes that have engaged in a violent war of attrition, with abortion providers as their primary target, for a generation. Leading figures in the AOG include women and men convicted of murder, bombing, arson, kidnapping, and more. Such leading lights as the late Rev. Paul Hill, (executed in Florida's electric chair for the murder of a doctor and his escort), and Rev. Michael Bray who served four years for his involvement in a series of bombings and arsons of clinics ... have publicly advocated for theocratic revolution in the United States.

For a number of years, and as of this date, the Southern Baptist Convention has failed to disavow Wiley Drake's public applause for a murderer.

It has been said before that "The underbelly of the Christian right is as scary as anything that ever dwelled in a Tora Bora cave."

In Texas, the connections between the religious right and state lawmakers run deep. The politically influential Free Market Foundation is the Texas outpost of Focus on the Family -- whose leader, James Dobson, has shown up in person to support the same theocratic initiatives as the Army of God.  

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Neal Horsley (above, in white hat) and Dr. James Dobson (below) attend a Montgomery rally in support of Judge Roy Moore

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AOG gadfly Neal Horsley is the publisher of the Nuremberg Files, where Horsley complains that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has made him remove strike-through lines from the names of "dead abortionists."

Life Dynamics International (LDI) and the Justice Foundation/Operation Outcry fuel and promote numerous bills by Texas politicians in thrall to the religious right. This is what LDI director Mark Crutcher says about legislation requiring a woman to look at ultrasound images of her pregnancy before being allowed to have an abortion.

[I]t is certainly reasonable to speculate that any woman who could submit to abortion and not be emotionally traumatized by the experience is either abysmally stupid, a psychopath, or someone with profound psychological problems.
[:::]
This also applies to those people who have encouraged, arranged for, referred for, facilitated or forced women to have abortions.  Just because they may not express - or even feel - regret over the children they helped to execute, they are as responsible for their deaths as the women who climbed onto the tables and put their feet in the stirrups.
[:::]
As for the significance of regret or lack thereof, we should remember that Adolf Eichmann went to the gallows saying he had no regrets about his role in the Nazi holocaust.  However, his cold-blooded lack of remorse did not justify the slaughter of millions who perished in Germany's death camps.  Nor will anyone's cold-blooded lack of remorse over abortion justify the slaughter that continues to claim millions in America's death camps.

Crutcher works closely with Fr. Frank Pavone, longtime director of Priests for Life. Pavone is a close political ally of Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, a master of hate speech.

"I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you... I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good... Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country."

Terry had this warning for doctors who provide women with abortion care.

"When I, or people like me, are running the country, you'd better flee, because we will find you, we will try you and we will execute you."

Pavone, who recognizes fertile ground when he sees it, has relocated in Texas to establish and lead a new Amarillo-based religious order dedicated to ending abortion. While paying the customary lip service to nonviolence, he takes his friends where he finds them.

Pavone's explanation of his relationships with these activists seems murky. On the one hand, he insists none of his allies are violent. "If anyone ever said that shootings, bombings, arsons, or any other kinds of things we would call violence were justified, we'd come out as strongly and say we disagree with that," the priest says. However, when asked about his pro-choice critics, Pavone says, "They see in us a linkage between the extreme and mainstream. There is a truth there that they're picking up on. We have always been a networking hub. The doors are open to everyone."

These people do not populate some shadowy fringe of the anti-abortion movement; as Pavone admits, they help form its hub and its inspiration. And their far-right vision of God's word is fast becoming the law that governs our lives.

In an April 2 hearing of the Texas House State Affairs Committee, Rep. Robert Talton openly admitted that his bill requiring the state police to perform DNA analysis of tissue from the bodies of teenaged girls who have abortions was modeled upon a Life Dynamics operation. And Sen. Dan Patrick -- who proposes criminalizing safe abortion care and $500 payments from the state to women who agree to place their newborns for adoption -- has another bill before the legislature containing the same mandatory ultrasound provision touted by Mark Crutcher.

As Frederick Clarkson rightly observes, "Rather than the exception, Wiley Drake epitomizes what much of the religious right is all about." The same can be said of countless others who disguise their mission with pious platitudes, while disavowing its inevitable results.

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There are none so blind as those who will not see. But for how long shall we remain, unlike Emily Lyons, willfully blind?

[Photos: EmilyLyons.com, the Austin American-Statesman, Ashley Cook for the Longview News-Journal and Talk to Action]




Display:
for her loving spirit, and for continuing to speak out against the hatred that almost took her life, and changed it forever.

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by moiv on Tue May 01, 2007 at 12:23:18 AM EST


You have pulled together important information and we had all better pay attention.

by nogodsnomasters on Tue May 01, 2007 at 09:59:29 AM EST
that the political machinations of the religious right have blighted the lives of young people in Texas in so many ways -- and that there are so many examples of its influence in one small city.

Just poisonous.

by moiv on Tue May 01, 2007 at 07:41:52 PM EST
Parent



She was wonderful before the bombing, and she remains the same positive person even after all she has been through. I consider myself privileged to know her.

by LynneK on Thu May 03, 2007 at 02:02:56 PM EST
Emily Lyons has displayed true courage in her willingness to use her story to stand up for women's rights and reproductive freedom.  She is a beacon of light.



by cyncooper on Thu May 03, 2007 at 11:08:06 PM EST
Parent



Thanks for this post.  Please keep us informed of details about this terrorist when you learn of them.

by cyncooper on Thu May 03, 2007 at 11:12:02 PM EST
things have gotten what Elmer Fudd would call vewy, vewy quiet.  

The only media outlet that's done much coverage is the Austin American-Statesman, which published its last story almost a week ago. It's enough to make you wonder whether Don Spitz is right.

Grow up. Do you think anyone actually cares that a babykilling abortion mill is blown up? You don't seem too concerned about the babies that are being murdered at the babykilling Austin Women's Health Center; only that their babykilling building is left standing so they can continue to murder innocent children.

SAY THIS PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and am headed to eternal hell because of my sins. I believe you died on the cross to take away my sins and to take me to heaven. Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and take away my sins and give me eternal life.

Comment by Rev Don Spitz | Apr. 30, 2007, 10:17 pm |

But the FBI says they've "got an ongoing investigation into him and all of his particulars."

by moiv on Sat May 05, 2007 at 03:26:53 AM EST
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