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.
Paul 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.
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:
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."
Only 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.
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.
Neal Horsley (above, in white hat) and Dr. James Dobson (below) attend a Montgomery rally in support of Judge Roy Moore
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.
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.
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]
Willfully Blind | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)
Willfully Blind | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)