Pro-lifers have a lot on our plate, from an intractable legal status quo to opponents defaming us at every turn. With all our real problems, the last thing we need is to divert attention to fake ones. Unfortunately, a few pro-lifers with overactive imaginations seem to be doing exactly that.
The latest presidential scandal concerns an Obama Justice Department memo outlining the president’s legal justification for assassinating American citizens engaged in terrorism against the United States, with many of Obama’s foes and civil libertarians on both sides questioning whether the administration is circumventing the Constitution’s due-process guarantees.
Over the past week, some articles and commentators have speculated that the memo could somehow set the precedent for Obama or a future pro-abortion administration to kill pro-life activists under similar justification, a fear heightened by a 2009 Homeland Security Department report warning of an imaginary rise in “domestic rightwing terrorists” motivated by issues such as abortion.
That report was a shockingly disgraceful injection of partisan opportunism into national security. But a pretense for killing us? Hardly.
First, confusion arises because we’re using one term, “terrorist,” in two very different contexts. The acts of “domestic terrorists,” such as Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski, are still defined as crimes and punished via the civilian criminal justice system, with trial, representation, and appeal fully intact. In the War on Terror, however, “terrorist” refers to those affiliated with an organization sufficiently large, coordinated, and dangerous to justify a military response, making their offenses against the United States acts of war rather than crimes. Even in the unlikely event of the government trying to criminalize pro-lifers on the basis of the 2009 report, it would at most rationalize subjecting us to the former scenario, not the latter.
Second, the memo [PDF link] is actually quite specific about whom its criteria apply to—“a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force of al-Qa’ida—that is, an al-Qa’ida leader actively engaged in planning operations to kill Americans.” If anyone can say how even the most creative judicial activist could interpret that to include American citizens engaged in activism against abortion, be my guest.
Third, simply taking a moment to imagine the firestorm that would ensue if any American politician took to killing his political opponents should be enough to debunk any fear that anyone in the Obama White House would risk his job, his personal freedom, and the public’s abortion sympathies for political crimes of an unprecedented magnitude—crimes whose supposed benefits couldn’t even come close to the risks.
The pro-life movement has no shortage of enemies, but their weapons are rhetorical, and their target is our reputations and influence—not life and limb. Succumbing to paranoia neither helps the unborn nor guards us against the real threats to our cause.