Abortion Clinics, White Christian Terrorism and GOP Candidates

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Americans are more at risk from violence by armed white Christian fanatics than they ever were from Muslims.

Abortion clinics have been targeted for violence by fundamentalist Christians of a violent bent for decades. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was relentlessly shot to death by Scott Roeder, who insisted that the good doctor was satanic because he performed abortions. Dr. John Britton was murdered in 1994 on similar grounds. A strain of Christianity in the United States has never accepted Roe v. Wade, which made it a woman’s right to have an abortion. Not accepting it for oneself is a matter of conscience, and there is nothing wrong with that. But not accepting it for other people is a form of coercion aimed at depriving them of a legal right.

Deploying violence against people to halt abortions is the textbook definition of terrorism, which in the 1990s the Federal Code sensibly defined as non-state actors using violence against civilians to achieve a political aim. Much violence and coercion at Planned Parenthood (only 3% of its activity has to do with abortion) is inspired by Christian fundamentalism.

On this point, Christian ultra-conservativism agrees with the point of view of the Malik school of law among Muslims. In essence, Christian terrorists are attempting to move the United States on the below map away from a modern European norm, where abortion is elective up to a certain point in pregnancy, to an Afro-Asian and Maliki Muslim norm where it is often forbidden except to save the mother’s life (or not even then).


There are four legal schools within Sunni Islam, the Maliki, Hanbali, Shafi’i and Hanafi. Ironically, the Hanbali, Shafi’i and Hanafi schools of Sunni Islam allow abortion, the Hanafi until day 42, and the Shafi’i until 4 months– and so they are more liberal on this issue than much Evangelicalism or Roman Catholicism. The Qur’an, like the Bible, doesn’t mention the issue.

Even mainstream GOP politicians (and apparently most of the presidential candidates) now want to ban abortion even in cases of rape or where the mother’s life is in danger, exalting the rights of the fetus and its father over that of the adult woman. Marco Rubio recently switched to this extreme position. Carly Fiorina famously melted down over a figment of her imagination — a video she said depicted a Planned Parenthood abortion wherein the aborted fetus was still alive, a video that does not exist (and what she may be referring to was probably footage of a miscarriage and certainly not at PP). I.e., the Republican Party is now to the right of conservative, Maliki Morocco on the abortion issue, which is planning to make the procedure legal in cases of rape or incest.

If a Muslim came on American television and fulminated against abortion on the basis of a videotape that does not exist, one can imagine the reaction– and that person would now be being accused of incitement, which most commentators will avoid doing to Fiorina. If a Muslim shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic, he’d be sent to Gitmo and the US military would go on alert. There is a double standard for anti-abortion terrorists because they tend to be white Christians.

What Christian and Muslim absolutists on abortion cannot accept is that women will have abortions one way or another, and making them illegal just drives them underground and makes them much more harmful to all concerned. In Morocco, it is estimated that there are 600-800 illegal abortions every day, which take a toll on women’s physical and mental health. That is roughly 2.2 million illegal abortions every decade in that country. Unlike states such as Texas, which have found ways of closing almost all abortion clinics in the state, Morocco is actually somewhat liberalizing its law.

More like the conservative US position is Saudi Arabia. Wikipedia notes:

“Abortion in Saudi Arabia is only legal if the abortion will save the woman’s life or if the pregnancy gravely endangers the woman’s physical or mental health.[1] In Saudi Arabia, any approved abortion requires consent from three physicians as well as the patient and her husband or guardian.[1] If an abortion is performed on a woman for any other reason, the violator may be required to pay blood money to the fetus’ family.[1] Laws explicitly deny abortion to families who fear financial instability or an inability to provide the child with education.”

The same Christian fundamentalists who fulminate most loudly against “sharia law” (medieval Muslim canon law) are perfectly happy to impose their own, Christian sharia on secular American society. Some of them are willing to deploy violence to that end, making them religious terrorists. But on this issue, there increasingly isn’t much difference between the American Republican Party and the Wahhabi clerics in their Riyadh madrasas. In both cases, religious, theological doctrines are being made the basis of public law, which is un-American and actually unconstitutional (the First Amendment refers to that as Establishment of religion, which it forbids).

47 Responses

  1. Abortion discussions are really about power and whether women are full humans.

    The simple reality is when there are two things occupying the same space, ONLY one can have power and the other MUST be subservient.

    This is the basic question:

    Is a female humanoid a sentient full being just like a male humanoid? If it is, then it has all the power over self just like a male has, including full control over any parasitic objects.

    What “christian” extremist want is to give all the power to the parasite, rendering the female into a sub-human category. No man would ever tolerate being rendered sub-human

    So my big question is “WHY do women tolerate this at all?”

    Women are over 50% of the humans on earth, yet they allow men to horribly mistreat them constantly. And once again, women are not beating up the presidential candidates over their views.

    Until women FORCIBLY tear power away from men and assert their humanity, they will be subject to being treated as sub-human.

    I am a man and would NEVER tolerate any mistreatment of myself, so why are women so passive? Why do they let religious extremists mistreat them constantly?

    This really mystifies me.

    • Its all always been about Power.

      And in a practical sense nothing defines your power other than whether others have more/less than you do.

      With exceptions, women are socialized to seek the protection of men, with relatively more Power, whether it was from lions and tigers and bears, or not having enough money to send “their” kids to good schools and otherwise live the life to which they are accustomed (or would like to become accustomed: ambition is another, not unrelated topic). Men respond to this same need in their own way, due to their own exigencies.

      Whether we’re talking about division of labor, or just who is the parasite, whenever a man and woman come together you will have a certain type of conflict; when any two men come meet there is another type. What matters is how these things are managed. This extends to relations between states when you think about it, and it’s at the heart of what motivates people (individually or collectively) to do all the counter produce and irrational things they do.

      Because, its all about Power. And even at that, it doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense.

    • You are so right. I am puzzled by how many women (the majority of readers) continue to put male writers at the top of best-seller lists in spite of the cardboard female characters the latter create.

      For generations, women were raised to believe that their destiny was to “nurture” and even when they worked they were shuttled into such low-paid, work/skill intensive jobs as teaching, nursing, and office management.

      Women who dared to assert themselves were labeled with synonyms of the b word–a female dog who dares to defend herself.

      Some women have always dared not to care. It is hard to defy expectations, but not impossible. I think it’s one of those things that has a threshold. One day, things could, seemingly all of a sudden, change.

      Some men sense this and are scared to death that they will no longer have women at home who will take care of them and support them when they are immature, nasty jerks and women at work who will take the blame for their incompetence and allow them to take unearned credit.

      As male/female percentages equalize in top grad schools, they are afraid their spoiled sons will have to study as hard as their neighbors’ daughters in high school and college instead of “sowing wild oats” and hitting weekly keggers.

      This is really why they are attacking birth control, as well as abortion. They want to turn back the clock to an imagined good old days when Dear Old Dad could act like a 2 year old and everyone would say, “Aw–we love him so much. Father knows best.”

      On some level, we all know what is happening. It’s sad, in a way, but when we are choosing leaders and trying to prevent murders, we should be thinking about it.

  2. Just want to add that legal abortions occur in the Middle East a lot more than one might think and that map, albeit from 2013, isn’t accurate.

    • Nods. Fundamentalists of all persuasions miss the simple truth that if a woman really wants to abort a fetus, she will. It just means more women will die. You don’t need to look at other countries to see this. It was true here until Roe v Wade. Unfortunately, fundamentalists seem to see women, at best, as sub-human, and at worst, as evil incarnate, so their deaths do not matter. (That includes, sadly, female fundamentalists. Sometimes they are the worst. That sort of siding with an abuser is a feature of abusive/hostage relationships.)

  3. the one paragraph i found quite informative in the post above was the info about the different schools of islamic law and their views on abortion. i found this quite interesting. but the attempt to compare fundamentalist terrorisms (christian and islamic) is muddied by an obvious fact: the reason there is not the same level of public outrage/fear relating to killing of abortionists as to so-called jihadi acts of terrorism is, of course, there has never been a claim by such abortionist killers that they are attempting a societal-wide form of “christian sharia”. in other words, such acts are isolated to abortion clinics and not to other activities in society. i’ve not done an exhaustive study of such killings, but my general sense is that they simply are doing it out of a kind of “protesting the innocent” principle and are not doing it to enforce old testament law wholesale (death penalties and all). if they were, they would also be saying that rebellious children need to be killed, etc. (there is, of course, a tradition of christian theology – it is called theonomy – that wants old testament law enforced wholesale on contemporary societies – but i sense it is too heady for these abortionist killers.) i appreciate your aim to highlight racism or unconscious support for something equally harmful to contemporary society as islamic fundamentalism – but i found your comparison immediately dismissable for the assymetry between the two fundamentlisms.

    • Great point, but my impression is the people screaming for theonomy like to pick and chose. There were 22 violations demanding death, and the Kentucky court clerk would have been stoned to death before any chance to become religious. Yes, the Old Testament does not mention abortion, but it DOES take a position on rape. “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated (anah) her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” Deuteronomy 22:28-29

    • You are missing the point of stochastic terrorism. Instead of a unified terrorist force with a unified ideology that can be identified and hated, the right wing in our capitalist media culture can simply issue fatwas in the form of smears, and violent individuals can choose the fatwa that they are willing to kill for and then carry it out with the ample weapons at everyone’s disposal. The central, totalitarian ideology is not lacking, it exists as an overlap of the all the seemingly independent right-wing extremist factions. But if you dig into the furthest right prophets of extremism, like R. J. Rushdoony, you discover that they unified all these ideas into a comprehensive system of patriarchal tyranny, then disguised it by forming hundreds of foundations, think tanks, and religious pressure groups. Then they all advanced together, a sort of cloud of extremism that could maintain plausibly deniable links with elected GOP leaders.

      You will find that the rank & file soldiers of ISIS and al-Qaeda are often ignorant boys who know little about their leaders’ global agenda. They care about their village or a killed relative or their own bad experiences. Hitler understood with the Fuhrer principle that the henchmen don’t want to mess with the complexities of an organic, world-explaining ideology, they want faith and trust in leaders as a replacement for complex argumentation. Stochastic terrorism carries that further by a “politics of the deed” that once inspired anarchists to independently carry out the assassinations of several world leaders.

    • You wrote, “there has never been a claim by such abortionist killers that they are attempting a societal-wide form of “christian sharia”. ” Right wing fundamentalists want to impose the very thing you say is missing from anti-abortion killers. Just because the violent extremists don’t mouth that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. From that wing of the conservative movement you see all the time statements like our government is founded on Christianity, how God’s law must be supreme, and similar. The Hobby Lobby case is an excellent example of how, in the name of religious freedom, the right wing has been successful in allowing right wing business owners to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. There is a coherent and unified theory among right wing evangelicals and it gives cover or justification to extremists who want to use violence to achieve those ends.

      • The terrorists who murder doctors for providing health care to women — those terrorists quite explicitly say that their goal is to make a “Christian nation”. Which means Christian sharia law. Which is also expliclitly forbidden by the First Amendment.

        These terrorists who kill doctors are also traitors; they’re making war on the US in order to overthrow our system of government.

  4. Joyce Davis

    Will any GOP candidate have the courage to renounce the Planned Parenthood attack? It would be political suicide to do so.

    • Do you think so? What percentage of the total electorate (not just Republicans) finds the fundamentalist position on women’s rights a total deal-breaker? Check out the percentage of fundamentalists in the US and you will see what I mean. Even if a Bible-thumping candidate wins the nomination by appealing to evangelist hard-liners, will he be able to overcome his , uh, extremist anti-intellectualism in the general election?

      • The word “dealbreaker” is the most important mystery in America’s political system. It appears that far-right extremists are overrunning Congress and state government simply because their hateful, classist and racist agendas are NOT dealbreakers for most of the people who bother to vote.

        They would vote for Hitler if they could get a tax cut out of it.

  5. As far as America is concerned much of the blame lies with Native Americans in the 17th Century for their failure to impose strict immigration rules refusing entry to Christian refugees from Europe.

    • They tried and failed and many died in the effort. To the victor go the spoils. I often wonder why the US didn’t keep Mexico as well.

      • They were aided by European diseases like small pox which decimated their societies. I have seen an estimate that after the Pilgrims landed many tribes in the Northeast lost up to 90% of their populations to small pox. It was sort of an unintentional biological warfare.

  6. Calling Shariah “medieval Muslim canon law” gives the impression that Shariah — the outer form of Islam — is frozen in the medieval times.

    It may be for some Muslims, but it’s not the case with many other Muslims, who see Shariah dynamic and flexible and allows for proper contextualization and ijtihad.

    See “Reasoning with God” by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, at link to amazon.com


    In light of recent concern over Shari’ah, such as proposed laws to prohibit it in the United States and conflict over the role it should play in the new Egyptian constitution, many people are confused about the meaning of Shari‘ah in Islam and its role in the world today. In “Reasoning with God”, renowned Islamic scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl explains not only what Shari‘ah really means, but also the way it can revitalize and reengage contemporary Islam.

  7. Still waiting for some words of sympathy from any Republican candidate regarding attacks on Planned Parenthood. All lives apparently don’t matter.

  8. readers of this blog might also find it interesting to read about the christian police officer who entered the planned parenthood facility to protect those being shot (despite the fact that he himself disagreed with abortion) – he was unfortunately shot and killed: link to thecripplegate.com

    • I read that the security guard at the stadium where the France–German soccer match was being played who didn’t allow the suicide bomber in and died when he set his vest off, was a Muslim of ethnic North African ancestry.

    • Not all Christians are terrorists. Not even all right-wing Christians. Some are helpful members of society.

      We need to start calling the terrorists what they are.

  9. @Sufi Muslim, thank you for the reference. I have no doubt that Khaled Abou El Fadl is eminently qualified and his book very compelling to Muslims. Yet, your comment also highlights to me a fundamental disconnect.

    To a secular, agnostic humanist like myself even the title hardly computes. There are many views of the divine, and from the outside looking in, any dialog with this realm will be but an interior dialog. One that doesn’t hold any particular sway in a secular society that accommodates many beliefs and ways of life. In order to inform how such a society should be structured the arguments for the law of the land need to be functional in nature. I.e. based on what they accomplish and measured against the shared values of a diverse society, regardless if the true motivation ultimately flows from deeply held religious convictions.

    • A judge once famously declared that pornography is hard to define but one knows it when one sees it, i.e. “interior dialog”.

      The death penalty is still practiced in a number of states in the US, despite controversy. How much of that controversy has been functional in nature, weighing costs and benefits, such as its (lack of) deterrence?

      The standards you are invoking do not seem to guide lawmaking and jurisprudence in actual practice – other than as an ideal to strive for or as a facade to legitimize the system. Quite like religious ideals, come to think of it ;-)

      • @Andreas, doubtless it is an ideal to strive for but it also patently non-religious. That is unless you cannot conceive of ideals outside the religious sphere.

  10. So, beating black protesters in Birmingham while the leading GOP contender for president eggs them on, shooting black protesters in Minneapolis, shooting up and burning Planned Parenthood clinics after a completely bogus GOP smear campaign that was like Shake & Bake McCarthyism. Ready to fight back yet?

    This isn’t about the leaders, after all. It’s about our fellow Americans and whether we can share a country with them anymore. You won’t save yourselves by letting them secede, either, because I’m in one of the prime secession zones and I deny their right to restore barbarism, racism, and theocracy on one acre of our soil. I will fight, and as we have seen in other parts of the world, you will not be able to avoid being dragged in.

    • I hope you are wrong, but I fear you are correct. Today’s conservative movement has a very large and strong faction of people who are real extremists who live in a delusional world and ignore facts and cling to beliefs, no matter how illogical and counter-factual they may be. You cannot reason with them. I live in a senior community, among many of these type and most are old white men, so the best hope is that in 20 years most of them will have died off.

  11. Much like the right-wing attacks on Muslims as a whole based on the actions of a few terrorists, this mis-represents most pro-life people based on the actions of a few extremists.

    The basis of the pro-life position is that the unborn child is a human, with human rights. Attempts to reduce abortions are, or the most part, made not with reducing women’s rights in mind, but with protecting the right to life of the unborn child.

    That said, I am disappointed that American pro-life groups have concentrated on making hoops to jump through and making abortion more difficult, instead of dealing with the reasons women want abortions. We should work to reduce demand, rather than supply.

    • Everyone on your side says that, but as soon as they get enough power they immediately start attacking even the right to contraception. Attacking abortion, then conception is NOT consistent with the opinion that an unborn child is a human. It IS consistent with the patriarchal dogma that a woman exists to breed babies under bondage to men to make the tribe stronger than its enemies. The fetus-as-human myth is not in the Bible, it was created after societies began to accept that women had rights.

      • If your response starts “Everyone on your side”, you’re never going to be part of a meaningful conversation.

        Regarding the bible – the concept of abortion as we have it now was not available. I’d rather protect something not alive than kill something that is where there ambiguity.

    • Since the woman and the fetus occupy the same exact space and time, ONLY ONE can have “rights” and the other MUST be subservient with no rights.

      So you are completely WRONG when you say :

      “Attempts to reduce abortions are, or the most part, made not with reducing women’s rights in mind, but with protecting the right to life of the unborn child.” (there is no child until it is born).

      Any rights you try to give to the fetus automatically subtract from the woman’s rights. So you are either disingenuous or you do not value live human females.

      You can NOT have it both ways. either you value human females and provide no “rights” to a fetus, or you value the fetus and dehumanize the humans female, making them into just a birthing machine.

      As for minimizing abortions, that is easy as Colorado has shown – simply provide **FREE** IUD and other long term contraceptives to all human females over 12 years old (yes there are sexually active 12 year olds). The more contraception there is, the fewer unintended pregnancies and the fewer abortions will be necessary.

      If you are serious about minimizing abortions then push hard for **FREE** universal birth control.

      NOTE: abortions cannot be eliminated because they are medially necessary a significant number of times and there are no medical alternatives.

      • We compromise rights all the time, and have to. We deny people freedom by locking them up in prison to protect others. The right to free speech is not unfettered.

        Protecting the right to life of an unborn child does not, in most cases, prevent the mother keeping her right to life (I’d be willing to allow an abortion in the few cases where that is the case, but it’s a small minority of the cases in the US currently).

        I do believe in free access to contraception, and that’s one of the things I’m thinking of when I say we should reduce demand.

    • If you’re really “pro-life” you would be massively in favor of contraception. Like Margaret Sanger was. You’d be contributing to Planned Parenthood. If that’s you, my had is off to you.

      Most self-described “pro-life” groups are aggressively opposed to contraception and want to ban it. They’re better described as “forced birthers”. They want to force women to get pregnant and then force them to give birth. Period.

  12. The phrase “abortion clinics” buys into the right wing’s characterization of Planned Parenthood clinics. Planned Parenthood provides many services other than abortions. Perhaps a better way of describing the clinics that have been attacked would be something like “clinics that provide abortions.”

      • Or just “medical clinics”.

        Every doctor in the world needs to know how to perform an emergency abortion; it’s a lifesaving medical procedure, because pregnancy can kill the pregnant woman. Sadly, thanks to the terrorist anti-abortion groups, many doctors, even at emergency rooms, do not know how to perform this vital medical procedure and are wandering around with medical licenses which they should not have.

  13. This white Christian terrorist is the product of which Islamic Madrasa? as western news media portrays the origins of terrorism are madrasas.

      • Yep. There are big “madrasas” organized by most of the right-wing Christian fanatic groups to brainwash their followers and fill them with hate.

  14. Juan Cole notes that terrorism is defined as ” non-state actors using violence against civilians to achieve a political aim.” What do you call it when STATE actors use violence against civilians to achieve a political aim (for example, the fire-bombing of Dresden or the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki)?

    • “What do you call it when STATE actors use violence against civilians to achieve a political aim (for example, the fire-bombing of Dresden or the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki)?”

      …or the Nazi bombing of Coventry and the Japanese Rape of Nanjing?!

      • Or the mass famines caused by the Japanese in Vietnam and China that killed hundreds of thousands of people, or their killing of a million Filipinos in 1944-45? Or the mass famine the British caused in Bengal in 1943 by continuing exports during a drought? Or the internment and deaths of hundreds of Japanese and German POWs in the Gulags up to 10 years after the war ended? It just goes on and on… but a reasonable person would not want to live in the world where the other side won.

  15. Reinforcing Professor Cole’s opening statement is Dallas, Texas Mayor Rawlings who does not fear Syrian refugees fleeing wars in the Middle East.

    “I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up, but we don’t isolate young white men on this issue,” Rawlings told MSNBC on Saturday.

    link to huffingtonpost.com

    Malinformed, poorly educated, over-zealous and randomly angry white individuals with lots of guns and ammo will be a continuing problem in our once great country for generations to come.

  16. A worthy article! As a woman I never understood either, why this is a topic for debate. I think it is extremely condescending to women that someone should police our ability to “grow and protect life”. It is insulting and preposteous. I agree with spyguy and L Guest, that women will get an abortion no matter what. It’s a question of safety.
    What truly mystifies me is the blindness to the hypocrisy in dealing Islamic terrorists and Right-wing domestic terrorists. Villifying a large majority comes so naturally to most right-wingers but their rhetoric and hate speeches directly translate to violence against physicians and women seeking to fulfil their rights as humans, and not only do the right-wing extremist rhetoric not withdraw, they pretend to be blameless!

Comments are closed.