It might be a child’s first question: Why? Nothing fancier, just “Why?” And as every parent know so well, it just keeps getting asked, again and again. The questions get a little longer over time, sometimes a little sassier, and many times a lot more demanding. But still it’s the basic question — why? Problem kids? Maybe so for other reasons, but not for asking the question. It’s all part of man’s innate desire to understand.
When things go wrong, we thirst to know why. Accident re-constructionists will sift through the tiniest scraps of debris in search of a cause. Then there is pathology, a scientific field that seeks answers for one of man’s greatest questions: what causes disease and death? Pathology dates back to the ancient Egyptians. The field came into its own in the Renaissance period at the end of the 15th century. But its most tremendous advance came in the mid-19th century with the invention of the microscope. It allowed pathologists to get past the immediate cause to see underlying causes that had been otherwise hidden. Using sophisticated equipment and techniques, modern pathologists are finding the medical answers needed to provide a better quality of life for all.
Pathology is not limited to the human body. Social pathology is the study of those behaviors that contribute to a diseased culture. Things like crime. Robert Lewis Dear, 57, is an awkward guy who has lived on the fringe. For years he was holed up years in a North Carolina cabin without water or electricity. He had occasional problems with the law. He was charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals and for being a peeping Tom, charges that went unproven. His ex-wife complained about an assault. He generally steered clear of religion or politics. But in late November, Dear walked into a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs and started shooting. He injured nine people and killed three others outside the facility, one a pro-life police officer. Curiously, he did not kill any facility workers or patients inside. Afterward, he reportedly mentioned “baby body parts” to arresting officers.
Pro-life supporters condemned the shootings. So did pro-abortion supporters, but even though Dear’s motivation is unclear, they immediately pointed fingers. Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood complained of “extremists” who create a “poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism.” The president of pro-abortion NARAL said that pro-lifers cannot escape the “judgment of the consequences of your hate-filled rhetoric.” The media took aim at “Republican candidates” and their “inflamed and inflammatory rhetoric about Planned Parenthood, about the sale of baby parts, about dismembering live babies.” The women on The View said all the same things. The early media reports on the San Bernadino shootings even tried to connect those shootings to a Planned Parenthood facility — a mile away.
If Dear is mentally competent, which remains to be seen, he faces the judgments of God and man. But why did he shoot? Dear had no connection with the pro-life movement. So was it the so-called hate filled rhetoric? No one has yet pointed to the actual words that supposedly incited Dear to kill. No one has claimed that pro-life leaders urged violence. The pro-life movement has been trying to end the daily legal acts of violence inside the mills. And notably, in a country of almost 319 million people, there has been only one shooting incident since the baby-parts videos surfaced. It is one too many, but it is only one. In 2015, Chicago logged almost 3,000 shootings. It must not be about the rhetoric.
Perhaps it’s about the facts behind the rhetoric. Just as no one can deny Dear’s conduct, no one can deny the conduct of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. They kill human beings for profit — a scientific, medical, and economic fact. Planned Parenthood has been repeatedly caught on video discussing the harvesting and sale of baby body parts. Its defense is that the videos are misleading, a defense now debunked by an independent examiner. Recently, the Ohio attorney general has accused Planned Parenthood of dumping aborted babies in a Kentucky landfill — after first having them steam cooked. It is the inhumanity of abortion that has riled so many people, perhaps Dear himself.
Whatever Dear’s motivation, his actions raise a bigger question. Why have there been acts of violence at abortion facilities? The answer may be that for some people, violence is how they express frustration over their lack of power to end injustice. We must not forget history. Our Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution were born out of the people’s inability to set their set their own standards. As our country grew, it faced the moral evil of slavery. The anti-slavery movement was not always peaceful. In 1856, frustrated abolitionist John Brown and his band killed pro-slavery settlers in Kansas. In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that slaves were property. Its ruling left people powerless to change the law. In 1859, Brown was involved in an unsuccessful violent raid in West Virginia that, ironically, killed a black man. Two years later, the country began to kill itself, son by son.
We still have not learned. In 1973, the same Supreme Court ruled that an unborn baby is not a legal person and so may be killed at any time. The ruling has left every state and citizen unable to change the law. States may not enact legislation protecting the unborn from death. People with deeply held views about the immorality of abortion have been shut out of the democratic process. In fact, they are often barred from meaningfully approaching women in an effort to change their minds and hearts. It all creates the perfect climate for violence.
This month, hundreds of thousands will march in Washington D.C. in peaceful protest. But it will take more. It will take a change in the Supreme Court, which will take a change of presidential policy. It makes the election of 2016 so very critical. A pro-life president can restore sanity to the law and so save millions of lives. But if we don’t change, we can only expect more violence outside abortion facilities. And far, far more violence inside them.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.