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The Trolley Problem goes something like this: a train is barrelling down the track towards a crowd of five people, who are unaware of what’s coming at them. You can’t alert them, but you can flip a switch and divert the train away from them… towards a single person on a side track, who’s equally unaware. What do you do, save the lives of five people or let them die?

It’s a classic in philosophy, psychology, and cognition, because it shows we have multiple pathways for morality. Consider: what if I changed the phrasing from saving five people to murdering one? What if you had to push that one person onto the track, instead of flip a switch? The count of lives doesn’t change, but suddenly our responses do. This suggests we have at least two ethical systems, one that uses logic and reason and a more instinctual one based on emotion.

Hate groups love to exploit this: they’ll say all sorts of nasty, emotionally-charged rhetoric about their target, but then tack on a disclaimer that they condemn violence. When the heated words whips up someone to commit violence, they just point to the disclaimer and duck all responsibility.

A gun battle erupted inside a Planned Parenthood center here on Friday when a man armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire at the clinic and began shooting at officers as they rushed to the scene. The authorities reported that three people were killed, a police officer and two civilians, and nine were wounded before the suspect finally surrendered more than five hours after the first shots were fired. […]

Officials from law enforcement and Planned Parenthood both said they did not know whether the group’s Colorado Springs center had been specifically targeted. But the attack carried echoes of other violent assaults on abortion providers, and it prompted the police in New York City to deploy units to Planned Parenthood clinics in the city.

Oh look, another attack on Planned Parenthood. They’re on the up-tick, I hear.

Since the release of the initial video by pro-life organization Center for Medical Progress in July, investigators say there have been nine criminal or suspicious incidents across the country.

The incidents include reported cyber-attacks, threats and arsons. The FBI believes the incidents are, “consistent with the actions of lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement”.

A “lone offender” is a “terrorist” that society tolerates, and invoking this term erases how the anti-choice movement works.

Every clinic bombed or burned, and every clinician assaulted or killed, had been previously picketed, targeted or assailed by antiabortion groups like Operation Rescue and the Army of God. Operation Rescue issued “Wanted” posters of abortion providers, often listing their home addresses. Several of the doctors listed on the posters, including David Gunn, George Patterson, John Britton and George Tiller, were killed by antiabortion zealots.

The individuals who commit acts of violence against abortion providers and clinics often have ties to antiabortion organizations. James Kopp, who killed Dr. Barnett Slepian in New York, worked alongside Operation Rescue’s then-leader Randall Terry, driving with him from New York to Atlanta to begin the 1988 protests that put Operation Rescue on the map. In Atlanta, Kopp was jailed along with Terry and several Operation Rescue volunteers who went on to commit acts of violence: Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon, who shot Dr. Tiller in 1993; John Arena, who used butyric acid to attack abortion clinics; Normal Weslin, the founder of the radical group the Lambs of Christ; and Andrew Cabot, who reportedly called a man charged with murdering abortion providers a “hero.”

Remember the latest round of Planned Parenthood “sting” videos? They come from this violent fringe.

The founder of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which disingenuously describes itself as a “group of citizen journalists,” is David Daleiden, who was previously the director of research for Live Action News, a group that produced earlier undercover videos also seeking to embarrass Planned Parenthood. […]

A CMP board member, Troy Newman, is also the president of Operation Rescue, a hard-line anti-abortion group that boasted of aiding the CMP “investigation” with advice and material support and has demanded “criminal prosecutions of Planned Parenthood officials.”

In 2003, Newman issued a press release attacking “judicial tyranny” in the prosecution of Paul Hill, who murdered an abortion doctor and his bodyguard in Florida, and arguing that Hill, who was executed the same day, should have been able to present a defense of “justifiable defensive action.” A 2004 Los Angeles Times story described Newman shadowing clinic workers and seeking “not just to make their lives uncomfortable” but also to “disgust their friends and associates.”

“Disgust.” The anti-choice movement isn’t about logic or reason, it’s about leveraging emotions like “disgust” to whip people into a frenzy, then leveraging logic and reason to distance themselves from the resulting mess. It’s about playing one side of our own brains against the other.

It should be opposed by all skeptics, and exposed for the sham it is.

[2015-11-29]: Jessica Valenti makes much the same point.

The attack in Colorado, which left three people dead and nine wounded, was shocking, but it was also the predictable result of a culture that demonizes abortion, uses fantastical and false rhetoric about Planned Parenthood and allows politicians and activists to make false representations about women’s reproductive health.

Do we really think that there are no consequences to claiming that abortion is murder, or that Planned Parenthood is an organization of money-hungry monsters selling baby parts?

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