The Planned Parenthood Shooting, Just War, and Let's Kill Hitler

Damon Linker recently wrote an article for The Week condemning the pro-life movement for its so-called “deeply irresponsible rhetoric” in the wake of the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Linker asks the reader to imagine America as seen by a pro-lifer:
Every year, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings are systematically murdered in the United States, with over 51 million killed in the past 45 years. Though these killings are not perpetrated directly by the state, the government holds that private citizens have a constitutionally protected right to inflict this lethal violence on the members of a specific class of people (who also happen to be among the most innocent and the most vulnerable among us). Many of the murders are also performed by entities that receive generous amounts of public funding. More recently it has been revealed that after these quasi-public enterprises fulfill the murder requests of their clients, the bodies of the victims are dismembered and their organs are sold to help defray costs.
This is actually an amazing insight into the way many pro-lifers, including myself, view our country and the wholesale, legally-sanctioned slaughter of innocents.
However, Linker goes on to ask whether, if this is how pro-lifers see the world, isn’t violence justified against Planned Parenthood to defend the lives of the innocents? Well, no. But, of course – of course – this is how a pro-abortion person would think, i.e. a person with an incoherent moral system.
Ross Douthat, the pro-life Catholic columnist for the New York Times, responds to Linker’s reasoning in a recent article entitled, “Why the Pro-Life Movement Opposes Violence.” Douthat argues that even the horrid state of affairs that exists in America cannot justify violence against abortion providers, i.e. insurrection.
“The bar for morally-licit insurrection,” Douthat writes, “is similar to the bar for morally-licit defensive war.” Douthat then quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is always awesome to see printed in the New York Times, of all places. Paragraph 2309 of the Catechism states that “legitimate defense by military force” is only morally legitimate if all the following conditions are met:
1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
3. There must be serious prospects of success;
4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.
Douthat further writes that he, along with fellow pro-life Catholic, John Zmirak, believes that the first requirement is met given the mass slaughter of babies in America since Roe v. Wade. Douthat, however, believes that the test for insurrection "clearly, clearly fails on counts 2, 3, and 4."
The argument that #2 is met would certainly be murky, given the significant gains made by the pro-life movement in recent years. The number of abortion clinics closing per year has been surging recently: 30 in 2011, 25 in 2012, 44 in 2013, 73 in 2014. This includes the closing of the Bryan-College Station Planned Parenthood pictured below, where I (and Abby Johnson, too!) first became active in the pro-life movement. Life News reports that 75% of U.S. abortion clinics have closed since 1991.
There is an alternate exploration of these just war ideas here: Southern Baptists’ 1994 statement repudiating anti-abortion violence, which involves not only Catechism-like arguments, but important arguments about democratic legitimacy, premeditation, etc., as well. Catholic Answers also provides a primer on Just War Doctrine.
Likewise, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to argue that #3 and #4 would be met. Killing abortionists and bombing abortion clinics as some sort of moral crusade would be a dangerous precedent indeed.
Catholic moral teaching makes it pretty clear that we cannot do evil to bring about good, i.e. two wrongs don’t make a right. This is like the classic trope of going back in time to kill Hitler, or as pro-abortion people will argue, to abort Hitler. Not only would this create a temporal paradox, erasing your reason for going back in time in the first place, such a murder would create more evil than it “destroys,” ipso facto or otherwise. Greek myths are also full of stories of heroes whose attempts to avert a prophesized evil only succeeded in bringing it about. Take Laius, the father of Oedipus, for example. Also, Doctor Who explores the idea to great effect in “Let’s Kill Hitler.”
In the final assessment, the justification for taking up arms against abortion clinics, provided by Linker above, only satisfies the first requirement of just war doctrine. Accordingly, portraying abortion in America as the senseless slaughter of innocents (that it is) does not provide justification for anti-abortion violence, and is not, as Linker states “deeply irresponsible.”
Hello! How about not provoking people to anti-abortion violence by not provoking people with abortion? Pro-lifers are just reporting the facts of the atrocity. The pro-abortion advocates are like the third-grader who cheats off your test and then hates you for telling on him. It’s your own fault, buddy.

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