Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, saw it coming. Harassment, threats and violence against abortion clinics had been mushrooming since the July release of the Planned Parenthood tapes — the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress' video hoax, edited to create the false impression that the health care provider is trafficking in fetal body parts.
The tapes inspired death threats. "I'll pay ten large to whomever kills Dr. Deborah Nucatola," an individual with the handle "Joseywhales" posted on Fox Nation in July. Nucatola is a Planned Parenthood senior director filmed in the video.
Anti-abortion terrorism is not new. From 1977 through 2014, according to NAF, abortion clinics, staff and patients have been the victims of "eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arsons, and thousands of incidents of criminal activities," including acid and anthrax attacks and kidnappings.
But this time Saporta was as scared as she'd ever been. "In my 20 years at NAF, I have never seen such a volume, intensity and escalation of hate speech, threats and criminal activity," she told the Huffington Post.
And then it happened: Robert Lewis Dear attacked the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, killing three people — Jennifer Markovsky, 36, Ke'Arre Stewart, 29, and Officer Garrett Swasey, 44 — and wounding another nine.
"No more baby parts," Dear said during police questioning.
All day and all night on Friday, as the events in Colorado dominated the news, Republican presidential candidates and Congressional leaders said nothing.
Jeb Bush tweeted about football. Marco Rubio's tweet advertised a campaign-related Black Friday sale: "Shop now and save!"
Saturday morning, Ted Cruz bestirred himself to comment, also on Twitter: "Praying for the loved ones of those killed, those injured & first responders who bravely got the situation under control in Colorado Springs."
"The situation." Nothing to do with him — the man who kept the phony tapes in the news for weeks and threatened to shut down the government if it did not defund Planned Parenthood.
The Colorado Republican Party was also praying, it said in a statement, for "the victims of this senseless tragedy."
President Obama delivered his usual weary speech about gun violence, treating this as just one more mass shooting. "This is not normal," he said. "We can't let it become normal."
Like the GOP, the president implied that the shooting had no logic, no meaning. Like the GOP, he failed to mention women — much less their reproductive rights.
The Right has been on the Democrats' case for refusing to call members of ISIS what they are: "radical Islamists" or "Islamist terrorists." The Dems apparently don't want to alienate potential Muslim allies. The Republicans want to alienate Americans from the Democrats. For the jingoist GOP, the term "Muslim allies" is an oxymoron anyway.
On the morning after the latest Paris attacks, Cruz declared: "As long as we have a commander-in-chief unwilling even to utter the words 'radical Islamic terrorism,' we will not have a concerted effort to defeat these radicals."
This euphemizing of violence is racialized. If an Arab shoots some strangers, he's a terrorist. If a white guy shoots some strangers who just happen to work at an abortion clinic, he's mentally ill — as if a person cannot be simultaneously crazy and a true believer in a murderous ideology. On Twitter, it's been pointed out that had Dear been black, he surely would not have been taken into custody alive.
But if Democrats won't call the jihadists Islamists, and the Republicans call all Muslims terrorists; if the press won't describe a white cop killer as criminal and reflexively criminalizes African Americans, there is still one species of criminal maniac that no one, particularly on the Right, will indict. That's radical Christian terrorists, who are behind much, perhaps most, of the "pro-life" carnage.
The Army of God launched its bloody anti-abortion crusade in 1982, perpetrating scores of terrorist acts, including fire bombings of numerous clinics and the nail bombing of a lesbian bar (they hate "fags" as much as "baby killers"). The Army's soldiers or fellow travelers murdered abortion doctors George Tiller, David Gunn and John Britton and some of their coworkers. Even when the Army of God did not pull the trigger, it celebrates every round.
Operation Rescue, which collaborated with CMP to produce the debunked Planned Parenthood videos, also has a gory history laced with lunatic Christian ideology. The group's senior policy adviser, Cheryl Sullenger, served two years for conspiracy to firebomb the Family Planning Associates Medical Group in San Diego in 1987. She and her eight coconspirators were members of the Bible Missionary Fellowship in Santee, Calif.
Operation Rescue president Troy Newman orchestrated the decades-long legal and personal torment of Wichita, Kan., abortion doctor Tiller and his family. He published the addresses of their home and church, where Tiller was ultimately shot by Scott Roeder. Roeder's photograph is prominently featured on the Army of God homepage with the caption "American Hero."
On the eve of the execution of Paul Jennings Hill for the murder of Dr. Britton and his bodyguard, Newman and Sullenger issued a press release stating that he should be exonerated for his "justifiable defense" of the unborn. Hill, an excommunicated minister, also claimed connections with the Army of God.
Newman's apocalyptic manifesto, Their Blood Cries Out, written with Sullenger, is an exhortation to Christians to take extreme measures to prevent God's destruction of America as punishment for legal abortion. In it, Newman calls the 9/11 terrorist attacks and AIDS signs of God's displeasure. Later, he declared that a California drought signified God's retribution for the state's liberal abortion laws.
Not only do the Republican candidates fail to repudiate these extremist organizations and their leaders, they embrace them.
The week before the Colorado Springs attacks, Cruz announced Newman's endorsement, proudly pointing to Operation Rescue's role in making the debunked videos.
Donald Trump has been meeting with dozens of right-wing Christians. This week, it was a coalition of African American clergy, many of them "prosperity theologists," who preach that God loves capitalism.
Recently, Lance Wallnau, a leader in the Seven Mountains Dominionism movement, sent his blessings to the Trump campaign. "God has given this man an anointing for the mantle of government in the United States and he will prosper," Wallnau wrote. The Dominionists, who believe Satan runs America, advocate for the Christian takeover of all aspects of the country's political, legal and cultural life.
Robert Lewis Dear may not have been directly influenced by Christian beliefs — though he did display a cross of twigs in his tiny cabin. After the shootings, Operation Rescue combed its membership list and reported that his name was not on it (so that took care of that).
But Dear's acts cannot be dissociated from the bloody rhetoric disguised as Christian love for the unborn — including the slanderous tapes. The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood has been picketed for years. The town is the Raqqa of the Moral Right, headquarters of Focus on the Family and many other conservative Christian groups. Dear may be certifiably mad, but his madness was guided by a message: "No more baby parts."
"We need to call the threats of violence and the intimidation of health care providers and patients what it is — domestic terrorism," said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, after the attack. "And more public officials in Colorado and across the country, not just advocacy groups and the people on the front lines, need to take a stand opposing domestic terrorism and supporting women's health."
I'd go further. We need to call that domestic terrorism what it is: radical Christian jihad. These American terrorists share with the U.S.' declared Islamist enemies a hatred of women and a burning determination to control their sexuality by any means necessary. In Syria, extremists whip and stone women for wearing burqas that are somehow too revealing. They sell women into slavery. In the U.S., Christian fanatics bomb clinics and kill the doctors who serve and protect not just women's health but also their freedom to self-determination.
The original print version of this article was headlined "Who Shot Up the Clinic"
Judith Levine is the author of four books, including Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping and Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex. Her column, "Poli Psy," appears biweekly in Seven Days.