In response to a full-page ad placed in The New York Times by Planned Parenthood of New York, Gene Kapp, vice-president of public relations for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times.
"The ad," Kapp charged, "which uses the tragic violence at the Massachusetts abortion clinics to solicit contributions, is filled with untruths. Planned Parenthood is wrong when it asserts that Mr. Robertson's words 'have caused a rampage of anti-choice terrorism against abortion clinics.'"
Kapp, writing on behalf of Robertson, missed the point. For years, Pat Robertson has equated abortion with murder. "It is my feeling that abortion is tantamount to murder," he wrote in his book Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions.
Both CBN's "700 Club" and Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice have enjoyed a close relationship with Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion groups and activists. Operation Rescue's motto is, "If you believe abortion is murder, ACT like it is murder." Even Mr. Kapp, in his letter, wrote about "the senseless slaughter of unborn children."
After a while, some people will start to believe that abortion is murder, and take any necessary steps to bring it to a halt.
So, the point is, as the Rev. Robertson should know, you reap what you sow. Now the Religious Right is reaping what it has sown in its adherents. Years of preaching that abortion is murder, baby killing, and slaughter is bringing forth fruit. That fruit, though, is rotten to the core.
Planned Parenthood got it right. We also believe that Pat Robertson and all the others who have employed inflammatory rhetoric, and continue to do so, are culpable in the abortion clinic murders.
And while even the most extreme speech may be constitutionally protected, it is not always responsible. It is now imperative, more than ever, that the leaders of the anti-abortion movement temper their language and imagery.
Skipp Porteous is national director of the Institute for First Amendment Studies.