FOLLOWING the awful shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs the day after Thanksgiving, Fox News and the clown car of GOP presidential hopefuls trotted out the tired accusation we hear every time there's a mass shooting: The left-wing establishment—here, Planned Parenthood—is politicizing a tragedy.
The implication is that tragedies happen in a vacuum, and we're all just pretending, for evil ends, that they have political context. This is a bad argument generally, and it's even less convincing when we're talking about an abortion clinic shooting, which is inherently political.
It was an act of domestic terrorism. That isn't just what Planned Parenthood called it—although they did, in a statement released the day of the shooting. It's not just what the angry feminists in your Twitter feed are calling it—though they probably are.
As defined by the FBI, domestic terrorism involves "acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law" that "appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population," and "occur primarily within... the US."
Domestic terrorism, in other words, is carrying a gun to an abortion clinic with the intent to cause harm. And it is always political.
Violent attacks on abortion providers remain one of the most insidious and mundane forms of persistent domestic terrorism in modern America. According to a database of reported incidents maintained by the National Abortion Federation, 11 abortion providers have been murdered by anti-choice extremists since 1993. There have been 229 attempted clinic arsons and bombings since the late '70s.
Attacks aren't limited to clinics, either: In 2009, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was killed by Scott Roeder, an anti-choice terrorist with ties to the militant group Operation Rescue, while Tiller was attending services at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas.
Most patients seeking health care can reasonably expect not to be badgered by judgmental strangers on their way into a clinic. But there's an entire substrata of abortion clinic volunteers whose sole job it is to make sure women make it past hordes of anti-choice extremists and safely into clinics. They're called clinic escorts, and they are saints.
Bombings, assassinations, intimidating patients—these are all parts of a coordinated campaign of violence against women and their health care providers. They're bolstered by smear campaigns like the one leveled at Planned Parenthood this year by fringe-of-the-fringe anti-choice group Live Action, and embraced by the GOP's shoutiest.
Though allegations that Planned Parenthood profits off of fetal tissue sales have been debunked, such misinformation isn't harmless. Given the precedent for domestic terrorism within the anti-abortion movement, it can be a catalyst for violence. It's no surprise that the Colorado Springs shooter told police he was motivated by those rumors perpetuated by Carly Fiorina, et al.—rumors so wrong on levels both factual and semantic that no one would work so tirelessly to keep them going if they weren't trying to curry favor with the radical right.
So while Fox News hews to its signature indignant outrage, and GOP candidates work to distance their perpetuation of anti-choice slander from the real-life consequences of anti-choice violence, let's call this what it was: domestic terrorism incited by violent misogyny, inflammatory rhetoric, and religious extremism, and leveled at an organization that has likely provided health care for most of the women you know, and that (do I really need to say it?) also provides services for men.
It requires a kind of cognitive dissonance to look at yet another act of violence at an abortion clinic and insist that we not make it political. Don't politicize the shooting? Really? I'm not, actually. It was politicized the moment someone brought a gun to Planned Parenthood.
Those calling for gun control and for an end to clinic violence aren't the ones who politicized an abortion clinic shooting. The shooter did that. And so did the political leaders who propagated the misinformation he cited as the reason for his actions.