On January 1, the American and Canadian papers announced that a 22-year-old man named John Salvi had shot and killed two employees of an abortuary in Boston and had shot and wounded three other people.

The immediate reaction to this announcement – prompted by the papers and the TV – was a spate of accusations that violence and killing are accepted principles of the pro-life movement wherever such a movement exists.

This is a totally false and illogical conclusion.  Every movement, whether it be “anti-racist” or “anti-government” or “pro-animal rights” (remember the turkeys at Christmas), is almost certain to attract people who are not normal and are obsessed by violent tendencies.  What we need to look at are the principles of the movement or organization in question.  We don’t stop flying airplanes because there are some crashes.

Let us take, for example, the torture and murder of a Somali youth some time ago by a member, or members, of the Canadian forces.  There is one soldier in prison because of the incident.  But, should the entire Canadian army be disbanded because of the violent actions of a few of its members?

The young man who committed the murders in Boston has been described by people who knew him as “a disturbed loner.”  According to another person who was acquainted with his family, “the young man quarreled bitterly with his parents, particularly with his father.”

The Washington Post reported that nine members of Pro-Life Virginia, assembled outside the city jail in which John Salvi is incarcerated.  The Rev. Donald Spitz, the director of the organization, shouted through a megaphone, “John Salvi, prisoner of war,” and “Free John Salvi – protector of life.”  This is another example of a complete false philosophy and is far from typical of the true pro-life ethic.  Mrs. Judie Brown, President of the American Life League, said, “The taking of a fellow human life is wrong – it is not the province of any one of us to justify a brutally sinful act against another’s right to life.”  The National Right to Life Committee, which is probably the largest pro-life organization in the U.S., deplored the shootings saying, “We have always opposed and continue to oppose any form of violence to fight the violence of abortion – NRLC has a policy of forbidding violence – our sole purpose is to protect human life.”

I have been associated with official pro-life groups in Canada for some 15 years.  I am acquainted with hundreds of pro-life people and I have never met one who would agree with any form of physical violence as a method of pro-life policy.

An action like that of John Salvi does almost irreparable damage to the pro-life movement everywhere.  Apart from giving the impression that violence is accepted as a policy, it somehow blurs the real issue at stake.  A few violent incidents, which can be seen, blot out the literally millions of violent incidents which are perpetuated behind closed doors.  I am obviously referring to the millions of babies – human beings – who are violently murdered every day.  According to official statistics, 1.6 million abortions are “performed” yearly in the U.S.  When Ronald Reagan was President he stated that, “Ten times more Americans have been killed by abortion than were killed in the two hundred years of wars in which the United States has engaged.”

According to official statistics (Warfare Statistics from the World Almanac), in 80 years of warfare – the Boer War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War – 99,449 Canadians were killed,  In ten years (1970-1980) the number of Canadian babies killed by abortion came to 527,214.  And according to the latest statistics, in 1992 there were over 100,000 abortions in Canada (Statistics Canada).  The Toronto Star gives a list of previous incidents of what they term “Abortion Violence.”  They cite seven occasions, which add up to three deaths and three woundings.

Isn’t there something “oxymoronish” in the attitude of one who deplores the murders of a few people because they can be seen but applauds the murders of millions of human beings because they are “legal”?

Perhaps the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson expresses it more euphemistically than I could when he says, “His honour rooted in dishonour stood and faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.”