Accusations of secret meetings and mysterious tactical manuals are often directed at the pro-life movement. Many say there is an organized element promoting this violence. Interim feature writer Tony Gosgnach takes a frank look at these allegations to determine whether they hold any water.

The Interim

Though the evidence for the connection is tenuous at best and non-existent at worst, numerous media reports and charges from pro-abortion groups during the last few years have attempted to link the mainstream pro-life movement in Canada and the U.S. with violent action.

One of the most prominent examples of these attempts was found in the Nov. 14, 1994 edition of U.S. News and World Report magazine, which featured an 18-page spread on “Abortion: Who’s Behind the Violence?”

While pro-lifers might have replied that it is the abortionists who are behind “the violence” (in light of the fact that well over one million are preformed in the US, and over 100,000 in Canada) the magazine concluded that the pro-life movement is guilty as charged.

“An inquiry by the US News documented an extensive pattern of meetings and organizational links, which suggests that some acts of violence perpetrated against abortion clinics may not have been the acts of loners,” said the magazine. “Some violent opponents of abortion appear to have been inspired, if nor supported, by more ‘moderate’ anti-abortion activists. Records show that some prominent abortion opponents who denounce violence have a pattern of contacts and meetings with the very criminals they clam to reject.”

The magazine conceded that the number of violent activists was small, “but their impact has been disproportionately large. Their activities suggest a higher level of co-ordination than had previously been thought.

Through a schematic diagram, the magazine tried to link benign pro-life leaders such as Randall Terry and Joe Scheilder with the few anti-abortion activists convicted of crimes.

“While Scheidler insists he does not condone violence, he has ties to many people who do,” claimed the magazine.

It went on to describe meetings Scheidler is said to have had with Michael Bray (who bombed several abortuaries during the 1980s) and John Brockhoeft (who committed arsons against abortuaries in Cincinnati, Oh, and Florida), but it didn’t suggest Scheilder had knowledge of violent incidents prior to their committal or that he encouraged them in any way.

The magazine went on to describe an alleged tactical manual issued by a mysterious organization called the Army of God. The manual was said to have listed measures anti-abortionists could take against abortuaries, include torching the facilities and shooting holes through their windows.

But the magazine didn’t provide any details about the structure of Army of God nor did it give any indication as to how many people belonged to it. It also didn’t speculate as to whether the tactical manual might have been a forgery concocted by pro-abortion groups.

Similar scenarios linking involvement and the pro-life movement have been disseminated in Canada. After shooting incidents in Brooklyn, MA, in December 1994, for example, a number of Canadian newspapers published chronologies of abortion-related violence which have taken place in recent years, included such unsolved crimes as the shooting of Vancouver abortionist Garson Romalis and the bombing of Henry Morgentaler’s Toronto abortuary.

As was noted in Alberta Report magazine following the Romalis shooting, news media consistently pointed to abortion as the only possible motive in that incident despite the fact that racial hated (Romalis is Jewish) or a personal vendetta may have been at the root.

“Abortion clinic staff fear for lives,” blared a headline in an August 1994 issue of Winnipeg’s Free Press, which commented on the alleged situation at Everywoman’s Health Centre in Vancouver. A January 1995 feature article in the Toronto Globe and Mail, which bills itself as “Canada’s national newspaper,” suggested that abortion-related violence “is on the upswing in the United States, and to a lesser degree, in Canada.”

A spate of allegations which all but convicted the pro-life movement followed the bombing of Morgentaler’s Toronto arbitrary in May 1992, despite the fact that subsequent Canadian Security Intelligence Service information suggested a left-wing activist may have been responsible.

“The rhetoric of the anti-abortionists drips with bloody imagery and their moral absolutism can be easily interpreted as blanket rational for all manner of civil disobedience,” huffed Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno.

Following the shooting of Hamilton abortionist Hugh Short by an unknown assailant last November, the president of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League fingered the pro-life movement as being responsible.

“Why would he be shot at, if not to scare him and send a message to the abortion providers that they too can be subject to potential violence?” said Amanda LeRougetel.

More recently, both Canada’s TV Ontario and the U.S.’s PBS television networks had several airings of the documentary Murder on Abortion Row, which focused on the 1994 Brooklyn, MA shootings for which John Salvi has been convicted.

All if this may not be surprising in light of the mainstream media’s typical attitude towards abortion, as exemplified by the headline to an article in the Sept. 16, 1995 issue of the British Spectator magazine: “Killing babies isn’t always wrong.”