I love the way Freddie introduced a post on abortion late last year. He titled it “you know what we don’t talk about enough? Abortion“.
I kind of feel the same way about the level of discussion going on with it. I probably would never have mentioned it at all on this blog if it hadn’t been for the incident on Sunday in which a man shot and killed Dr. George Tiller “one of the nation’s few providers of.
In the fourth paragraph of the AP article, I came across this line:
“But the doctor’s violent death was the latest in a string of shootings and bombings over two decades directed against abortion clinics doctors and staff.”
After reading that, I decided to look into the statistics of abortion violence with a view toward perhaps creating a visualization about it.
Sadly, there are few things more skewed than abortion violence statistics. I found this pdf on “Abortion Violence and Disruption Statistics” done by the National Abortion Federation and it is mainly propaganda dressed in numbers. But it looks like their numbers on shootings and bombings are verified by legal authorities, so I assume they are pretty accurate.
Let’s use those statistics to deal with the “string of shootings and bombings over two decades” that the AP talks about. (In order to give the AP the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that all the “Attemped Murders” of abortion clinic staff involved shooting of some kind. )
According to the NAF document above, this is that the “string of shootings and bombings” looked like over the last 15 years:
Did you know that this is the first abortion related murder since 1998?
I was under the impression from the AP that abortion killings were like school shootings… the kind of thing that we tragically see on an ongoing basis. (I thought about a graph comparing school violence to abortion violence, but it seemed kind of apples-to-organges to compare sociopathic, psychotic and suicidal teenagers to politically motivated terrorists.)
Given the actual data, the characterization of this incident as “the latest in a string of shootings and bombings” is deeply dishonest. It embeds into people’s minds the idea that this is a very common tragedy, like school shootings, hurricanes or gang-related violence. In fact, until I looked at the data very recently, I was under exactly that impression.
It would be much more accurate to say something along the lines of:
This incident has shattered an eight year lull in anti-abortion related shootings, an activity that spiked to record levels in the 90’s.
UPDATE: Upon re-reading my post I realized that it sounded very dry and unfeeling… very matter-of-fact… when I talked about the recent murder. I hope no one got the impression that I’m wholly unphased by this crime. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hope that the fact that referred to crimes of violence against abortion clinics and the staff as acts of terrorism would indicate how I feel about the topic.