Does Pro-Life Rhetoric Lead to Violence?

Pro-abortionists frequently tell us to keep our opinions ― and even our science ― to ourselves. They say that we must not refer to abortionists as “baby killers” and to abortion as “murder.” ‘Catholics’ for a Free Choice goes even further, claiming that anyone who says that preborn children are human beings encourages terrorism.1

Does Pro-Life Rhetoric Lead to Violence?

Pro abortionists have gone to great lengths to soothe the public with a cascade of meaningless “feel-good” words specifically designed to numb people’s consciences. They call the preborn child a “blob of tissue;” the abortionist is a “reproductive health provider;” and the abortion procedure itself is a “voluntary interruption of pregnancy” (VIP) or “just like removing a wart or fingernail clippings.”

They naturally become angry when pro-lifers undo all of their hard work and point out what any three-year-old child knows: That the preborn child is a living human person. The pro-abortionist’s only option is to distract people from basic embryology to some tangential subject. So they allege that “anti-choice rhetoric” leads to violence. As one example, Planned Parenthood tried to force Laurel Cablevision of Torrington, Connecticut, to give up its plans to show Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s film “The Silent Scream” by complaining that it would “spur violence against women’s health clinics.”2

The ‘Religious’ Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) claims:

The notion that human life or personhood begins at the moment of conception is the foundation of anti-choice language.…Inflammatory rhetoric has been a barely concealed invitation to violence. Those who commit acts of violence are responsible for their own actions, but anti-abortion leaders know the power of their words to make violence thinkable to their followers.3

The Hypocrisy of the Pro-Abortionists

However, it seems that pro-abortionists do not really believe that violent words and images lead to more violence ― otherwise they would refrain from using it themselves. There are hundreds of examples of pro-abortionists and other liberals advocating death and destruction for conservatives, but Planned Parenthood, as always, stands out.

In 2005, Planned Parenthood-Golden Gate produced an animated cartoon called “A Superhero for Choice,” which you can still find on YouTube. The “hero” of the movie is Dianysis, a super-powered woman who flies around San Francisco murdering pro-life activists by blowing them up, drowning them, and decapitating them, and apparently having a wonderful time doing it. After eliminating all of the “anti-choicers,” a smiling Dianysis chirps, “That’s more like it! Open for business! Now everyone that needs low cost and confidential health care may enter freely, without intimidation or violence.”

Planned Parenthood Clinic

Apparently, “pro-choicers” are utterly immune to the concept of irony.

Planned Parenthood quickly removed the video from its website after a number of people pointed out that it could be damaging to the “pro-choice” cause ― not because they disagreed with its content. And, of course, PP never disavowed the video or apologized for it.

The difference between forceful pro-life and pro-abortion speech is that pro-lifers are defining and condemning what the pro-abortionists do; in return, the pro-abortionists are depicting the killing of pro-lifers (and, in some cases, taking matters into their own hands). In 2009, Harlan Drake executed pro-lifer Jim Pouillon because of his photos of aborted preborn babies, and not only did pro-abortion groups refuse to condemn the murder, but dozens of pro-abortionists cheered and supported the killing, saying “He got what was coming to him!”4

Why the Controversy?

Some pro-lifers have urged others to tone down the forceful rhetoric. But we must not fool ourselves into thinking that pro-abortionists would limit themselves to banning pro-life speech if they had the power. Abortion is a very lucrative business.

Much more importantly, however, pro-lifers must understand that abortion is gender feminism’s most powerful ideological symbol. It represents “choice” and “freedom” to anti-lifers more vividly than any other issue. For some of the most extreme, it is even a sacrament.5 As Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post wrote:

The abortion right is being left undefended by its true champions ― the women who owe not their lives, but their lifestyles to the convenience of legal abortion….Abortion has validated a lifestyle that allowed room for irresponsibility….Among its perks are extended travel, higher education, unbroken career paths, choosing a different father, limiting family size, and going out and getting drunk after work.6

money american twenty dollar bills

This is why pro-abortionists absolutely will not compromise on it, and this is why its advocates and defenders ardently desire to prohibit all pro-life activity. As Faye Wattleton, former President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has said, “We need to remove the abortion issue forever from the legislative arena. We need a universal recognition that our civil liberties are off limits to partisan debate!”7

Since it is so visible to the public, many pro-abortionists especially want to outlaw all pro-life street activity, including rescue missions, sidewalk counseling, picketing and even silent prayer.8 Some would also like to ban all behind the scenes activities by pro lifers, including crisis pregnancy centers, adoption, pro-life legislation, all lobbying, organizing and education, and even talking to our friends about abortion because they say that this is, believe it or not, “spiritual battering!”9

Some pro-abortionists say that priests and ministers must never mention abortion in their homilies or celebrate Sanctity of Life Sunday. They say that bishops cannot exert control over their own property by banning pro abortion meetings. In fact, some allege that the Catholic Church cannot even refuse to donate money to pro-abortion groups such as UNICEF.10

Finally, while ignoring women who are suffering from the mental and emotional aftereffects of abortions, many “pro-choicers” condemn even pro-life attempts to help women with programs such as Project Rachel. Incredibly, they even denounce pro lifers who offer money and other aid to pregnant women to help them through their pregnancies and beyond.11

In summary, these pro-abortion extremists allege, “If religious leaders sincerely want to deter the terrorists, they must disavow one premise … that there is no significant difference between the human life of the unborn and human life of the born human being.”12

The Truth Is Undeniable

The pro-abortionists are terrified that the visibility of the pro-life movement will sway public opinion against them. For these extremists, it is all about keeping pro-lifers out of the public eye.

There is a simple and straightforward explanation for this extreme “pro-choice” sensitivity to any form of opposition. The pro-abortionists know full well that we are right ― they are killing babies, their consciences are stinging over it, and some of them are even honest enough to admit it.

baby black and white lying down

For example, abortionist Magda Denes said:

I do think abortion is murder ― of a very special and necessary sort. What else would one call the deliberate stilling of a life? And no physician involved with the procedure ever kids himself about that … legalistic distinctions among “homicide,” “justified homicide,” “self defense,” and “murder” appear to me a semantic game. What difference does it make what we call it? Those who do it and those who witness its doing know that abortion is the stilling of a life.13

Novelist Norman Mailer seconded this view when he said, “I am perfectly willing to grant that life starts at conception. If a woman doesn’t want to have a child, then I think it’s her right to say no. But let’s not pretend that it isn’t a form of killing.”14

Even Faye Wattleton said, “Abortion is killing, but the bottom line is that if you can’t control your reproduction, you’re not likely to be controlling anything else.”15

Abortion mill workers know that they are assisting in the killing a baby as well, and do everything they can to shield aborting women from this fact. Abortion mill nurse Norma Eidelman said, “We tried to avoid the women seeing them [the fetuses]. They always wanted to know the sex, but we lied and said it was too early to tell. It’s better for the women to think of the fetus as an ‘it.'”16

Abortion mill worker Kathy Sparks confessed:

Sometimes we lied. A girl might ask what her baby was like at a certain point in the pregnancy: “Was it a baby yet?” Even as early as 12 weeks a baby is totally formed, he has fingerprints, turns his head, fans his toes, feels pain. But we would say “It’s not a baby yet. It’s just tissue, like a clot.”17


Pro-abortionists are not concerned about the truth; they simply want to stamp out all opposition to abortion because it is so powerfully symbolic to them. Despite injunctions, despite threats, and despite endless pro-abortion violence, pro-lifers must continue to loudly and clearly proclaim the truth in as many ways and as many venues as possible until the very last preborn child is safe.

+ Endnotes

[1] “In Brief.” Conscience, Spring/Summer 1995, page 57.

[2] “RTL and Cable TV.” National Right to Life News, September 5, 1985, page 6.

[3] “Words of Choice: Countering Anti-Choice Rhetoric.” Website of the “Religious” Coalition for Reproductive Choice,, September 19, 2012.

[4] See Human Life International’s Abortion Violence website at, under “Owosso, Michigan” for the complete story of the Pouillon murder. [website currently down]

[5] See, for example, Ginette Paris’ book The Sacrament of Abortion (translated from French by Joanna Mott) [Dallas: Spring Publications], 1992.

[6] Copy Editor Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post, quoted in Stephen Settle. “There’s No Middle Ground.” National Catholic Register, April 25, 1993, page 5.

[7] Faye Wattleton, former President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). “Reproductive Rights Are Fundamental Rights.” The Humanist, January/February 1991, page 21.

[8] Ellen Carton, New York executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), quoted in “Gazette.” Conscience, May/June 1988, page 17; Annie Lally Milhaven. “Fatherly Fanaticism.” Conscience, July/August 1988, page 6 ; Ellen Carton, New York executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), says that “commotion outside a clinic increases stress and affects the performance of medical personnel.” Quoted in “Gazette.” Conscience, May/June 1988, page 17; Frances Kissling has said, “Protesting or praying outside women’s health centers by cardinals and other church leaders, no matter how non violent it appears, offends and hurts women.” Quoted in Cathleen Falsani. “Abortion Foes Gather to Pray: Cardinal Bernardin Leads Mass at Chicago Clinic.” Daily Southtown, June 27, 1999, pages 1 and 10.

[9] Mary Jean Wolch. “An Open Letter from a Catholic Birth Mother.” Conscience, Autumn 1996, pages 25 to 28; “Gazette.” Conscience, May/June 1988, page 17; Letter by Rev. E.L. O’Hickey, Conscience, May/June 1988, page 19.

[10] Margaret Conway. “State Updates.” Conscience, July/August 1989, pages 16 and 17; “In the News: Not in My Building, You Don’t.” Conscience, January/February 1991, page 22; “In Brief.” Conscience, Spring/Summer 1995, page 57; Frances Kissling. “The Vatican’s Cheap Shot at UNICEF.” Conscience, Winter 1996/1997, pages 36 and 37.

[11] Excerpts from Frances Kissling’s input to Annie Lally Milhaven’s book Inside Stories: 13 Valiant Women Challenging the Church. Conscience, September/ December 1987, pages 29 to 37; Various pro-abortionists, interviewed by Lisa M. Hisel and Patricia Miller. “Bribery or Benevolence: Prochoice Leaders Examine the Generosity of a Scottish Cardinal.” Conscience, Winter 1999/2000.

[12] “In Brief.” Conscience, Spring/Summer 1995, page 57.

[13] Magda Denes. “Performing Abortions.” Commentary, October 1976, pages 33 to 37. This is a truly frightening and profoundly sickening article by a doctor who observes and describes in graphic detail a number of saline abortions and their results. She acknowledges that abortion is killing, but a type of “necessary” killing. Also see the “Letters” sections in the December 1976 and February 1977 issues of Commentary.

[14] Norman Mailer on the David Frost Show. Quoted in “Norman Mailer Speaks Out on Sex and AIDS.” American Family Association Journal, March 1992, page 3.

[15] Faye Wattleton, former President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), quoted in “Late-Term Abortion: Speaking Frankly.” Ms. Magazine, May/June 1997, pages 67 to 71.

[16] Abortion mill worker Norma Eidelman, quoted in James Tunstead Burtchaell [editor]. Rachel Weeping and Other Essays about Abortion [New York City: Universal Press], 1982 page 34.

[17] Abortion mill worker Kathy Sparks, quoted in Gloria Williamson. “The Conversion of Kathy Sparks.” Christian Herald, January 1986, page 28.

Brian Clowes, PhD

Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.


  1. rose on June 24, 2022 at 1:15 PM

    I don’t condone violence whatsoever, but I do understand the death penalty is reserved for murderers… which includes abortionists.

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