Last week, when I noted that the dishonest and inflammatory rhetoric Steve Daines has chosen to embrace on abortion rights was going to get someone killed, I wasn’t exaggerating. That threat became apparent today during the testimony on HB 302, when a proponent (and pastor)of the so-called “personhood” bill noted that he had done everything in the pro-life movement short of shooting an abortion provider.
And it’s important to note that Committee Chair Keith Regier, who once compared pregnant women to cattle, did neither interrupted his testimony nor directed the speaker to keep his comments appropriate for the chamber.
Republicans are certainly entitled to their beliefs about abortion, but they bear responsibility for the rhetoric that normalizes threats of violence. The risk to the people who work at clinics is real. A report from NPR notes that the divisive rhetoric from politicians has led to an uptick in threats of violence, which have doubled since Donald Trump became President:
Hancock Ragsdale said the threat to abortion providers isn’t just about Rachelle Shannon or any other single individual. She said trespassing incidents at clinics tripled in 2017 from the year before, and threats of violence nearly doubled, according to data compiled by her organization, the National Abortion Federation.
She points to the divisive political climate under President Trump — though Trump has never called for violence against abortion providers.
“Our rhetoric around all issues of disagreement has been inflamed and enhanced, and anti-abortion extremists are seizing this moment to take advantage of that volatile climate and piling on,” Hancock Ragsdale said.
Throughout today’s horrific testimony on the bill, proponents called those who support abortion rights murderers and sinners bound for hell (including a delightful bit of testimony from the bill sponsor’s son threatening “worse than demons” for those who voted against the bill), all while offering insulting testimony in the name of Christ.
Perhaps those proponents just don’t know how to behave. Or read. Or respect others. But political leaders—like Daines, who spreads their rhetoric, and Regier, who tolerates it—should be held to a higher standard, because fueled by a potent cocktail of misinterpreted scripture, terrible science, and a horrific disregard for the health and rights of women, one of these zealots is going to kill someone in Montana and those who have permitted, nurtured, and exploited that rhetoric will bear a share of the guilt for it.