Violence Begets Violence
By Deirdre A. McQuade
September 18, 2009
Last week, James Pouillon was shot multiple times and killed while protesting abortion outside a high school in Owosso, Michigan. According to reports, the suspect in custody, Harlan James Drake, admitted to police that he had also killed Mike Fuoss earlier that morning and that he had intended to murder a third man against whom he held a grudge, but was arrested before he reached his last victim.
The violence didn’t end with his arrest. The Associated Press reports that Mr. Drake was hospitalized Saturday night after an attempt on his own life in the county jail. Nor is that the end of it. Some angry people are already calling for the death penalty, yet another act of violence.
Pro-life demonstrators are no strangers to verbal and physical harassment and even death threats, but this is the first publicized case of one’s murder. Police who took the suspect into custody reported that Drake targeted Pouillon because he didn’t like his sign showing the disturbing reality of abortion. On one side, the placard read: “LIFE” accompanied by the lovely image of a smiling baby, while the other had “ABORTION” written above a gruesome photo of the bloody remains of an aborted child.
James Pouillon’s murder is reprehensible. Whatever one thinks of the appropriate public use of such images – and there is a range of opinions even within the pro-life movement – certainly no one deserves to be killed for speaking out against the horror of abortion. The photo on his placard is gruesome because abortion is gruesome, but his brutally honest witness is no cause for such fatal hostility.
The image on his sign is one of violence – a most extreme form of violence against vulnerable, defenseless, innocent children in the womb. That the violent act of abortion – and the seemingly intractable controversy surrounding it – is, at times, associated with more violence is unfortunately not accidental. Indeed, in their Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities (2001), the bishops of the United States note that legalized abortion has made ours “a society increasingly coarsened by toleration and acceptance of acts that purposely destroy human life.” They note the interdependence of all life issues, saying: “a society which destroys human life by abortion under the mantle of law unavoidably undermines respect for life in all other contexts.” With less respect for human life, and a greater coarseness toward killing, the road is paved for more violence.
But the violence of abortion is not necessary. It can be stopped. Hundreds of pregnancy care centers and parish networks are ready to assist families who are tempted to resort to abortion. Those who perform or promote abortions can repent and come to use their gifts in the service of life rather than its destruction. And thanks to God’s grace at work in and through Project Rachel, the ministry of the Church and her compassionate counselors, men and women can receive healing from past abortions. The Catholic bishops’ Conference and scores of other groups that make up the vast pro-life movement in America are working hard toward the day when no abortion will have the sanction of law.
This fall, consider gathering your family and friends together to pray for an end to abortion and all forms of violence.
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to www.usccb.org/prolife to learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities.