Saturday, September 12, 2009

Anti-abortion activist killed in Michigan

by Thúy-Lan Võ Lite

Anti-abortion activist James Pouillon, 63, was fatally shot Friday morning in Owassa, MI, a small town near Detroit, outside of the high school in front of which he frequently protested. His killer, 33-year-old Harlan James Drake, also murdered a gravel pit business owner that morning and, according to the Associated Press via NYT, authorities may have prevented a third shooting by catching the gunman beforehand.

The motivation was likely political. The AP article describes Drake as “[a] man carrying grudges against several people” and Pouillon as a “polarizing figure” who could “usually be seen with his anti-abortion signs outside schools, the library, city hall, even football games.”

This slaying is scary for several reasons. Most obviously, the struggle for abortion rights (and the protection thereof) has become unnecessarily violent. The history of the pro-choice movement is plagued with a history of violence from the opposition, including the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller earlier this summer, and now, the anti-choice movement can claim its first “martyr,” according to Reuters. This could be detrimental to the position of what pro-life groups like Operation Rescue frame as the “child-killing movement.”

But the immediate response from anti-choice activists is also alarming. Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, called for a press conference in Washington DC and framed this murder in the context of countless other death threats his organization has received in recent months. Most chillingly, he listed a PDF sample of death threats to Operation Rescue with the e-mail addresses of senders included, thereby creating new potential targets for the group’s “doubtlessly enraged followers to see,” Jezebel writes.

The murders of Pouillon and Dr. Tiller were both senseless and horrifying. Operation Rescue needs to recognize the hypocrisy in exploiting death threats, and the ongoing struggle for women’s rights needs to relocate itself within the boundaries of the legal system.


At September 12, 2009 at 12:16 PM , Anonymous AC said...

Thanks for covering this. In response to the editorializing at the end, I expect retroactive condemnation of "anti-life" (tit for tat is fair play) protesters who seized on the earlier killing of George Tiller to gain publicity. Right? Right?


At September 12, 2009 at 6:26 PM , Blogger John said...

I find it somewhat ironic that you end the article with the concern that the makers of death threats may become the targets of violence. For one, you seem to assume that those who don't support killing fetuses are inclined to violence and murder. For two, you seem to ignore who is actually making the threats (an act of verbal violence, no doubt) and who is merely being called "doubtlessly enraged" by Jezebel (where they likely made similar assumptions to those in my first poin; you also ignore the fact that this man was killed for voicing his views in public while the threateners hide behind email adresses, which are often difficult to connect to real people, unlike a person you see standing on the street). Should we really be worried for the makers of these death threats rather than those threatened (assuming this isn't a case of Francisco Nava writ large, which it may well be, in which case the revealing of emails is even less dangerous to anyone)?
Furthermore, your mixing of pro-life and anti-choice to describe the same group is confusing, even if you insist on using the less common "anti-choice" title, keep it consistent.
This post strikes me as a shoddy attempt at creating the appearance that Equalwrites truly offers "equal writes" to both pro-life and choice views/tragedies. However, the way it ultimately twists a murder into an accusation towards the aggrieved group is, quite frankly, disgusting.


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