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.