WASHINGTON — For Father Frank Pavone, the federal government’s targeting of pro-lifers is nothing new.
“It’s déjà vu all over again,” said Father Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. “We saw these types of tactics under President Clinton.”
This time, it’s in the form of the Department of Homeland Security’s warnings about “right-wing extremism.”
On April 7, the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis produced an assessment on the threat of right-wing extremism in the United States. The purpose of the document was to alert law enforcement agencies about the possible threat of right-wing extremist groups that may, according to the assessment, be gaining new recruits by “playing on their fears about several emergent issues.”
The document’s language is vague and broad. Throughout the assessment, the label “right-wing extremist” is used to describe troops returning from overseas, white supremacists, and those “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion.”
Perhaps the strangest assertion made in the assessment is that white supremacist groups might use social issues like abortion to recruit new members.
This claim comes as a surprise to Pastor Walter Hoye, a black pro-life leader, founder and CEO of the Issues for Life Foundation in Berkley, Calif. Hoye recently served 19 days in jail for standing in front of an abortion clinic in Oakland.
The document’s language concerning white supremacist groups “is a deliberate attempt to silence the pro-life movement,” Hoye said. “The accusations in this assessment are not connected to any documented evidence. We in the pro-life movement are not right-wing extremists nor are we controlled by the same. I am very disappointed in my government. I have often said that if anyone wants to bring the pro-life movement to an end all that they would need to do is show that what is inside the womb is not a baby, a living human being.”
Joe Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League, echoed Father Pavone: “What is most disappointing about this assessment is that there is nothing violent about the pro-life movement. Yes, there have been a few nuts who have hurt people, but pro-lifers are the most peaceful people in the country.”
“But,” he pointed out, “what you need to understand is that in the minds of pro-abortionists like this current administration even asking a woman more than once if she wants to talk about abortion is violent.”
In 1986, the National Organization of Women filed a complaint in federal court that said Scheidler and others were violating anti-trust laws and the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. After a 19-year court battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Scheidler won the case.
Judie Brown, president of American Life League, had a stronger reaction to the assessment. “We have known that the Obama administration was and is going to do everything possible to suppress the pro-life movement. Secretary [Janet] Napolitano is avidly pro-abortion like her boss. She can characterize us as terrorists — much like NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) has been doing for years, but we must stand our ground.”
“I am not surprised,” said Father Pavone. “Something like this was to be expected, because pro-abortion administrations like Obama’s are highly influenced by the pro-abortion industry itself. The abortion industry really believes that we have a vast network that is connected to terrorists.”
He added: “We do not.”
Frankly, he said, Homeland Security has it all backwards. “The notion that it is okay to end a life to solve a problem is the essence of abortion itself.”
Other black pro-life leaders are also angered by the assessment’s suggestion that “pro-life” goes hand in hand with “right-wing extremist.”
“It is outrageous: the very thought that this woman would compare people who care about the lives of children with terrorists,” said Day Gardner, founder and director of the National Black Pro-Life Union.
Concerning the notion that pro-lifers could be recruited by white supremacists, Gardner noted, “When people think of pro-life activists, they tend to think of people who are white, Republican, and, for the most part, Catholic. This assessment provides an opportunity to let the country know that there are thousands of blacks out there who feel strongly about the lives of unborn children. We must let the nation know that the true face of the pro-life movement is multiracial, multicultural, and cuts across all color and ethnic lines.”
Painting pro-lifers with a giant federal-sized brush, the assessment also intimates that those who favor states’ rights may be members of right-wing extremist groups or susceptible to recruitment by such groups.
Said Scheidler, “What they are doing is targeting groups which have been successful in passing state laws which oppose abortion. We as a pro-life community have passed some 500 state laws curtailing abortion — abortions paid for and promoted by the federal government.”
Homeland Security has had to do some significant backpedaling over the furor caused by the assessment.
“The Department of Homeland Security is on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity. We do not, nor will we ever, monitor ideological or political beliefs,” said Amy Kudwa, a department spokeswoman. “The secretary has acknowledged publicly that sections of this document could have been written more artfully.”
What might be the effect of the assessment on the pro-life community? Scheidler notes that if the Obama administration had hoped to scare people off from the movement, it is not working: “People are coming to us in droves.”
Jeff Gardner writes from