13 September 2009

Whose Death Counts More?

Conservatives may have a case if they wish to question why the murder of an anti-abortion activist in Michigan last Friday hasn't received nearly as much coverage in the news media as the assassination of an abortion provider earlier this year. The difference might be justified by lingering uncertainty as to why the suspect killed the activist. Prosecutors claim that the suspect had personal grudges against three people on a death list, two of whom he managed to kill, one being the activist. But it's also reported that, at the least, the suspect was offended by the graphic content of the signs the activist displayed during his demonstrations. That in itself might be enough to characterize the killing as a political act, even if there was also a personal grudge involved. But this lone killing (though it forms part of a unique set) doesn't seem to fit into a patterns of killings or threats directed at anti-abortion activists. To my knowledge, the "pro-life" side has not publicized any widespread receipt of death threats. In the absence of such context, it may be easier for reporters to dismiss the Michigan crime as an isolated, essentially apolitical act compared to any violence against abortionists, who are known to have been targeted for reprisal as a group. Still, anyone sympathetic with the victim might understandably want investigators to probe as publicly as possible to determine whether or not the killing was meant to intimidate other activists, or whether the suspect (who has reportedly attempted suicide in jail) was connected with any kind of network of anti-anti-abortion activists. It may not be strictly accurate for activists to embrace the victim as a martyr in their cause, but it's definitely understandable. And based on what I've seen on TV and in my local papers this weekend, they have cause to question whether people are out to bury the story. I don't have to sympathize with the anti-abortion cause (and I don't) to sympathize with any suspicions they might have on this particular point. But let's see how the story develops over the next week before forming firmer conclusions.

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