At the time of writing this blog US Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life, having survived a murder attempt at a political meeting in Arizona.
The gun attack left six dead, including a nine year old girl and 12 injured.
Ms Giffords won a third term election last November narrowly beating a so-called Tea Party candidate and she is included in right-wing Republican Sarah Palin’s list of elected politicians she wants to see removed from office.
While no-one knows the motive of the 22-year-old gunman, a senior US police chief pointed to the “atmosphere of political vitriol” saying that unfortunately Arizona has become “the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry”.
Ms Gifford’s office was vandalised after she supported President’s Obama’s health care reforms, she is also pro-choice and actively interested in stem-cell research. Pro-choice politicians and medics are often targeted by anti-abortion extremists.
In the US last November anti-choice activists were jailed for threatening abortion providers with violence in a wave of extremist campaign activity which included plans to bomb abortion clinics.
Some years ago a Marie Stopes clinic near to where I live was singled out by ant-choice campaigners and we acted speedily organising counter-protests and they disappeared. Workers for the sexual health charity, FPA, in Northern Ireland weren’t as fortunate as attacks against FPA premises and threats to staff were persistent.
Since the UK’s 1967 Abortion Act came into being there have been many attempts to weaken its scope and protection to women. Organisations such as Abortion Rights and its predecessors have campaigned effectively across the UK winning public support for a women’s right to choose.
More insidious attempts to swing opinion by the UK anti-choice organisation Spuc (Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child) was revealed by a Times Educational Supplement (TES) survey of schools published last year.
It reported “shock and horror” material being used by Spuc operatives in schools, usually during religious education lessons. The operatives present images of aborted foetuses and dismembered limbs to children. The FPA condemned such presentations as “bullying and intimidating” indoctrination.
We have no idea whether the awful events in Arizona were politically motivated or indeed whether the gunman was encouraged by others to launch this bloody attack.
Yet what strikes me again and again is that the far right in the US don’t think twice about the consequences of their vitriol and worse still they claim their views and actions are sanctioned by God.
I’m not religious but friends who are tell me their faith is in a loving God, a far cry from the likes of Ms Palin. It’s my hope and belief that with organisations such as Abortion Rights, the FPA and a labour and trade union movement in the UK that is overwhelmingly pro-choice such violent polarisation is unlikely to materialise unchallenged in the UK.
However as a good woman once said to me “be ever vigilant” and I know that Abortion Rights welcomes affiliations and support to help promote the pro-choice campaign.
I wish Gabrielle Giffords recovery to full health so that she can pick up the reins where she left off.