Cree Erwin-Sheppard died at the age of 24 in July of 2016, days after killing her child on June 30, 2016 at a Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Operation Rescue responded to Cree’s death and investigated. Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue, responded in such a way that illuminates the ageism common to the leaders in the pro-life movement.

Operation Rescue was informed by Michigan Right to Life that the likely abortionist on duty at the Planned Parenthood was Mandy Gittler. Gittler was involved in the death of another born human while she worked killing preborn humans at a Planned Parenthood in Chicago in 2012.

“How many more women have to die before we all realize that we cannot tolerate the human tragedy that abortion inflicts on women, families, and communities,” said Newman in an article on the Operation Rescue website. He went on to say, “If it turns out Gittler was involved in Ms. Erwin’s death, Planned Parenthood has a lot to answer for.”

What if it turned out that Gittler was not involved in Ms. Erwin-Sheppard’s death? Would they not still have a lot to answer for?

The problem here is not that Newman is upset that someone was killed and wants justice. The problem is that he (and others) consistently express outrage over the health, welfare, and life of born women to the exclusion of the preborn. I suspect this ageist tendency started as a means of drawing support. Public officials and the community do not rally to see justice established for the preborn. But, you might get them to seek justice against the abortionists if they also murdered a born, more developed human. Or, similarly, you might be able to close a clinic if, instead of closing it because it is a place of child sacrifice and mass murder, you close it because it isn’t safe for born people.

What ends up happening is that the community is not challenged to repent and establish justice. In fact, the injustice and prejudiced view is reinforced. Why is Mandy Gittler bad? Well, Troy Newman says that she is responsible for an adult woman’s death. Why is abortion bad? Well, Troy Newman says it inflicts tragedy on women, families, and communities. Rather than making it illegal, we should make it safe. After all, it is the tragedy that happens to (born) women and families that is bad.

You can see that this is rhetorically problematic. Even if the rhetoric currently works, what does it accomplish? Suppose Mandy Gittler goes to jail. Suppose also that the Michigan Planned Parenthood is closed. What happens next? Well, you can warn that abortion is dangerous to born people and wait for another born person to get hurt. You can push for legislation, but the legislation consistent with the accusation only raises the standard for safety regulations at abortion mills. This might allow you to send an abortionist to jail on occasion and it might allow you to temporarily close some clinics. But it doesn’t prevent Planned Parenthood from simply opening nicer, “safer” facilities. This means that over time this strategy will run its course, leaving society unchallenged and full of nicer places to kill their children.

We now know that the Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo is very likely involved in Cree Erwin-Sheppard’s death. Despite a redacted autopsy report, Operation Rescue and Michigan pro-life activist Lynn Mills were able to discover that Erwin-Sheppard’s death was due to blood clots in her lungs. The clots were a result of damage to her uterine artery, likely sustained because of uterine perforation from either the abortion or subsequent IUD insertion. Cheryl Sullenger, Senior Vice President of Operation Rescue, writes that “Operation Rescue will continue to seek transparency and justice on behalf of Cree Erwin-Sheppard and her family until those responsible for her needless death are brought to justice.” Troy Newman weighed in, saying, “A full and honest investigation must be conducted by the Michigan medical board to determine who is responsible for this abortion-related death before tragedy strikes another Planned Parenthood patient.”

While I think this sort of investigation is commendable, the aforementioned ageist problem remains. Why is Operation Rescue concerned with making it safe to murder your children? Are they treating abortion as murder in practice? Consider this statement from their website:

“Operation Rescue continues to work across the nation using peaceful, legal means to uncover abortion clinic wrong-doing, expose it to the public, and bring the offending abortionist to justice.”

“Uncover abortion clinic wrong-doing?” In this statement they are not considering abortion as wrong-doing. When they “bring the offending abortionist to justice,” it is not for the crime of killing a preborn child. They are not treating abortion as murder and their strategy of closing abortion mills does not strike at the heart of this evil. Even if they win a small battle, their effort would lose the war because it implicitly concedes that abortion is not inherently wrong.

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