I was almost Eric Rudolph but I would never have been Paul Hill.
Brought up Catholic, I have vague memories of marching in a protest against abortion when I was a child. I remember distinctly the graphic pictures of dismembered fetuses, the rhetoric, the signs.
In high school I often contemplated bombing abortion clinics. In my fantasies nobody would ever be intentionally hurt, but I also remember considering the possibility that somebody would show up after hours and then I would have blood on my hands.
I wonder if Rudolph ever considered that a problem. Doubtful, since it appears that he detonated his devices with the intention of doing harm.
This is the power of the issue.
The difference between Rudolph, Hill and myself is that I grew up.
Even today I retain a great distaste for abortion. The only logical starting point for a human life is conception, when the genes come together and that never ending process of growth and change that is our existence begins.
If we try to put that point at birth the logic falls through. The infant is not much more conscious or aware than the fetus. It's no less dependent on the mother or another adult for survival, but for some reason once a child is clear of the womb we want to think its life has begun, and yet what we are as infants, and even as children, is completely different from what we develop into as adults.
Human life is constantly in flux from beginning to end, and the only logical beginning is conception.
But a fetus has no consciousness, and if God cares so much for their existence then why do they die?
No, that sounds a little bitter. Let's just say I have hands on experience with the vagaries of the reproductive process, and I know fully what is lost when a pregnancy is terminated either by an act of man or an act of divine intervention.
And as my wife and I struggle with those vagaries and the horrible doubt that comes with having had two failed pregnancies, I can't help but feel a little annoyed at someone who would casually throw away something many people would give anything to have.
Granted, there are many women and men who consider abortion to be nothing more than another form of birth control. They engage in it casually, or at least they pretend to be casual about it, but they are an exception and, I believe, they are lying to themselves.
When I say I am pro-choice, it is because I know that many women take that choice very seriously. They don't waltz in to the clinic, joking with the nurses and saying "Well, there goes another one. If only I could remember that darn pill. Well, it makes me fat, anyway."
They have their reasons, those women who choose to end their pregnancies. Many of them are probably alone, or they can't safely enlist the help of their loved ones because their fathers or husbands would, literally in some cases, kill them. Maybe they don't have even the option of carrying the child to term so they can put it up for adoption.
Or maybe they just know in their hearts that they aren't ready yet.
The point is, they have their reasons and I can't know them all. Neither can society or that blunt, broad-swiping instrument of justice called the law. Thus the choice must be left to them.
All we can do is provide as many options for them that we can and make damn sure they are educated about those options.
Abortion should never be an easy choice. To make it so encourages the already increasing lack of respect our species has for its own existence.
At the same time, those who would rather live in a world in which this process isn't necessary must never forget to have compassion. Otherwise you end up with a shotgun in our hands and some other human being in your sights, and you become the thing you think you're fighting.
Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.